Tag: politics


08

Nov 2016

Voting from Abroad and Faxing Difficulties

It’s 2016, and I thought my days of using a fax machine were well behind me. It turns out, however, that Hillsborough County in Florida allows mailed-in ballots and faxed-in ballots, but not emailed-in ballots. And due to the unreliability of regular post (I find that a lot of letters and packages simply never arrive these days), my options are down to fax or using an international delivery service like UPS or FedEx. But since those two each cost over $50 to send in my ballot, I opted to go the more archaic route: fax.

Day Sixty Four - Fax Machine

Since any major hotel in Shanghai has a “Business Center” (商务中心), I figured going to a nice hotel would be a good place to fax a document. Sure, it wouldn’t be the cheapest faxing option, but it would certainly be much less than $50, and I could get the help of the professional staff of a five-star hotel.

After calling ahead to the Jing’an Hilton and the Jing’an Shangri-La Hotel (both within walking distance of my office) to make sure both offer international fax services, I set out Friday afternoon to fax in my ballot.

Reality was a bit more complicated. The staff of both places (as well as a third, Yan’an Hotel, which I tried out since I was walking past it anyway) were actually not very familiar with using a fax machine, much less sending an international fax. Every trip resulted in a polite affirmative from staff that they could fax the document, followed by lots of calls on how to send an international fax, multiple attempts, and ultimate failure. The worst part was the way the fax machine’s “failure to send” message result was worded: “no answer or the line was busy.” “Or”?? Seems like in this case, the result could be clearer.

I began to suspect that the fax machine was only on during business hours, and also decided to take a friend’s suggestion and use an app. So I scanned my document, got it on my phone, and used an app called Genius Fax to send it in Friday night at around 8:30pm. Success!

I honestly thought that going the more human route would be easier and more certain, but when it comes to using an increasingly outdated technology, which relies on another increasingly outdated technology (international telephone calls), it just didn’t work out. I still don’t even know for sure if the main issue really was simply one of business hours and time difference, but at least the fax went through in the end.

So if you’re voting abroad, a few pieces of advice:

  1. If you can’t vote by email, vote by fax. You have to waive your right to secret ballot to do this, but at least you can be fairly sure your vote has been received.
  2. If you use the fax option, use an internet-based service. I used Genius Fax, but friends on Facebook also recommend FaxZero and HelloFax.
  3. If you’re voting from abroad and you’ve received your ballot, it’s not too late to vote. So even though today is the official voting day, you still have time, especially if you choose the fax option. Votes from abroad can decide a close election!

Hopefully this helps somebody. Get your vote in! Coming from the state of Florida, I felt additional pressure to be sure to vote in this presidential election, and getting that “successfully received” message from the app was quite a relief.


27

Sep 2016

Chinese Views on Trump

As I write this the first presidential debate between Clinton and Trump is underway. I tried hard to view this debate, but in the end I guess I just chose a place with a lousy internet connection. (Despite the ubiquitous use of VPNs, internet issues like this are still a source of daily frustration for foreigners living in China.)

The other day a question on Quora caught my eye: How are the Chinese media covering Trump? Good question! I am not an avid consumer of Chinese media. I do scan headlines and read occasional sources, but for issues like the American presidential race, I tend to stick almost entirely to English language sources. It’s not an easy question to answer objectively, that’s for sure, so it’s nice to see a variety of responses:

Qiong Woo:

I did a research by going through all of Trump-related reports on China Daily since August. And here is what I found. Out of 711 articles under the section of “US and Canada”, how many times has Trump’s name made headlines? 11. One of them, technically wasn’t related to the election per se, it went Trick or Trump: The Donald, Pizza Rat among top Halloween costumes. And just out of curiosity, how many times has Panda Bei Bei? 4. Not bad, Bei Bei!

Xiao Chen:

Trump is a comic star in Chinese media. Many people, mainly from two groups, wish he will be the next president of the U.S.

The first group are the rubbernecks. There is a saying in Chinese: 看热闹的不嫌事大. Basically, it means rubbernecks like to see boisterousness and do not care how serious the consequences would be. A typical comment from this group would be like “we would have four long years of comedy to watch if Trump wins.”

