All posts by Buxi

Olympic torch relay – the Chinese village version

This series of pictures comes from an amateur photographer in Henan province (连接).  It’s of a self-made torch relay at a local school and restaurant, in a small village in the mountains of Henan province.  No corporate sponsors, no media coverage… just possibly the best relay this year.
Continue reading Olympic torch relay – the Chinese village version

Snapshots from Beijing

I’ve been in Beijing for a little over a week.  While Western media seems mostly intent on investigating nail-houses and Internet access in the Olympic media center, I’ve been playing tourist.  But because I’ve been to Beijing numerous times, no pictures of the Great Wall or Forbidden Palace.  Here are a few stories from every-day life that caught my eye:

First, the first day of what I hope are numerous days of blue skies.  This picture comes from Friday afternoon, looking at the Beijing railway station:

Continue reading Snapshots from Beijing

Tiananmen at sunrise

With a jet-lagged baby, I thought this morning would be the perfect time to attend one of my favorite events in Beijing: watching the raising of the national flag on Tiananmen square.  It is a daily ritual at sunrise, but always thrilling with its simplicity, elegance; I’ve only attended a few times (emphasis: sunrise), and always found it deeply moving. 

Here’s a video, from 5/19, when the flag was lowered to half-staff to remember the victims of the Wenchuan earthquake:  (Why isn’t it a video of my trip? Explanation below.)

Continue reading Tiananmen at sunrise

“China feels very turbulent” – Part 2

I have enjoyed my few days so far in Beijing, all the feeling of a hexie society.  However, that is only the superficial view of one man.  According to this Tianya post (连接) from a mainland Chinese also overseas, the under-currents are not always so smooth.  Many of those on TIanya, feeling their own discontent with society, applaud this post as being critical but balanced.   For part 1, see hereNOTE: This is the translation of a Chinese BBS post, and does not necessarily represent my experience, nor my opinions. 

The turbulence in China’s larger social environment, at root, has been caused by imbalanced development in Chinese society.

On the one hand, the laobaixing in China remain the most hard-working and good-natured anywhere.  Just as I described before, waiters making 800 RMB can peacefully coexist with senior white-collar workers making tens of thousands of RMB per month.  I’ve carefully watched their every action, and you can tell that they truly treasure this work despite its poor pay, and you can imagine how much less they must’ve made in their home villages. 

Continue reading “China feels very turbulent” – Part 2

"China feels very turbulent" – Part 1

I have enjoyed my few days so far in Beijing, all the feeling of a hexie society.  However, that is only the superficial view of one man.  According to this Tianya post (连接) from a mainland Chinese also overseas, the under-currents are not always so smooth.  Many of those on TIanya, feeling their own discontent with society, applaud this post as being critical but balanced. 

Last year, I ran into my ex-girlfriend on MSN Messenger.  She was pregnant, and without much meaning I reminded her to be careful with her baby’s health.  Just ordinary topics, like a reminder that she should try to breast-feed after birth.  I don’t know why, but she suddenly responded sharply: “Don’t think that our life in China is worse than yours.  Our classmates are all doing great; if we wanted to go overseas and play, we could.  You should just stay in America; there are so many people going overseas these days, even if you came back, you wouldn’t have an advantage.”  She continued, in great detail and color, to brag her happy life with her husband.  I calmly told her, I never felt I had any sort of advantage over you, and China’s future has plenty of hope.

Continue reading "China feels very turbulent" – Part 1

Olympics fever still running hot

Tickets to remaining Olympic events are going on sale on Friday (July 25th). On Water-Wood BBS (水木社区), people were talking about spending Thursday night in line. But now most are shocked to find that that very long lines have already formed Wednesday night; thousands of Beijing’ers are planning to camp out two nights to purchase what few tickets remain.

Continue reading Olympics fever still running hot

Use Democracy to avoid a "Bottleneck Lake" in China

In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake, a “bottleneck lake” (堰塞湖) formed as a river was blocked by a landslide. Collapse of the dam posed a tremendous danger to those down-stream community, and the Chinese government spent huge resources and risked many lives to erase the lake.

Guangdong provincial party secretary Wang Yang started a mini-landslide of his own, when 3 days ago he spoke to a group of Communist Party cadres at a training course (连接):

We must make democracy a value to be pursued. In governing, we must make sure we use democracy, defend democracy, secure democracy, and develop democracy. We must be sufficiently respectful of, and also open up expressions of popular opinion. We absolutely can not block popular opinion, and form a “bottleneck-on-speech lake” (言塞湖). We must use democratic methods to continuously improve and expand democracy within the Party, and push forward social democracy. We must self-consciously nurture democratic habits, learn to listen and tolerate, and use democratic methods to unite people.

Continue reading Use Democracy to avoid a "Bottleneck Lake" in China

Zhang Ziyi – What's in a name?

Zhang Ziyi was recently interviewed on a Chinese TV network:

She said (in translation):

The first time I was the lead in an English-language film, I received some high praise. And especially as a Chinese person, I thought that was something to be proud of.

At the Cannes Film Festival, in front of all that media, then they call your name… And as a Chinese person, they then call you by your Chinese name… I was pretty emotional. I’ve never thought about changing my name, changing it to an English name. I’ve never thought about adopting an English name just to accommodate them.

My father and mother gave me my name. It’s mine, and if you want to remember me, you have to put some thought into how to pronounce it. It’s mine.

Continue reading Zhang Ziyi – What's in a name?

