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A Relaxing Side of the G20 Summit at Hangzhou

September 8th, 2016 1 comment

If you like dance show and have an hour to kill, you might want to take a look at the closing ceremony of the recently held G20 Summit. It is a nice combination of traditional Chinese and European orchestra.

Categories: culture, Uncategorized Tags:

China’s Animation Industry

November 7th, 2015 4 comments

I think it is about time for some lighthearted subject matter. I have written awhile back that China’s so-called censorship does not stop creativity, rather it is the lack of “environment” that is the biggest bottle neck. One can talk about innovation, creativity, freedom etc but without a viable market there would be no cutting edge artistic commercial creation. My favorite for 2015 is Monkey King: Hero is Back (西游记之大圣归来).

If you guys have kids, you should watch it with them. You will not regret it. Either way enjoy the trailer here which is in English:

Read more…

Categories: culture, video Tags:

The Food is Terrible, …, and such small portions

October 16th, 2015 No comments

… so said Woody Allen, in an eloquent expression of an exemplary post-modern human tendency of “glutton for punishment”, or even worse whining about lack of punishment.

If the food is indeed terrible, then any portion would be too much.  Then why complain about the portion being “small”?

Read more…

Categories: Analysis, culture, economy Tags:

Privacy, National Security, Human Rights, Social Value, Whatever – It’s Whatever the West Says

September 11th, 2015 2 comments
Microsoft

Microsoft, Privacy, and Rights over Ex-territorial Servers

The Economist today had an article on a case involving Microsoft’s alleged refusal to turn over documents stored on a foreign server to FBI. The article can be found here (archived here).

According to the Economist:

SUPPOSE FBI agents were to break into the postbox of an American company in Dublin to seize letters which might help them convict an international drug dealer. There would be general uproar, if not a transatlantic crisis. But that is essentially what the FBI wants to happen, albeit in the virtual realm: it has asked a court to order Microsoft, in its capacity as a big e-mail provider, to hand over messages from a suspect in a drugs case which are stored in a data centre in Ireland. On September 9th an appeals court in New York will hear oral arguments on whether Microsoft has to comply.

The case has many wrinkles … But at the core of the case is one of the most knotty legal questions in the age of cloud computing: how to give law-enforcement agencies access to evidence when laws remain national, but data are often stored abroad and sometimes even at multiple places at once?

This article rightfully brings up conflicts in law in the Internet arena within the West. Over the last few years, certain very public and passionate debates have flared up with Europe and the U.S. regarding privacy, right to delete, and censorship on the Internet.

A few years ago, as early as 2008, when I noticed Google Streetview growing to incorporate the streets of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Asian regions, I realized that everyone there simply took it for granted that it’s ok. What Google did must be the right, enlightened, and forward-thinking. Read more…

The Mirage that is Japan …

August 6th, 2015 2 comments

I came across an article in Asia Times on Japan’s WWII surrender that I thought was very well written.  It is important because within that surrender lay the seeds of today’s historical revisionism.  But more important than that, it is a good case study on what Japan is NOT.

Too often, many in the West think of Japan as this enlightened, modern, forward-looking, peace-loving society.  But when the West seems to have misunderstood Japan’s nuanced and conditional surrender for a real unconditional one akin to Germany, then perhaps it is time re-evaluate to what Japan is in reality, and what Japan is headed to be.

Here I offer two articles, first as a context, and second as a case study.

First is that article in Asia Times on Japan’s WWII surrender. Read more…

Revisiting “Tiger Mom”, and where “Individualism” failed (with a Sleeveless Pineapple)

June 1st, 2015 No comments

Recently, I had an interesting debate about the “Tiger Mom” culture in Asia, against the backdrop of a Chinese American mother who criticized the Tiger Mom’s suppression of children’s “autonomy”.  So, since we had lively discussions of this subject here, (http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2011/01/13/the-truth-is-out-amy-chuas-chinese-moms-attack-on-american-moms-is-actually-a-wall-street-journal-creation/), I thought we should visit with some updates.