The second group believes that the best gift you can have is a stupid opponent. Typical comment is “I can’t wait to see how badly Trump can mess the U.S. up.” Though Trump has many hostile sayings about China, his capacity of doing anything of real harm is questionable.

Xiao Chen also links to this article which includes some very interesting poll results, essentially asking those polled which candidate they personally prefer, and which candidate will be better for China. Results below:

Poll of who the Chinese want: Clinton or Trump

It’s worth noting that this poll is from February 2016. (Anyone know of a similar, more recent poll?) See the full article for more details: What If Chinese People Could Vote for the President of the United States?


29

Dec 2014

Kaiser on North Korea and China

Kaiser Kuo answered a question on the relationship between China and Korea which included an analogy that was too good to pass up (I love a good analogy):

Question:

> What impression does the average Chinese person have of North Korea?

> Is it similar to the rest of the world or do they have a different view considering the relation of their government with North Korea?

Rabid Dog

Photo by ~~Yuna~~ on Flickr

Kaiser’s Answer:

> I’m not sure about the “average” Chinese person, but nearly all the Chinese people I know feel a range of emotions toward North Korea that would include embarrassment, shame, pity, contempt, and outright hostility. It’s like a nasty dog that was already a family pet long before you were born: once upon a time, it wasn’t so crazy and bitey, and actually helped scare off would-be burglars and you were even kind of proud of what a tough little sonofabitch he was. Now he’s always barking, straining at the leash, trying to bite the neighbors (and ruining your relations with them), shitting all over the place, and costing you too much to feed.

See the question for the full answer (all two paragraphs of it).


Update: Kaiser’s response on Twitter:


01

Apr 2013

School’s out for April Fool’s Day

It’s April Fool’s Day (愚人节), and I don’t have anything special, but I just thought I’d share this cute photo I saw online:

IMG_1464

Here’s the original text:

> 放学了好开心

> 老胡快走~

> 好的~

> 我收拾一下书包

Here’s the text with punctuation (and pinyin tooltips added):

> 放学了,好开心!老胡,快走!

> 好的。我收拾一下书包。

And the translation:

> School’s out. I’m so happy! Lao Hu, hurry up!

> OK. Just packing up my book bag.

Have a good April Fool’s Day, 童鞋们 (that’s cutesy talk for 同学们).


12

Oct 2012

Help with Absentee Ballot Mailing

The U.S. Consulate in Shanghai is helping U.S. citizens mail their ballots back to meet the state deadlines:

> Returning your ballot by mail. Place your voted ballot in a U.S. postage-paid envelope containing the address of your local election officials. Drop it off at the Consulate and we’ll send it back home for you without the need to pay international postage. If you can’t visit the Consulate in person, ask a friend or colleague drop it off for you. If it’s easier for you to use China’s postal system, be sure to affix sufficient international postage, and allow sufficient time for international mail delivery. If time is tight, you may want to use a private courier service (e.g., FedEx, UPS, or DHL) to meet your state’s ballot receipt deadline.

> You can submit your ballot to us to be delivered by diplomatic pouch at the entrance to the consular section at the 8th Floor, Westgate Mall, 1038 Nanjing West Road, between the hours of 8:30am and 5pm on weekdays. Your ballot must be sealed in the security envelope and mailing envelope. However, since it takes up to three weeks to send mail to the U.S. via our diplomatic pouch, we recommend you drop off your ballot of no later than next Tuesday, October 16. After that time, we recommend you use an express private courier service such as the ones mentioned above to ensure your ballot arrives on time.

Nice!

Email source: “Message for U.S. Citizens: Completing and Returning Absentee Ballots” from ShanghaiACS@state.gov


14

Oct 2011

Camus on China

Albert-Camus-1958

Albert Camus was my favorite of the authors we read in high school; The Stranger (局外人》 in Chinese) was my favorite book. Recently I was reading some of Camus’s famous quotes, and I was struck by how applicable many of them are now to modern China:

“At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face.”

“Culture: the cry of men in face of their destiny.”

“The society based on production is only productive, not creative.”

“The myth of unlimited production brings war in its train as inevitably as clouds announce a storm.” [Uh oh…]

“Without freedom, no art; art lives only on the restraints it imposes on itself, and dies of all others.”

“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.”

“By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more.”

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.”

“All modern revolutions have ended in a reinforcement of the power of the State.”

“Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.”

“Every man needs slaves like he needs clean air. To rule is to breathe, is it not? And even the most disenfranchised get to breathe. The lowest on the social scale have their spouses or their children.”

“As a remedy to life in society I would suggest the big city. Nowadays, it is the only desert within our means.”

“It is a kind of spiritual snobbery that makes people think they can be happy without money.” [Many, many Chinese people I know would whole-heartedly agree with this statement.]

“He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool.”

“Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.”

In my experience, Albert Camus (阿尔贝·加缪) is not very well-known in China.

Sources: BrainyQuote, Wikiquote


05

Apr 2010

Chinese Character Creations for Modern Times

You’ll have to be following Chinese internet memes to get all of these, but there are some clever ones:

Created Characters - Chinese Internet Memes
Source

The character creations are fusings of various characters. They are:

> Row 1, left: 亚克西

> Row 1, right: 贵国

> Row 2, left: 代表

> Row 2, right: 屁民

> Row 3, left: 党中央

> Row 3, right: 五毛

I won’t comment on the meanings of these internet memes because I’m not very familiar with all of them, and anyway, this is an apolitical blog. 🙂


Previous character creations on Sinosplice: Character Creations, Chinese Characters for Christmas


15

May 2009

Two Kinds of Communists

While on vacation this past week, I finally had a chance to dig into Orhan Pamuk’s novel Snow. This passage jumped out at me:

> There are two kinds of Communists: the arrogant ones, who enter the fray hoping to make men out of the people and bring progress to the nation; and the innocent ones, who get involved because they believe in equality and justice. The arrogant ones are obsessed with power; they presume to think for everyone; only bad can come of them. But the innocents? The only harm they do it to themselves. But that’s all the ever wanted in the first place. They feel so guilty about the suffering of the poor, and are so keen to share it, that they make their lives miserable on purpose.

Hmmm, I wonder what the Chinese would think about that.


10

Jul 2006

How to Spot a Jap

How to Spot a Jap

Chinese and Japanese faces

In 1942 the US War Department produced a Pocket Guide to China, which includes a comic book-like section titled How to Spot a Jap. The goal of the section is to teach American soldiers how to differentiate the Chinese from the Japanese. It covers differences in the face, feet, stride, and pronunciation of English. (Do any veterans out there remember this thing?)

I found How to Spot a Jap a fascinating little piece of wartime memorabilia. Go on and “nostalge” about the US’s racist wartime policies. (It sure is a good thing that’s all a thing of the past, right?)


14

Apr 2006

My Ayi on Politics

The other day as Xiao Wang (my ayi, a 32-year-old woman from the Harbin area) arrived, I was watching the news. Wen Jiabao (温家宝) was making some statement or other. Xiao Wang didn’t pay any attention. She started fixing dinner.

It suddenly occurred to me to get Xiao Wang’s take on Chinese politics, so I asked her what she thought of Hu Jintao (胡锦涛). I think it confused her a little, because Wen Jiabao was on TV, and I was talking about Hu Jintao. But her response was, “I don’t watch the news much.”

Not satisfied with that, I pressed her: “but don’t you have some opinion about the government?”

Looking up at the TV, which now showed a People’s Congress session in Beijing, she replied, “look at them… they’re all a bunch of Southerners.”

Thus ended the conversation on politics.


09

Nov 2005

A Look at Chinese Bloggers

Micah recently did a summary of the Chinese Blogger Conference. Then he updated it with a link to Rebecca MacKinnon’s thoughts on the matter. Wow. I thoroughly enjoyed her post, and was glad to be able to read a condensed list of key ideas. I recommend you read her whole article (blocked in China), but here are some key quotes to represent what I considered the most interesting ideas:

  1. Web2.0 is potentially a very Chinese thing.

    One of the most important words in the Chinese language is “guanxi.” It means “relationship.” Whatever you think about the term “Web2.0”, the point is that social networking and relationship-building are at the core of today’s most exciting web innovations. The Chinese happen to be the most natural and skilled social networkers on earth.

  2. Individual empowerment with Chinese characteristics.

    A key theme of the whole conference was how the semantic web empowers and amplifies individual voices. On Sunday afternoon, Blogger “zuola” described how his blog is his personal platform for his own ideas. Blogging, he believes, helps us understand our lives better. Chen Xuer, one of the bloggers who volunteered to work on the conference, said he started blogging and reading blogs because he wanted “to hear the truth and speak the truth.” Sound familiar?

  3. Web 2.0, just like Web 1.0, is not going to spark a democratic revolution in Chinese politics any time soon.

    People here find it annoying that the Western media keeps framing the Chinese internet story within the question of whether the internet will or won’t bring down the communist party. The real story is about the cultural and social implications of the semantic web as it continues to spread among China’s fast-growing pool of internet users. In the very long run, cultural and social change may have political implications, but to people here any attempt to speculate on that is counter-productive.

Just read the whole thing. I can’t quote it all.

P.S. If you don’t know what Web 2.0 is… well, sorry. You’re just not geeky enough.


05

Sep 2005

Chengyu for Superpowers

A reader of mine is working on her thesis, and she needs help. She’s looking for chengyu or other Chinese quotes to add some flavor. She needs your help ASAP! Leave your suggestions in the comments.

The thesis is basically about where China stands in relation to superpower status. So the first half of the thesis involves discovering what exactly a superpower is, and how the concept of superpower changes in relation to contemporary world order. And the second part is applying the conclusions of the first part to China and seeing how it fares. I’ve divided it into 5 chapters, plus an introduction and a conclusion, so to be able to use chengyu or other phrases/quotes I need to have one for each. This is the breakdown of chapters:

1. Introduction. In this section I point out that a lot of what is written about China these days as a rising superpower is vague, inaccurate or in some cases alarmist. I explain my basic justification for the thesis, which is to see where China stands in relation to what a superpower is. So I’d like to put something at the start that would suggest that things are not always what they seem, something about the problem of exaggeration etc.

2. What is a superpower? In this chapter I present the development of world power from the inception of the term superpower in 1944 up to the present day, and use this to chart how the concept of superpower has changed. Then I discuss a few theories about the current world order, and on the basis of that decide what forms of power a state must possess in order to be a superpower. These are grouped into military power, economic power, political power, and domestic cohesion, which is the basis for the next four chapters. The only things I can think to use at the start of this chapter are 水落石出 or 画龙点睛. Of these the first is probably better, but I’m sure there’s others out there about power or strength, and the importance of power.

3. Military power. I assess the military development and capabilities of China, including also its natural sources of power: population, natural resources, geography. I thought Mao Zedong’s quote that 抢杆子面出政权 would be good here, but any suggestions are welcome. I read an English translation of a quote by Sun Tzu from the Art of War about how the acme of skill is not to win 100 battles, the acme of skill is to defeat the enemy 100 times without fighting. I’ve tried to find it in Chinese, but the Chinese version I found (on zhongwen.com) didn’t seem to have the
same connotations.

4. Economic power. I look at the growth of the Chinese economy, and how that gives them international power. There’s also a bit about the importance of indigenous technology, and a sound industrial base, as well as something on the impact of multi-national corporations. I found a quote by Deng Xiaoping encouraging people to push ahead with market socialism: 无论黑猫白猫,抓到老鼠就是好猫. But again, any suggestions of chengyu about money, the power of money etc are very welcome.

5. Political power. This is discussion of China’s political role at an international level, including its overwhelmingly realist approach to international relations, its involvement in regional groupings such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and ASEAN, its leading role in the 6-party talks about North Korea etc. A major point of this chapter is that a superpower is only a superpower if it is recognised and treated as such by the rest of the world. And I have no ideas in relation to a
suitable chengyu about the power of politics.

6. Domestic Cohesion. In this chapter I argue that states cannot project power on an international level if they are not stable at a domestic level. So I look at China, especially with reference to the income divide that is building between the wealthier coastal provinces and the inland provinces, the common occurrences of civil disturbances/protests in recent years, and the problem of uniting a nation when market socialism goes against the tenets of communism. These are contrasted with rising nationalist sentiment as a way of uniting the state, and the attempts by the leadership to slow growth in the eastern and southern provinces while fostering growth inland, so as to counteract the growing inequality. I’m sure there are lots of phrases in the general style of an apple looking lovely on the outside but not necessarily on the inside, or some such sentiment. The only one I know is 驴粪蛋表面光 – although I like it a lot, it’s probably a bit cheeky!