Unity is strength – Shenzhen home-buyers try group buying

There is probably only one other issue capable of challenging the Olympics for national attention in China right now: the collapse of the housing market in China, led by Shenzhen. Home prices in Shenzhen grew very rapidly in recent years (on the order of 50%-100% ), and now appear to be falling just as quickly.

But for some people, it might not be falling fast enough. Two years ago, Zou Tao organized a campaign to fight rising prices in Shenzhen called “Not Buy House” (explanation courtesy of ESWN). The government gave Zou Tao a firm “suggestion” that such mass campaigns were not welcome. Now, he’s back. Courtesy of Southern Metropolis, an article on his new campaign (连接):

Zou Tao organized a “Not Buy House” campaign two years ago. He is now initiating a new campaign: “Housing For Ten Thousand – Group Buying Activity”. He has already established a web platform at www.zoutao.com, and online voting and registration is currently on-going. Zou Tao says that he is doing this voluntarily without any compensation. His goal is to use a group-buying model to push down housing prices, and let those without homes find a place to live.

Continue reading Unity is strength – Shenzhen home-buyers try group buying

A victory for the rule of law: an untold story in China

Two months ago, major Western newspapers ran stories on laywers Jiang Tianyong and Teng Biao. These two have been working in the “rights defense” (维权) movement in China. Both have received extensive overseas praise and attention for their work defending dissidents and FLG practictioners. Both also offered to defend Tibetans implicated in the March riots.

It all culminated in these articles at the beginning of June.  I won’t bother quoting from the articles; the titles are pretty self-explanatory:

New York Times: Beijing Suspends Licenses of 2 Lawyers Who Offered to Defend Tibetans in Court
Washington Post: China Shuts Out 2 Lawyers Over Tibetans’ Cases
Toronto Star: Lawyers pay high price for coming to aid of Tibetans
Reuters: China rights lawyers say licenses blocked after Tibet call

The articles largely agree in content, and are basically copied directly from press releases from activist dissident groups: the two lawyers were denied their licenses for political reasons, authoritarian China, no sign of reform, etc, etc…

Well, we’ve learned more about their situations since.  However, the Western media doesn’t seem very interested in telling the rest of the story.  We’ll just have to discuss it here.

Continue reading A victory for the rule of law: an untold story in China

Senior judges discuss "human search engine"

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.

Continue reading Senior judges discuss "human search engine"

Carnegie Endowment calls for rethink on rising China

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.”

Continue reading Carnegie Endowment calls for rethink on rising China

Images from a mass incident in Huizhou

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:

Continue reading Images from a mass incident in Huizhou

Guiyang party secretary selection has a democratic flavor

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.

Continue reading Guiyang party secretary selection has a democratic flavor

Mark of a gentleman – the calligraphy of Chinese leaders

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.”

Continue reading Mark of a gentleman – the calligraphy of Chinese leaders

A freak of nature – the savior stone

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.

Try to view Amnesty International calmly (translated)

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):

Continue reading Try to view Amnesty International calmly (translated)

In Taiwan, DPP politicians get more familiar with the mainland

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.

Continue reading In Taiwan, DPP politicians get more familiar with the mainland

Loongson Lives: Release of Linux PC with Chinese processor

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:

Continue reading Loongson Lives: Release of Linux PC with Chinese processor

Ted Koppel on the People's Republic of Capitalism

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.

Classmate Yang goes online: Chinese officials engage netizens

Chinese president Hu Jintao’s brief appearance on the Strong Country internet forum might be more significant than most of us originally thought. There have been other signs in recent weeks that the PRC government is reconsidering its approach to Internet speech. I translate a story (原文), just published in the China Youth Daily (中国青年报, operated by the Communist Youth League).

Zhuzhou Discipline Party Secretary goes online with his real name Angry enough to smash his keyboard, but too afraid to curse.

Yang Ping is party secretary of the Discipline Committee, in the city of Zhuzhou, Hunan province.  Recently, he got a new nickname. It all started on an internet forum he started to frequent.  The netizens there began to call him “classmate Yang Ping”. Gradually, even his friends began to refer to him this way.

He never thought that he’d get this kind of nickname at the age of 47. He also never thought that, since he started going online with his real name in May, he would be seeing changes beyond his nickname.

Continue reading Classmate Yang goes online: Chinese officials engage netizens

Chinese police adopt new form of self-defense

The other headline story in China over the last week has been the murder of 6 police officers in Shanghai. Yang Jia, an unemployed man originally from Beijing, attacked a public security office building, stabbing to death 6 officers.

All of this happened just as the Weng’an riot story itself became white hot, and the Chinese internet response was predictably extreme (and in my opinion, disgusting). After seeing local injustices, some Chinese netizens basically celebrated the attacks on the police. Yang was often described as one of the Robin Hood-type heroes forced to rebel in Outlaws of the Marsh (水浒传). Many simply assumed Yang acted for a reason, that previous police abuse was the reason for his anger; a rumor was spread that Yang had been beaten so badly his sex organs were injured.

The Shanghai public security ministry has been placed on the defensive, forced to explain whether Yang Jia was “justified” in his attack. Yesterday, Shanghai issued a 6-hour recording from an encounter last October, apparently the seed of Yang Jia’s anger (连接). Part of the transcript is translated below:

After a series of horn blasts, a middle aged man with a Shanghai accent (police officer) begins a dialog with a young man with a Beijing accent (Yang Jia).

Officer: Hey pal, please stop your bicycle for an examination!

Yang Jia: There are so many people on the road, why are you picking on me?

Continue reading Chinese police adopt new form of self-defense