First, it’s actually amazing how many people criticize “Tiger Mom” without actually reading what she wrote.

More details on this later, but let me just say that Chinese children are not born or brought up to be mindless robots.  Plenty of them get into trouble, plenty grow up to disobey and challenge authority.  Tiger Mom is about challenging a child’s autonomy.  Amy Chua’s own 2 daughters questioned everything she made them do.  In challenging the child’s autonomy, the child must struggle to strengthen his/her own will and discipline.  Without self-will and self-discipline, autonomy/”individualism” is weak and useless.  My parents never tried to “suppress” my autonomy.  On the contrary, they always insisted to push me to learn to do the right things on my own initiative.

Second, I’m yet again reminded of how non-individualistic Chinese kids are, and how creative and individualistic Western children are.  Beyond the obvious (and somewhat racist) stereotype that such assumptions are based on, I came across this rather interesting story:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/21/nyregion/standardized-testing-is-blamed-for-question-about-a-sleeveless-pineapple.html.

Read more…

Alternate View from Xingjiang

September 27th, 2014 1 comment

It seems that every time Xingjiang is in the news it is when something bad has occured. Doesn’t anyone question why there are no good news out of Xingjiang? I will be honest here, I really hated the mainstream western press portrayal of events in that region of China. The general narrative is that China invaded and colonized that region. Today, the native people there faced oppression, discrimination and threat of their religion and culture eliminated. The underlying message is that the Chinese are oppressing these people and they need to be taught a lesson and be kicked out! Read more…

Categories: culture, Opinion, Photos Tags:

Enjoy this short scenic video of Xian

September 13th, 2014 No comments

Yuanfan Zhang – CEO and founder at Alibaba – recently shared a video with Overseas Chinese World Affairs Forum on facebook about Xi’an, his hometown, that I found entertaining.  I had visited China’s ancient capital Xi’an in 2008 and found it to be a beautiful city and thought I’d share it here.  Enjoy!

Categories: culture Tags:

Chinese Guanxi

June 17th, 2014 24 comments

I thought the following exchanges from Black Phoenix and United Chinese Diaspora in a recent thread were very insightful and thought would put that as a post.

Is guanxi really an exotic leftover from an old decadent tradition – as many people, including I, blindingly believed?  Or is it ever-present among us … in “modernity”? Read more…

Categories: Analysis, culture Tags:

What is a Holocaust?

April 1st, 2014 6 comments

Earlier today, I stumbled upon a curious article in the Washington Post titled “This is why Germany doesn’t want China anywhere near Berlin’s holocaust memorial”.  According to the article, President Xi was (in short) barred from visiting German’s Holocaust memorial in Berlin because Germany was worried about embarrassing Japan.

Here is a copy of the article in full:

Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Germany for the next two days, meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German officials. It’s the third leg of Xi’s European Union trip, and an important one – as Deutsche Welle notes, Germany is China’s most important trade partner in Europe.

There is, however, once place that Xi isn’t wanted during his time in Germany: Berlin’s famous Holocaust memorial. Der Spiegel reported this month that German authorities had refused a request from Xi’s entourage for an official visit to the site. While the Chinese president may visit the site on his own, it will not be a part of the official itinerary and Merkel will not accompany him.

Visits to the Holocaust memorial, officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), are a key part of a trip to Berlin for many visitors. Why wouldn’t Xi be granted an official visit? Read more…

The Cultural Revolution and Free Speech

February 6th, 2014 14 comments

PBS’s Frontline recently aired a documentary of behind the North Korea scene.  Among all of the images of the expected misery, poverty, hunger, want, there was 1 segment which I thought was greatly overlooked.  A quick exchange between a few North Koreans behind closed doors.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/foreign-affairs-defense/secret-state-of-north-korea/transcript-55/

NARRATOR: Behind closed doors, even members of the North Korean elite have voiced unhappiness with the regime, like this businesswoman filmed at a private lunch.

[subtitles]

1st MAN: All we’re saying is give us some basic rights, right? We don’t have any.

WOMAN: It’s not like that in China. In China, they’ve got freedom of speech, you know. They went through the Cultural Revolution.

2nd WOMAN: We North Koreans are wise and very loyal. An uprising is still something we don’t understand.

1st MAN: But even that’s only to a certain point.

WOMAN: There can’t be a rebellion. They’ll kill everyone ruthlessly. Yes, ruthlessly. The problem here is that one in three people will secretly report you. That’s the problem. That’s how they do it.

2ndMAN: Let’s just drink up. There’s no use talking about it.

The Western Net users picked up on the line, and laughed at the irony of what they could only attribute to as ignorance of a North Korean.  But the real irony is, the North Koreans may have the better understanding of “Free speech” and “cultural revolution”, as do the Chinese who experienced it.

“Freedom of Speech” through “Cultural Revolution”.  It couldn’t happen in North Korea, because the regime would “kill everyone ruthlessly”.  Need to digest that a bit more.

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Avoiding the Dirty Business of Justice and Politics is Not a Good Solution

February 5th, 2014 1 comment

Politics and Law is the business of Justice.  And the Business of Justice, law and politics, is a very dirty business.

Periodically, whenever I feel safe and secure in the knowledge of my place in the world and in my profession as a lawyer practicing somewhat boring law fields, I go visit a court or a jail for a field trip.  If you have never done it, in whatever country you live in, you should.  Because the experience will remind you of the complexity of morality and fairness.

Read more…

Categories: Analysis, culture, General Tags: , ,

Rich Texas teen kills 4, injures 2, gets away with slap on wrist

December 13th, 2013 4 comments

I wanted to follow up on YinYang’s previous post about racial privilege by providing an example of another form of privilege in the US justice system – class privilege. I posted this story (reported through a different source) under the comments section in his post. But since more details have surfaced, I wanted to highlight this story in its own post because it reinforces YinYang’s point in another way. Unlike the bicycle incident, this is not some media experiment, this actually happened in REAL LIFE under a judicial system that promises “liberty and justice for all”.

Remember all that talk in the US media about judicial injustice in China? I wonder how the Chinese public would react to the type of “justice” meted out in this US court:

Rich Teen Kills 4, Avoids Prison Thanks To ‘Affluenza’

Read more…

Categories: culture, News, Opinion, politics, Uncategorized Tags:

New Internet Economy Puts Dent In “Boycott China”

November 11th, 2013 3 comments

I have long maintained that boycotts rarely work well as a tool of political protest.  Even when mobilized as a collective national action like a trade embargo, history has not shown much effectiveness in causing political change, other than merely increasing bitterness (like the Embargo against Cuba).

Against a much larger target, with even broader scope, such as “boycott China”, the sheer size of lunacy of such a proposition is immediately apparent.  Chinese economy is not pinned down in a few special economic sectors, it’s large and diverse, and most importantly international.  It produces final products and components and material.  It’s not merely economical for businesses, it’s necessity of businesses to buy Chinese products.

But even more interestingly, the increase in the internet economy has shown that it’s not just companies like Walmart that dictates the improbability of “boycott China”, it’s increasingly the end user purchasers who are making it impossible to “boycott China”.

Read more…

This is a joke (Chinese Malaysian style)

October 27th, 2013 4 comments

Yesterday I went to buy joss sticks and joss paper to pray for my ancestors.

The towkay asked me if I wanted to buy paper iphone to burn for my ancestors. I said they know how to use or not? He said Steve Jobs already there, can teach them to use. I said ok loh.

He asked want to buy casing? I also said ok.

Next he asked me if I wanted Bluetooth? I said might as well loh.

What about charger? I said need charger meh? He said of course lah, after battery no power how? So I bought the charger also.

Then I asked for his name card. He said why you need my name card?

I said I burn for my ancestors. For warranty claim, they will contact you direct. Read more…

Categories: culture, religion Tags: ,

领导人是怎样炼成的 – How Leaders are Made

October 20th, 2013 50 comments

I wanted to share a video that has gone viral on Youku, and has gotten the attention of western outlets such as Time Magazine, which will no doubt attract ample amounts of sneers and visceral comments from the West. I’m posting both the English (Youtube) and Chinese (Youku) versions, for everyone’s convenience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BosGD5Bk98

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNjIzMTk1NTQ4.html

 

Tsung Tsung is why I am bullish on China

May 20th, 2013 2 comments

Video below was taken about a year ago, then 5-year old Tsung Tsung exhibiting what a piano prodigy he was. This is obviously raw talent and true passion. It would have been a shame for not Tsung Tsung’s parents affording him the piano and the lessons. Tsung Tsung is another example of why I am bullish on China. The hundreds of millions of Chinese finally moving out of the farms, away from playing in the dirt, are finally getting a chance to unleash their potential. That’s all due to stable development. When James Fallows told the Anglophone media that the Chinese have no dream, well, we were the first to tell him: shove it!

Suzhou Pingtan (苏州评弹): 姑苏十二娘

April 28th, 2013 1 comment

A civilization of 1.3 billion and having a continuous history of thousands of years can only mean one thing: it’s language and culture should have both amazing breath and depth. One of my hobbies is to rediscover this richness that’s accorded me through my heritage. I want people around me to relish in what Chinese culture has to offer. Recently, I discovered Suzhou Pingtan (苏州评弹), an interesting oral artform accompanied usually by musical instruments or props to tell a story. Its roots are Suzhou and Jiangsu (江苏) in the 1600’s. The performance below is done by a large group, a modern rendition I suppose, though I think two or three performers are the norm. I lament my Chinese language is poor, because the prose and the stories are often delivered in amazing eloquence (Chinese language can be extremely compact while character combinations provide context enabling further reduction in number of characters needed).

“滴答” (Dida) – Song of Li Jiang Old Town

April 27th, 2013 3 comments

For those of us haven’t had chance to visit Li Jiang (丽江) in Yunan (云南) Province, well, here is a nicely made tribute to it called “滴答” (Dida).

Elgin Street and the Old Summer Palace

April 4th, 2013 20 comments

DSCN0669

Sipping sangria in a tapas bar at Hong Kong’s Soho District, looking out the window, one could spend hours watching cosmopolitan humans spewing out one of the world’s longest elevator systems. Next to it, a street sign reads “Elgin Street.” Hardly anybody knows who Elgin was, or what he had done to deserve a street named after him. If not because of a recent deliberation with a quaint academic about Hong Kong’s early colonial days, I would not have bothered to research about him either. By reading up on the history which embroiled the life of this forgotten character, however, I’ve discovered the justice in history. Read more…

Kissinger’s “On China” – not quite a book review

March 23rd, 2013 5 comments

Kissinger‘s On China

Instead of a proper review, this is more like a sketch of the thoughts which struck me while reading Henry Kissinger’s On China.

In the past, writers were often individuals who saw things differently. Being different helped them to highlight alternative perspectives and popular social ills. Once in a while, they turned out to be right, and even listened to; and their visions delivered impact. Nowadays, books are written for a mass market. Guided by publishing preferences, more and more writers build their positions on opinion polls and market surveys. It is therefore refreshing to read Kissinger who, at nearly 90, has neither the time nor incentive to appease popularised prejudice.
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Truth Bent, Credibility Broken – a scathing review of Ping Fu’s book & her actions

March 1st, 2013 6 comments
The following is a re-posted review (find the original on Amazon.com) of the book “Bend, not Break” by Ping Fu. For those who don’t know the context, this book is an “autobiography” detailing the horrors Ping Fu supposedly faced during the Cultural Revolution (a summary of her side of the story is on Wikipedia). When Chinese netizens started to investigate and voice skepticism about the accuracy of her stories, Ping Fu and her defenders in academia and media labeled these actions “online terrorism”. This is not surprising, given that anyone – especially someone believed to be ethnic Chinese – who supports the Chinese government and the PRC, or simply voices skepticism about western political/ideological dogmas, is immediately labeled as part of the “fifty-cent party” or a “brainwashed fool”. Well, here at Hidden Harmonies, we have some of the most infamous “brainwashed online terrorists” around, so we could hardly let this one go without giving it some proper attention. Enjoy the book review, everyone (for those who do not wish to read such a lengthy review, I’ve bolded some parts of the text to draw attention to the key issues).

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On the Importance of Understanding Chinese Thoughts using Chinese Terminologies

February 17th, 2013 25 comments

Recently, Zack brought to our attention a great article at Asia Times by Thorsten Pattberg, who is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University. Pattberg dedicated his life to study Chinese philosophy, political thoughts, and culture in their original meanings. He concludes:

Western people are curious like all the people of the world. If someone gave them Chinese taxonomies, they would look them up, familiarize with them, and internalize them. They would stop calling a junzi a (British) “gentleman”, or a (German) “Edler”; instead they would call a junzi just this: a “junzi”.

To put “culture” back in a more economic perspective: Nations should compete for their terminologies like they compete for everything else.

I was too quick to disagree with the need for China to explicitly compete for her culture and for preserving her ideas in her own taxonomies, assuming a richer China will somehow automatically cause the problem to correct itself.  So, I was really happy today seeing perspectivehere chiming in on this topic and later on Allen giving a good gist on what this means for him. I recommend Pattberg’s article linked above in its entirety and of course  perspectivehere’s and Allen’s remarks below.
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Hawaiian Cliff Diving: a test of courage and loyalty

February 15th, 2013 5 comments

In 1770, King Kahekili dove 63 feet from the cliffs to the water at Kaunolu Bay on the southern tip of Lanai island. He forced his warriors to follow suit, to demonstrate courage and to show loyalty. Hence forth, cliff diving has become a tradition in Hawaii. Today, at the Black Rock beach adjacent to Sheraton Hotel on Maui, we got to witness this tradition in a short ceremony. The ceremony was performed during sunset and the effect was, in a word, dramatic.

IMG_2624
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Shaolin Temple USA Blessing Ceremony

February 10th, 2013 No comments

Exactly five years ago on February 3, 2008, Shaolin Temple officially opened it’s first branch in Fremont, California. Since then, branches in San Francisco and Herndon (Virginia) have been established. More will follow in coming years. At the 5th anniversary, I got to witness a Buddhist blessing ceremony. While I couldn’t comprehend everything, my understanding was that we should find inner peace and let go all that troubles us. Master Shi Yanran presided over the ceremony with California State Senator Leland Yee, Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison, and other community leaders present to lend support. In the video below I caught up with Senator Yee on what Shaolin means for him. Rest are footage I took while observing the ceremony.


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Exploring China’s interior: Southwest 西南 Day 6: Chengdu, Sichuan Province

January 17th, 2013 1 comment

Exploring China’s interior: Southwest 西南
// Day 6: Chengdu 成都, capital of Sichuan Province
by WanderingChina

Chengdu 天府之国, capital of Sichuan province has been on the agenda for the longest time. It has retained its original city name since its founding more than two millennia ago in 311BC, the same cannot be said of many other Chinese cities. A fan of the Three Kingdoms narrative – it was great being able to investigate the historicity of such seminal characters in the Chinese psyche – such as Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang. Of course, being in this part of China during Sino-Japanese tension was also most interesting. Today it is one of China’s most liveable cities, famous for its giant pandas and is home to more than 14 million. Often tremendously foggy, there are only a few times a year locals actually get to fully embrace the sun. An inland city with increasing economic importance to China’s spread of growth to its interior and periphery, it is now becoming a first choice stop if one wishes to succeed in China’s west.

#1

#1 Tianfu Square: At the square facing the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum with Mao statue. A dynamic gathering place, it is a must visit if one ever visits Chengdu.

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Supermodel Cameron Russell: “Image is Powerful” on TED

January 14th, 2013 4 comments

Image is indeed powerful. Following is a rare and frank talk, given by supermodel Cameron Russell, about her profession on TED. More importantly, she explains that ‘beauty’ in the West is a construct. As in any other society, beauty is often constructed to reflect attributes only attainable by the majority or dominant group. For those of us in the West not born with blond hair and blue eyes, Russell reminds us that no matter we are yellow, black, brown, or blue, we must find beauty in our own colors. Conversely, if we live in a society where our colors are the dominant, we should be mindful of the undue pressure put on others. Her talk made my day. Bravo to Cameron Russell.

Categories: culture Tags: ,

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南 Day 5: Yuanyang, Yunnan province

January 11th, 2013 No comments

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南
// Day 5: Yuanyang county 元阳县,
Honghe Hani and Yi Minority Autonomous Prefecture 红河哈尼族彝族自治州, Yunnan province
by WanderingChina

Done with Dali, it was a six-hour long sleeper bus journey from Dali’s Changshan Erhai back to Kunming. Due to the nature of the region’s terrain, the train ride would have taken far longer. I whined to myself as the bus did not offer the most comfortable of rides, but it all changed as it meant it afforded me plenty of time to chat with a Hani-minority woman seated next to me.

She offered me all manner of wisdom, despite profuse apologies via her self-perception that she was uncultured, compared to an overseas-born Chinese. On the way to Kunming to see her daughter striking it out in the big city (a luxury she gets twice a year at most), she left an indelible impression. Alas, when we reached our destination, the flurry of activity (anyone who has travelled to China would know how many rush to wait and wait to rush as if it were an Olympic event) prevented me from taking a photo of/with her. We talked about all manner of things, from the Sino-Japanese dispute, the South China Sea, from growth opportunities and healthcare, the list was long – above all it was a comment she made about her daughter that would stick forever. She said, when a girl gets older she actually becomes younger and more vulnerable. I digress, here’s a summary of that first-hand account that might be useful for readers:

#1

#1 One of the sleeper buses one can take to commute from Dali to Kunming

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Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南 Day 4: Dali 大理, Yunnan province

January 10th, 2013 4 comments

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南
// Day 4: Dali 大理市 county-level city
Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture 大理白族自治州, Yunnan province
by WanderingChina

Dali is an ancient capital where its old city walls still stand. Not UNESCO protected like Lijiang, it was the seat of power for the Bai kingdom Nanzhao which thrived during the eight and ninth centuries. Later, the Kingdom of Dali regined from 937-1253AD. Dali was formerly a significantly Muslim part of South China.

#1

#1 To get to Dali from Lijiang, this was the recommended approach. Winding through mountain passes and snaking over gorges, the journey looking out of the  train window was picturesque as infrastructure-crazy Yunnan impressed yet again. The tremendous effort to connect through the extremely rugged hills and mountains of central Yunnan is awe-inspiring. No High-Speed Rail here yet, however. Expect to share cabin space socialist style if you choose the sleeper coach- everyone had to respectfully share a highly limited space. The alleyways are probably just 60cm wide.

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Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南 Day 3: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yulong Naxi Autonomous County, Lijiang, Yunnan province

January 6th, 2013 2 comments

Exploring China’s peripheries: Southwest 西南
// Day 3: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain 玉龙雪山 (Yu Long Xue Shan)
Yulong Naxi Autonomous County 玉龙纳西族自治县, Lijiang, Yunnan province
by WanderingChina

This AAAAA-rated tourist destination found in a Naxi autonomous county would price even the most eager out of the game. But when I arrived, they were there by the busloads, 4WD-loads, the list went on – the snaking queues to take the shuttle buses up to the various peaks and attractions were intense. The mountain mastif is the southernmost glacier in the northern hemisphere and consists of thirteen peaks all higher than 4,000m. The highest point is Shanzhidou 扇子陡 that stands at 5,596m. Read more…

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