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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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Categories: News Tags: ,

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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Categories: Announcements Tags: ,

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.

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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?
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Categories: News 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;

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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.

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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.

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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: ,

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).

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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: ,

Even more reader questions on Tibet

May 30th, 2008 20 comments

On a previous thread, Otto Kerner poses some excellent questions on Tibet. (Here is an earlier thread with a reader’s questions about Tibet.)

I give an attempt at addressing these questions below. I hope others will contribute their thoughts as well.

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Categories: q&a Tags:

Signs from the front lines

May 30th, 2008 2 comments

A volunteer has posted a gorgeous collection of images of the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake on Tianya. There are equally beautiful stories attached to these images, but I can’t possibly translate them all.

Tens of thousands of average citizens have driven into the disaster zone, bringing food, water, and moral support. There has been so much traffic that tourist style road-maps have been setup. Along the way, they’ve seen suffering, but also great courage. And here are some of the signs the volunteers saw as they drove:

Unlimited Thanks!

Read more…

Categories: General Tags:

Kristof on Xinjiang: Terrorism and the Olympics

May 29th, 2008 22 comments

Nick Kristof continues his quest in search of topics that should be “sensitive” to Chinese by heading to Xinjiang where he found little to write about. This follows earlier editorials on Tibet that we discussed here and here.

On his blog, he tries to incite commentary with these questions:

Especially for those of you in China, do you expect the Olympics to go smoothly? Do you worry about the terror threat from Xinjiang?

My response (submitted as a comment on his blog) is here:

Read more…

Categories: media Tags: , ,

Political dissent in China – glass half full, or completely empty?

May 29th, 2008 27 comments

This article from the IHT inspires me to write about a topic that’s been on my mind in recent months. The article is about the well-known Tibetan-Chinese writer Woeser. The title of the article alone gives you a pretty good idea of what its going to say: “Tibetan writer alleges harassment by Chinese police…” Woeser lives in Beijing, and is the daughter of a Han Chinese People’s Liberation Army general and a Tibetan woman. She also happens to be wife of Wang Lixiong (discussed previously). She has written extensively about Tibetan issues for years, both in print and on her blog.

A more detailed feature on Woeser comes to us from the Washington Post, which has also kindly provided a platform for other Chinese voices: Wang Qianyuan, Yang Jianli. I don’t think it takes too much brain-power to guess the criteria by which the Washington Post selects its Chinese guest editorialists. Of course, I think it’s fair to say these three voices represent probably millions of Chinese voices, so I certainly understand the Western media’s right to feature their stories. My only question is… when will they give print real estate to Chinese voice that can speak for the other hundreds of millions of Chinese that disagree with them fervently?

All of this adds up to one question about the status of political dissidents in China: is the glass half-full, or is the glass completely empty?

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"I'm just here to buy soy sauce."

May 29th, 2008 8 comments

And the newest expression sweeping the Chinese internet: “I don’t give a $@*&; I’m just here to buy soy sauce.” (关我鸟事,我出来打酱油的)

It comes to us from Guangzhou TV last December, when an average man on the street was asked his opinion about a pressing social issue (the Edison Chen photo scandal if you must know). He gave a very, uh, candid and straight response.

This works very well with the Chinese sense of humor, and has just exploded in usage over the past few months. It’s taken on other meanings now without a clear definition… but I’d summarize it as: “I’m cynical as hell.” As rumors of official corruption after the earthquake were swirling, the emotional young Internet crowd often turned to this phrase when they felt frustration, but had little else to add… at least without having their post deleted by censors. (“More corruption? Whatever, who gives a $@*%, I’m just here to buy soy sauce.”)

This follows the “very pornographic, very violent” (很黄很暴力) expression which started sweeping the Internet a few months ago.

Categories: culture Tags:

Shenzhen aims for major political reforms

May 28th, 2008 17 comments

Many in the West appear unaware that the Chinese political system is reforming itself… (it might be more accurate to say many in the West see the political system in China as old Communists waving their hands and issuing imperial edicts.) The truth is, although the pace of this reform is painfully slow compared to economic reforms, it is happening.

One of the more significant chapters in Chinese political reform might be opening in front of us.

The city of Shenzhen has recently released a document providing an overview of political reforms over the next few years. It’s not detailed enough to be called a plan, but it’s a strategic road-map of what Shenzhen hopes to achieve. It doesn’t look like Western (or Taiwanese) democracy, but it’s a step towards finding compromise reforms without risking instability. And at the end of this road-map lies competitive elections for the position of mayor. Other positions to be competitively elected along the way include district-chiefs, bureau-chiefs, and representatives to the People’s Congress.

