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What does it mean to be Chinese?

July 3rd, 2008 247 comments

Seems like a simple enough question. Actually… while the question of what it means to be Chinese is very simple, it is all of the numerous, equally valid answers that make the issue complicated. We have to accept that there are different answers for different people.

Here is one answer, translated from a post written by an American-raised Chinese on MITBBS (原贴):

I was eating lunch with a good friend (both a colleague and a classmate) a few days ago. He’s a true Englishman, having lived in England from birth through university. Although he’s now attending school with me in the United States, he naturally does so with the identity of an Englishman. Whereas I, as an ethnic Chinese person raised in the United States, have in his eyes been categorized as an “American”. And I will often correct him by saying “I’m Chinese”. This time, when the topic popped up again, he laughed and asked: “From your point of view, what is a Chinese person?”

I believe “Chinese” has three different meanings.

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July 1st – Heartfelt thoughts of a Party member

July 1st, 2008 39 comments

On July 1st, 1921, the Communist Party of China was founded by a group of students and intellectuals in Shanghai; that date has served as the official birth date of the Communist Party since. The 87th birthday for the Communist Party passed in very troubled fashion, however, as China was reminded yet again of the deep corruption and dissatisfaction in various corners of the country. This posting translated below comes from a Party member on the Strong Country forum, and represents his thoughts on the Weng’an (Wengan) riots (连接):

As a member of the Chinese Communist Party, I wanted to say a few things to the Party Central, about the Weng’an (Wengan) incident:

1. There is no Communist Party that fears the people. The magic weapon for the Communist Party’s success during the revolution was trusting in the people, depending on the people, and motivating the people. This will always be the Party’s greatest weapon. The Party should actively dive into the people, and respectfully listen to the voices of the people, rather than simply waiting for problems to erupt before trying to “stabilize” the people. The Chinese Communist Party used to have an unparalleled ability to motivate the people; has this ability or strengthened or weakened? Every Party member should think deeply on this issue.

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The Chinese debate – Part 2: Democracy and the economy

June 28th, 2008 102 comments

Thanks to one our visitors (Traveler, Youzi, 游子), a debate about fundamental issues that divide many Chinese has been brought to our blog (see comment in earlier thread).   In this post, I want to express my opinions on the economy, democracy, and the Chinese government.

I also want to send a few sentences to Mr. Wahaha: please do not so easily “represent” the Chinese or the Chinese government. I don’t know if you’re an oversea student or overseas Chinese, but regardless of China is strong or small, it doesn’t have anything to do with you having greater face and authority in the face of Westerners. Furthermore, China’s economic growth is the result of hard work by Chinese citizens, and not the government’s charity; our lives are improving, because these are the returns from our own work, not because of a government or certain political party has bestowed them on us.

Now, we get to a topic that has nothing to do with Western media and being overseas.  Now we get to a topic that has to do only with being “left” or “right”, being a supporter or opponent of the current Chinese government.  This topic should be kept separate from the topic above.

Let me start by sending a few sentences to you, Traveler: please do not so easily assume that we hope for a strong China because we need “face”.  I will not speak for Wahaha, but many of us are extremely successful, and do not need to borrow face from anyone.  We can silence ourselves on China tomorrow, and we will not suffer for it.  We can cut ourselves off from China tomorrow, and no one in the United States will force us back.  Here’s a bit of advice for you if you ever come to the West, and are embarrassed by an association with the Chinese: if nothing else, we can always pretend to be Japanese.  No one in the West could possibly know the difference

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The Chinese debate – Part 1: The West

June 28th, 2008 37 comments

One of our myriad goals for this blog was to make one simple point: the Chinese debate politics. The Chinese community debate eloquently and foolishly, intelligently and blindly, informed and uninformed, left and right, China and West… the Chinese are not brain-washed robots living in a closed society; we often disagree, often very passionately. To make this point, we talked about the divide between “old and little generals“; we talked about the Chinese that love America; we talked about Tianya, one of the bastions of online debate in China; and we of course had a long series about the deeply divisive issue of Six Four

Debate is important, because debate is the foundation of true knowledge and true conviction; without opening yourself up to true debate and reconsideration, any knowledge or conviction is suspect. Most in the West have never seen the Chinese debate political issues, so our conclusions are often ignored for exactly the reason. The more that we explain what the Chinese debate about, the more we will gain respect (if not agreement)… and gradually, we can erase Western bias and ignorance. And even more importantly, the better we’ll know what we want from our own country.

Thanks to one our visitors (Traveler, Youzi, 游子), this debate has been brought to our blog (see comment in previous thread).

In terms of the problem with Western media’s “bias”, different Chinese can have different feelings. For overseas Chinese, because they exist in a different cultural environment, it’s easy for them to develop some isolation while interacting with locals. Minorities will often feel more sensitive about mainstream media’s criticisms. In reality, the same reaction can be seen in China’s interior as well. Furthermore, outsiders always feel discriminated against by locals, and the most basic reason is a cultural gap. This sort of discrimination due to the cultural gap is a very common phenomenon, and can only be erased through integration. Clearly, any sort of specific discrimination that causes injury or loss, can be rectified through a lawsuit seeking economic compensation. Therefore, the discrimination due to cultural differences in the West should be resolved by law if effective rule of law exists; cultural problems can only be resolved through cultural interaction.

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"Down with the Dalai Lama" – Western criticism

June 19th, 2008 41 comments

Well, we are a little behind the curve here at Fool’s Mountain. An article titled “Down with the Dalai Lama” was published* by the Guardian a few weeks ago, and I was completely ignorant of it until the Chinese translation began to be passed around. (*Was it actually published in print, or is it only available online?)

Here are a few choice snippets from that article:

The Dalai Lama says he wants Tibetan autonomy and political independence. Yet he allows himself to be used as a tool by western powers keen to humiliate China. Between the late 1950s and 1974, he is alleged to have received around $15,000 a month, or $180,000 a year, from the CIA. He has also been, according to the same reporter, “remarkably nepotistic”, promoting his brothers and their wives to positions of extraordinary power in his fiefdom-in-exile in Dharamsala, northern India.


He poses as the quirky, giggly, modern monk who once auctioned his Land Rover on eBay for $80,000 and has even done an advert for Apple (quite what skinny white computers have got to do with Buddhism is anybody’s guess). Yet in truth he is a product of the crushing feudalism of archaic, pre-modern Tibet, where an elite of Buddhist monks treated the masses as serfs and ruthlessly punished them if they stepped out of line.

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Briefs on Tibet: Action and Reaction

June 7th, 2008 102 comments

Just as the earthquake shook China last month, the ground has also shifted under the Tibet issue. It seems the protests and counter-protests did not go into a black hole, but are having some effects on the media. But the exiles and their supporters aren’t ready to pass up on such a good chance in this Olympic year yet. They are elevating the profile of a different lama. Between now and the Olympics, we may also see more Tibetan disturbances should the talks not “work out”, as the Dalai Lama advised/threatened. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. Inside are a few articles in the recent news on these two cross-currents, action and reaction:
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Six Four: A simplistic view

June 5th, 2008 20 comments

This one-liner also comes from MITBBS.

In the end, it was simply a case of an immature government using immature suppression tactics against immature students. It could have been no big deal if rubber bullets and high pressure water canons were used instead of [the guns and tanks].

就是一个不成熟的政府对一些不成熟的学生动用了不成熟的手段进行镇压,要是换成橡皮子弹和高压水枪,估计屁事没有.

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Six Four: 1989 and Falun Gong

June 5th, 2008 39 comments

This article is another one coming from MITBBS. Because the original post at MITBBS seems to have been edited into a truncated version, the full Chinese text is presented along with the translation.

To be honest, it seems out of place to discuss 6/4 and FLG together. But after seeing the “antics” of FLG followers in the last few years, I cannot help reflect on the way the government handled 6/4.

说实话,把六四和FLG放在一起似乎有些不合适,但近年来F LG在全球范围内的“表现”不由得引发了我对当年政府处理“六四”的方式作一点思考。

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Sichuan: A volunteer's diary

May 15th, 2008 9 comments

This post also comes from Tianya, and is dated the evening of May 15th.

I haven’t closed my eyes for two days. I’m a student from Wuxi’s Professional Health Institute (Wuxi is located in Jiangsu province, in eastern China). After we learned of the earthquake in Sichuan, 8 of us voluntarily organized ourselves into a group, and had one of our parents drive us to Sichuan. The expressway’s still blocked, but along the way we saw a couple military trucks, and we caught a ride. We arrived at the earthquake zone, and we’ve been helping rescue the wounded since.

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