7. Conclusion. A general summing up, my basic conclusion being that although China has or is developing great military power, is an increasingly central economy in the world, and is more and more being treated as a political power, it probably does not yet have these types of power to an adequate extent to merit it being labelled a superpower. And its main challenge in coming years will be to maintain domestic stability. I suppose 画龙点睛 would probably do here, although something to do more with looking at everything as a whole would probably be better.


19

Jul 2005

Nuking America

On the flight back to Shanghai I was looking at an English language Korean newspaper. The article that caught my eye was the one about General Zhu Chenghu of the PLA stating that China was prepared to nuke America over the Taiwan issue if it came to that. Later it was emphasized that the general’s remarks were his personal opinions, and not indicative of official policy.

Richard at Peking Duck wrote about this already, but the story he quoted left out the best line (which I have bolded):

> “If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,” he told an official briefing for foreign journalists.

> Zhu said the reason was the inability of China to wage a conventional war against Washington.

> “If the Americans are determined to interfere … we will be determined to respond,” he said.

> “We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xi’an. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds … of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese,” he added. [source]

Ummm… did he say “the destruction of all of the cities east of Xi’an?!” Yes, I believe he did. That’s basically all of China’s major cities. That’s what Taiwan is worth to him. Absolutely ridiculous. After public comments like that, I certainly hope that the head honchos in Beijing were saying, “OK, he doesn’t get to talk to the press anymore.”

So after reading that on the plane, my girlfriend and I were met at the airport by her parents. On the ride home, my girlfriend mentioned to her mom what I had read in the newspaper on the airplane.

Her reaction? “What? No, that never happened. That never happened.”

I’ve got to say, I’m a bit disappointed. She’s a smart lady. But then, it was a really outlandish statement.

Update: Also on Peking Duck, Bingfeng offers some scary examples of a similar focus on war on America’s side: Planning War.


09

Oct 2003

Too much DNA

I didn’t have my usual Intensive Reading Chinese class today. Yesterday in class someone from the administration came and passed out special letters of invitation to the “First China Zhejiang Academic Festival” (首届中国浙江学术节). We were told if we went our taxi fares would be reimbursed, and we’d get a free lunch. We all decided to go.

Last week I was walking near West Lake with Russell and we passed a huge lavish meeting hall-type building. We weren’t sure exactly what it was. It turned out to be the Provincial People’s Congress Hall (浙江省人民大会堂), and that’s where the “Academic Festival” was. Today I showed up 10 minutes late and was greeted on the steps of the building and given a ticket and a special pass to wear around my neck (it said “特邀代表证”). Then I was ushered to my seat along with a classmate who happened to show up at the same time.

A word about the Congress Hall. It is massive. Lavish. Lush. Evidently no ordinary four walls and a roof will do when it comes to determining the will of the people. It’s like that place was built just to make painfully apparent the point that the government is squandering the people’s money on displays of opulence. (That said, it was cool to be there for an official function once and to have a “specially invited representative” pass.)

I was seated on the ground floor of the “show room,” but there were balconies on the second and third level which could be accessed by escalator. There were massive video screens on either side of the stage, showing a zoomed-in view of the “important” people seated on stage. This was their day to shine, to blab on and on about boring crap. You know they’re bullshitting when you hear them mention the “Three Represents” over and over.

The “award ceremony” was kinda amusing. This troop of girls in red qipao was parading around with plaques, handing them to the appropriate recipients. At one point sashes were handed out to outstanding scientists, but there weren’t enough to go around, and one guy didn’t get one, on stage, in front of everyone. Some Chinese guy behind me was calling out loudly and repeatledy, “HA! They’re short one!” Tactful.

Next the main speaker launched into an intensely boring and long-winded talk on DNA. I really don’t get it. Why was he talking about DNA? The talk was too basic for anyone in the field of biology, but a little too in-depth for anyone not. The guy was going on and on about Watson, Crick, Franklin, and Pauling, and all the details of the discovery of DNA’s double helical structure. It would have been interesting to hear a 5-minute talk on the subject, as I was familiar with it (my major freshman year of college was microbiology — I once wanted to go into geneetic engineering) and it was kinda interesting to hear it in Chinese, but this guy went on for an hour and a half with his neverending PowerPoint presentation! People were nodding off left and right. I did my best to keep my own drowsiness from getting too obvious, but I think I failed.

The talk did provide lots of vocabulary. I got to hear words like “double helix” and “cytoplasm” and “chromosome” in Chinese. Word of the day: 蛋白质 – protein. As you might expect, the word came up again and again, and I just think it’s a funny word. “Protein” in Chinese, translated literally into English, is “egg white essence.” That’s kinda funny in itself, but I can’t help also associating it with 蛋黄南瓜, a Chinese dish made with pumpkin and egg yolk (“egg yolk” translated literally from Chinese is “egg yellow”).

What redeemed the entire ordeal was the meal afterward. It was in a nice restaurant, and it was really good. Crab, shrimp, mussels, chicken, duck, tofu, asparagus, lotus, dates, nuts, and other stuff I can’t remember — all really good. Also, the waitresses had this habit of refilling my wine glass pretty fast, so I was well on my way to very happy by noon! I had to teach class at 1:30. I was very cheerful in class.


07

May 2003

Yang Rui and Dialogue

Some people say there are no certainties in life, but those people would probably admit that there are certainly very high likelihoods. For example, if you turn on the TV in China, there is a very likelihood that you’ll be tuning in to crap. Still, raised on television as we are, foreigners in China will at times find themselves watching anyway. Whether we do it “to get a feel for the propaganda machine,” or out of some kind of sick masochistic pleasure, or simply because we’re starving for a little mindless TV action, we do watch broadcast TV from time to time. I very rarely watch TV in China (or in the U.S.), but for some reason I turned on the TV while I was eating lunch in my apartment today. I actually saw something rather interesting.

Yang Rui, anchor of CCTV's DIALOGUE

Yang Rui

The show that caught my attention was CCTV’s Dialogue. This show is infamous among expats in China because it’s so often so bad. The show is in English, and often it’s a number of Chinese people discussing some serious issue in English (which is kind of weird). There are also foreign guests at times, and if the topic is a controversial one in which the foreigner represents an opposing viewpoint, the host, Yang Rui, can be extremely smug and downright condescending.

What was interesting about today’s show was the guest, Jing Jun, a Chinese professor of sociology from Qinghua University. That he was educated in the United States was made clear by Jing Jun’s fluent English. (The same cannot be said for Yang Rui.) The topic was, of course, SARS. This time the angle was “the sociological implications of SARS.” What impressed me was the frankness with which Jing Jun discussed Beijing’s handling of SARS, even on CCTV, the national television station. Jing Jun stated in no uncertain terms that Beijing lied to the people and tried to cover up SARS cases in the beginning, and was only forced to come out with the truth when the lies became too apparent to the people. This is certainly no secret to anyone (the Chinese people not excluded), but I found it impressive that such a view would be expressed from such an obviously well-educated Qinghua University professor on the national television station. After Jing Jun expressed this opinion, Yang Rui quickly changed the topic. During the interview, Jing Jun also expressed the realistic view that SARS could be controlled, but was not going to go away anytime soon.

A lot of these Dialogue transcripts are available online. In doing a little research, I came across this transcript, an interview with a professor named Wu Qing on political participation in China. I found the transcript amusing, but also very interesting. It’s not long, so I recommend you read it in full, but but here are are two excerpts:

> Y: We know that the people’s deputy ID card is a symbol of a deputy’s responsibility and power, have you ever used yours in a practical situation?

> W: Yes, one example is that I used my card to stop a car that belonged to a high-ranking army officer. The car was driving into the bicycle lane at the time. Seeing that, I used my bicycle to stop the car because I felt I had the responsibility to protect ordinary citizens. So I produced my deputy ID card and said to the driver that he should stop and back out of the lane because the lane is for cyclists. And then this driver, a young man, got out of the car and swore at me, “Are you asking for trouble or what, old woman?” Later I filed a formal complaint in which I noted down the plate number of the car and described what had happened. About a month after that I got a phone call from an army officer, presumably the owner of the car. He said he wanted to come over to apologize and he did. And then two weeks later I got a call from that driver. He came over and pleaded with me to remove that line of his swearing from my complaint saying that otherwise he would have to leave the army and go back to where he came from. I told him, “Well, young man, I can’t do that, it’s not right for you to ask me to remove that line for that would mean I was slandering you.” But I did write a letter to that officer saying that I hope this young man would not be demoted from the army as a punishment. Young people sometimes make mistakes and they need a chance to correct their mistakes.

….

> Y: Some people think American democracy is closest to what democracy really means. Do you agree? Do you think we should follow the American style of democracy?

> W: I don’t really think so. Ten people might have ten different definitions of democracy. Each country has its own culture and history. We Chinese have our own idea of freedom and democracy, and Americans have theirs. Each has some problems. That’s why we always have to improve.


22

Mar 2003

Foreigner Protest in Beijing

laowai power protest

Did you hear about this story? “Foreigners in China Stage Small Anti-War Protest” from washingtonpost.com. There are several things about this article I find interesting.

First, the protest consisted of “several dozen foreigners.” In a city of millions of people, only “several dozen foreigners” had the balls to protest a war that pretty much all of China disagrees with?? To be fair, it’s true that the foreigners won’t get in nearly as much trouble (if any) for protesting, whereas any Chinese participants would probably face real repercussions. Still, I think it’s funny, imagining a group of foreigners protesting in Beijing. I wonder if they did it in Chinese or English… Also, it’s kind of funny that the “brief protest” was pretty much over as soon as it began. But still, I admire and support the protesters. It should be done.

Second, the protest was “organized through mobile telephone text messages.” Too funny. Anyone who’s been in Eastern China for very long knows how widespread the phenomenon is (see Wang Jianshuo’s take on it and the Sinosplice poll related to it). So of course foreigners are in on the cell phone texting too. But organizing protests by SMS? I can just imagine someone, all justly fired up over the war, angrily typing in, “5-5-5 3-3 8 1-1-1 7-7-7-7 (LET’S) 7 7-7-7 6-6-6 8 3-3 7-7-7-7 8 (PROTEST)….” You get the picture.

Last, China “has not allowed public anti-war protests for fear of harming ties with the United States.” Wow. I’m impressed by that. I’m not saying it’s good to suppress peaceful protest, obviously, but I appreciate Beijing’s commitment to good relations with the U.S. There are some prudent people in power over here. It’s a stark contrast to what’s passing for leadership on the other side of the world in certain superpower nations.

But I’ll end by saying that I support those protesters in Beijing, even if I find the story a bit comic. And while I’m not happy with the decisions made that put them there, I support the allied troops of the U.N.-defying nations who are now serving their countries on Iraqi soil.


05

Dec 2002

More Polls…

These two questions are pretty unscientific, I know. The students’ answers are very subjective. Before the questions, I made sure they understood what I meant by “care.” Still, interesting results. A trend is uncovered.

Poll: Do you care about Chinese politics?

Poll: Do you care about World News?

Obviously, the word “care” is crucial, because what does that mean? One can easily say one cares, but then that “caring” doesn’t actually manifest itself in any actions.

Also, this is not secret ballot. When students declare they don’t care, they do so publicly in front of the whole class as I count hands. There’s less of the “herd mentality” than you would think, however. You do get one or two people defying the rest of the class and voting how they really feel at times.


07

Nov 2002

Selective Search Blocking

A while back I wrote about how China blocked Google and it was driving me crazy. Later, it was unblocked, but it was widely reported that China has some very sophisticated technology in place that causes you to lose connection if you run certain seaches. This morning I was doing a search for a picture of a famous Chinese leader. At first it was fine, but soon the links to the pics stopped working, and then Google itself became inaccessible, and then nothing would load. Fortunately everything works fine now. But internet censorship is very much in effect here still.

Related to the above is the fact that tomorrow the CCP convenes for its 16th party congress. Now, I’m well aware how boring politics is for many of us, but this meeting is significant. There have been only three main leaders of Communist China: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and you-know-who*. Tomorrow it is widely believed that you-know-who will step down, and a new guy will take his place. In the past, each new leader has represented a new direction for China. So it’s an exciting time.

You may find it hard to get excited about Chinese politics. I don’t blame you. Still, you should read this article. It got me excited. China is in for big changes, and I really believe it’s for the better. Communism in China is probably not what you think it is. And it’s becoming even less so. Get ready.

* I don’t want to invite the possibility of censorship, so I’m avoiding the specific, currently very sensitive name.