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Categories: News Tags: , ,

"The sky has cleared after the rain": KMT Chairman Wu Boxiong in Beijing

May 28th, 2008 23 comments

Wu Boxiong, chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has landed in Beijing. The Chinese Nationalist Party currently controls both the presidency and the legislative yuan in Taiwan, giving his visit special weight.

He earlier visited the southern-capital of Nanjing, the original capital of the Republic of China (now in Taiwan). As is tradition for all KMT visitors, he paid his respects to the grave of Sun Zhongshan. Sun Zhongshan remains recognized as the “father of our nation” (国父) in both the mainland and Taiwan, and his presence is a constant reminder of that which unites both straits.

In Beijing, Hu Jintao responded to Ma Yingjiu’s inauguration speech by explicitly re-stating that the issue of Taiwan joining the WHO would be solved as the first priority in upcoming negotiations.

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Categories: News Tags: ,

Farmers Laboring In the Rubble

May 27th, 2008 3 comments

This touching blog entry was referred to us by long-time reader Bing Ma Yong. Thanks, BMY.

After interviewing on the front lines for more than 10 days, I’ve seen too much tragedy, I’ve witnessed too many touched moments, I’ve seen too many shocking pictures. But there is one more thing that has really moved me with an indescribable sense of sadness mixed with pride: the farmers I saw laboring in the rubble of their destroyed homes (in Pengzhou).

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Categories: culture, video Tags:

Questions for the Dalai Lama

May 27th, 2008 64 comments

It has now been more than 2 months since the Lhasa riots, and weeks since the Beijing government met with the Dalai Lama’s personal envoys in Shenzhen. The passions aroused by the protests associated with the Torch relay has cooled a little. Now, we can turn to deeper, less emotional consideration of the Dalai Lama and what he stands for.

The Dalai Lama’s recent trip to Europe is giving us a new opportunity to evaluate exactly what his position is, and whether he’s a potential partner for peace. A previous blog entry discussed the possibility of a new bargaining position for the Dalai Lama, and clearly positions have changed dramatically over recent weeks.

For the lack of a better option, we’ll have to rely on the Xinhua state news agency to ask the questions that are on the minds of many Chinese. Below is the translation of a blog entry from a Xinhua news reporter, about his experience at a Dalai Lama news conference in Germany.

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Categories: media, News Tags: , ,

School collapses: local government promises "answers within one month"

May 26th, 2008 11 comments

Roland at ESWN provides this translation of an excellent Southern Metropolis story about the local government’s promises to fully investigate school collapses in the area.

Many Chinese netizens in recent days have aimed a flood of scorn and vitrol towards local Mianyang party secretary Jiang Guohua, accusing him of being involved in local corruption, and then trying to cover up the scale of the disaster from higher levels of government. The picture of him kneeling will bring cheers from many people.

I don’t know the truth of these accusations, and I will not convict Jiang Guohua on the basis of accusations alone. But if the Deyang city government (one level up from Mianyang) follows through on its promises, then China will have taken another major step forward in the long march towards rule of law.

Categories: News Tags: ,

Taiwan's Ma Yingjiu – A New Era

May 26th, 2008 49 comments

This year has so far been confusing and surprising for many Chinese.

We’ve been faced with a number of challenges none of us expected: January snowstorms, Tibet riots, Olympic torch protests, and then the devastating Sichuan earthquake. But surprisingly, one potential flashpoint that many of us have been worried about for a decade seems to be settling down into an orbit that most of us appreciate and support.

I’m speaking, of course, of Taiwan. On May 20th, Ma Yingjiu (a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party) was inaugurated in Taipei as President of the Republic of China.

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Categories: Analysis Tags: , ,

"Canada, I'd like to say goodbye"

May 25th, 2008 26 comments

Over the past three decades, hundreds of thousands of mainland Chinese have emigrated to Western countries. In the United States, many enter using a graduate student or lab researcher visa, and after several years of hard (nearly unpaid work), most eventually stay on in their host country after graduation. Those who stay apply and receive the right to work locally, and many eventually formally emigrate and take on citizenship. In Canada, the path to emigration is even easier.

However as the standard of living in China has steadily improved in the last 5-10 years, this trend shows signs of changing and perhaps even reversing. Some of those who now come to the West show little interest in staying after their studies are over; even some of those with successful careers in the West believe their opportunities are even greater within China.

This is the story of one man who thinks he might be happier returning to China.

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Categories: culture Tags: