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Archive for March, 2008

Lu Xun once criticized the Chinese people for having no sense of nationalism or duty for their country. He called his own people cowards who would stand with the enemy as long as it meant they could profit for themselves even amidst the suffering of their countrymen. The Chinese only talked about their own old history, he stated in one of his many critical essays, living in their past glories instead of focusing on the present humiliations and indignation. He wanted to save his people by using the force of nationalism even when it seemed hopeless. Waking up sleeping men stuck within an iron box, as he called it, letting them know that they will die instead of allowing them a painless end.

I guess it worked. The Chinese people, from babies waving Chinese flags to the elderly who still have Mao’s picture plastered on their walls are now instilled with an extreme sense of nationalism. So why does it exist now? Here are a few reasons:

1. China has now risen after three decades of rapid economic growth so the people are proud of their achievements. The Olympics in Beijing is proof that China has achieved greatness on the world stage. 

2. China’s past humiliations have caused them to feel extremely protective of any foreign accusations and demands. The threat of Tibet breaking off and an independent Taiwan leads to fears that China will break apart and return to the dark days of warlordism. Weakness will lead to a repeat of foreign imperialism and discrimination against the Chinese people.

3. China has a long five thousand years of glorious history that originated along the Yellow River and has spread from the northeastern reaches of Manchuria to the beaches of Hainan, the deserts of Xinjiang, and the mountains of Tibet. The integrity of the Chinese nation is necessary for the integrity of the Chinese identity. Only as a whole country can the originator of Asian culture once again rise to the top.

4. The Chinese people is not one homogeneous people, but made up of not only different ethnicity, but also speak thousands of different dialects, have different customs and beliefs, and various religious affiliations. Without a strong sense of nationalism, the country would splinter into various factions. As a result, the government has taken up the role of using nationalism, which began with the Confucian Revival by the Nationalist Party and evolved into a Maoism as a religion that reached its peak during the Cultural Revolution. The government is now creating nationalism using all those reasons listed above to control the people.

5. Pandas.

Whatever the reasons for the rise of ultra nationalism in China, the important thing to know is that it currently exists. The Chinese people are fiercely nationalistic, especially those who are more inward looking while those on the fringes of Chinese society, such as ethnic minorities, left wing dissidents, and punk rockers, tend to have either their own local identities or have more cosmopolitan beliefs. So is it good to be nationalistic? Well… 

Nationalism blinds people from acknowledgement of the humanity of those outside their nationality and because of this, it can be seen as a negative force. However, at the same time, it empowers a nation with by uniting its people towards a singular goal, preventing social conflicts, and encourages the people to do great and terrible things to further the glory of their country.

Now the term ‘brain washed’ comes up pretty often. I don’t like that term too much, though I must admit I used it fairly often when I first came to China. However, my ideas have changed a bit. Almost all forms of nationalism are at least in some way imposed from the top down. The state gives the people a part of their identity, which is why people call themselves German or French or Chinese, or Somalian. Actually, I don’t think most people in Somalia call themselves Somalian because of a lack of top down nationalism, which is mostly due to the fact that there is no effective government there these days. Anyways. Because identity is at least partially given by the state, all people who claim some kind of nationality are ‘brain washed’.

The distinction comes from what makes up the rest of ones identity. This can come from family, ethnicity, religion, or even such things as hobbies (I’m sure at least a few people have the majority of their identity shaped by their World of Warcraft character). The more interaction that exists with things not related to the state, the more diverse one’s identity becomes. For example, someone who is of Indian ethnicity but born in South Africa in a predominantly black community might have a fairly diverse mindset.

Now lets look at China. The government has their hands in almost everything. The media is state controlled, the internet is filtered, and cultural works require approval. Even the country’s language of ‘putonghua’ and simplified characters are state created or manipulated. Contact with the outside world was non-existent for thirty years and in many parts of the country, the people have not even left their village, let alone meet someone from another country.

It’s not whether or not the Chinese people are ‘brain washed’ into being nationalistic or not that matters. Nationalism is strongest when the people are isolated. What’s that cliche again… there is no fear greater than the fear of the unknown? The west fears China and the Chinese fear the west. If only there was some big international event that can bring the brainwashed people from all over the world to meet and enlighten each other on their own humanity… if only…

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Wen Jiabao willing to open dialog with Dalai Lama

I’ve only been able to find this on China Digital Times, so I’ll refrain from posting until I hear more about this. So while most people would scoff at Mr. Wen’s comments about the Dalai Lama, this is actually pretty big. It’s a face saving statement that also creates an opportunity for both sides to make progress. However, I’m not going to write more until I get more information about what happened in Laos.

Edit: Haven’t been able to find much information about this at all. There was a single line at the end of a Guardian article and nothing on the BBC. Couldn’t find much on Google news either. I guess this wasn’t a breakthrough as I hoped it would be. Oh well, life goes on.

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I will now begin having a separate page for my own special free Chinese class. Ok, so the purpose of that page isn’t really to teach Chinese, but just so I can get more practice writing. The themes of each lesson will be based off of the Spoken Chinese (汉语口语)book published by Sinolingua. The dialogs, however, will be slightly modified to fit my own personal tastes. Hope you enjoy!

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So as some of you know, WordPress allows you to see what search engine terms people use to find your blog. Usually people search ‘China’ or ‘Tibet’ or ‘Bjork’ and end up here, but occasionally there are some strange ones. However, there is none stranger than this:

“funny looking bald men without chins”

… … …

Anyways. Tibetan monks disrupted the foreign journalists visit to Lhasa.

The Tibetan monks are most definitely taking advantage of the Beijing Olympics and the Dalai Lama’s prestige in the west. To publicly say pro-Tibet slogans and praise the Dalai Lama is akin to a gay couple running naked into a hardcore conservative evangelical church in the boonies of South Carolina while preaching Pastafarianism and giving each other hand jobs. (I fear what type of search engine terms people will use to find this site now…)

Well, I’m all for freedom of speech and all, but I think the Tibetans are definitely overestimating how much the west cares about Tibet. I like to think about the Free Tibet movement in the west is like all other mass movements. Most of the people in it don’t really know or care about the ideas, they just do it because all the cool kids are doing it. Besides, the Tibetan flag looks pretty sweet, especially when it’s stuck on the bumper of your car.

Do people in the west genuinely care about the plight of the Tibetans? Maybe some of them do, but almost none of them are in positions of power to change what is happening in Tibet and those who are in power don’t care enough to do anything. There’s huge media coverage on Tibet because it’s interesting and it attracts an audience, not because they actually care about what happens. It’s all just a bloody show.

Ever watch that movie Hotel Rwanda (damn good movie)? There was a part when the antagonist thought that the whole world would put a stop to the violence if they saw what was happening in Rwanda, but those two journalists denied it. The people would see it on the news for a few minutes, say it’s terrible, and then go to sleep in their nice suburban homes. Then there’s that part when the UN commander shakes his head before he leaves. “You’re black. You’re not even a nigger. You’re an African. They’re not going to stay, Paul. They’re not going to stop this slaughter” Chilling huh?

The west wants to see the people rise up in Tibet, but they don’t want to get their hands dirty. They’ll jump around behind cameras with boycott Olympics flags and throw stones at Chinese embassies to make themselves happy that they’re doing something for those poor oppressed people in Tibet. But when the spotlights are off of China, when the west goes on with their nice little lives, it will be the Tibetans who will suffer.

So what should be done? Something should be done, but there needs to pressure from multiple directions. Right now, almost all the Free Tibet movements are focused on gaining support from foreign citizens and pressure from foreign governments on the CCP. This is useful, but only to a certain extent. For example, pressure on Beijing to open dialog with the Dalai Lama is good and can only be exerted by the government. However, these are all external pressures and, when used past the breaking point, has the opposite of the desired effect.

There needs to be increased internal pressure from the Chinese people themselves. There have been many calls by people within China for dialog with the Dalai Lama. There has been demands made for an ending of censorship of information. These kinds of feelings have risen up within China, not independent of the rest of the world, but at the same time not as an absolute response to external pressures.

To use some outdated Marxist terminology, there is definitely a revolutionary potential in the masses that can be tapped to end oppression and liberate not just Tibetans but all the people of China. It will take time and it needs assistance from the rest of the world, but I sincerely believe… ok, that’s not right. I kinda believe that in the end, any reforms that take place in China will not be a result of foreign threats, but from the demands of her people.

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So I’ll take a break from China for today and put up a bunch of links to online games that I play at work to waste time:

 – Not exactly the most action based online game I’ve ever played, but very deep and doesn’t take up a lot of time.

Human Age – Similar to Renaissance Kingdoms but not as deep, lighter, and more things to do.

Cyber Nations – Control a country, build stuff, fight people, y’know…

Nation States – Kind of like a “choose your own adventure” game for a country…

Tribal Wars – Build things, kill things… yah…

Aegis – Build things and kill things… but this is a little deeper and is also turn based.

Tower Defense – Not multi-player, but one of the best ways to waste a few hours of your life.

Finally, if you’re into MUDs, then you should check out Accursed Lands. I used to play it back in high school and I still like to promote it even though I haven’t played in a few years.

Ok, since this is a China blog, I’ll at least post a link up.

CROP CIRCLES IN CHINA!!!!! – Scientific factual undeniable proof that the Olympics were founded by aliens.

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China and Land Reform

This is a very good article, though a bit short, that talks about some peasant demands for privatization of rural lands. The best thing about this article is that it brings in both sides of the argument. So let’s take a look.

Latin American economist Hernando de Soto talks a lot about property rights and private ownership. He claims that the reason why so many poor farmers lose their land is because there is no clear ownership of assets, which makes it much easier for well connected businessmen and corrupt officials to take it from them. Also, without proof of assets, the peasants cannot take loans to improve their land, buy capital equipment, or day trade in bubble stock markets since they lack the collateral. The only way to protect the poor and improve their lives is to ensure that their property claims are officially recognized. So this is a gross generalization of his ideas, but hey, it’s been four years since I read his book. Give me a break.

In China, the rural land is owned by the government, but since the reforms in 1978, the land is leased to the peasants for long periods like 99 years, which makes it logical to invest and improve the land they work on. This has resulted in the green revolution in China and huge increases in agricultural output since the beginning of the reforms. However, there is a certain clause in that the government can take back the land whenever they wanted, as long as they compensate those living on it.

The problem is that these days, with land becoming extremely valuable (China’s got a lot of people, y’know), the local government officials have more and more of an incentive to take the land from the peasants and build something more profitable… like a factory or gaudy tourist attraction. As a result of the rising number of these cases and the peasant unrests that follow, the people began to question China’s policy of communal/government ownership. Which is why the peasants in the article rose up and gained private ownership of government land before they were all arrested and such. Here’s an excerpt:

In recent months peasants in at least four far-flung locations have posted statements on the internet claiming to have seized a total of more than 110,000 hectares of farmland from the state, privatized it and divided it among themselves.

It would seem like an entirely one sided argument if we just left it at that. Another case of the government stepping on the little guy. Oh the horrible CCP, the things they do to preserve their power.

Of course, there’s a dark side to privatization and property rights. In the current system, the peasants can rent their land to others if they chose to go work in the cities or something, but the land is still theirs to return to if they wish (during that 99 year lease). As the article stated:

Government scholars counter that unlike other large developing countries such as Brazil and India, the current system ensures that China has almost no landless rural poor and no large slums.

It’s a safety net to make sure that even if those poor dirty dark migrants fail or get their legs crushed in a coal mining accident, they can at least go back to the countryside. And for once, those government scholars are right. The current system makes China, a huge overpopulated country, relatively clear of masses of poor beggars in the cities or living on landfills. Do they still exist? Sure, but compare the situation in China to that of Bangladesh and it would be hard to argue with the CCP’s policy.

Now, let’s say that China does privatizes the land and hell, I’ll even throw in free property rights and clear private ownership on the side. The peasants can’t lose their land to the government, but what about the market? Let’s say there’s a drought and nothing could be produced on the land. A buyer comes to the villager and offers a ton of money and the peasants take it since they’re all starving to death. Multiply this event by the hundreds and thousands, and all of a sudden, you have all these landless peasants, landlord families holding huge amounts of land, and quite possibly a huge fall in food production. It’ll be like a throwback to pre-revolution China and, say all you want about the CCP, but life these days is much better than life back when the Manchus ruled.

So what am I suggesting? I guess I’ll have to take the middle ground again. China just isn’t ready for mass privatization of the countryside. It’ll be chaos, especially with the huge income disparity that currently exists. However, with that said, corrupt officials have been taking the land from the peasants without their consent. So what we need is something like Hernando de Soto’s property rights with a communist-style limitations over land transaction

Yeah, it’s all vague, but that’s the best I can do. You want a more solid solution, talk to a real economist. I’m just a kid with too much time on his hands.

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Previously I wrote a post about the angry response of the Han Chinese towards the Tibetan riots, so I’ll ignore those types of comments for now. Instead, here are some links to different Chinese views on the situation.

Tibet: Her Pain, My Shame

Tibet is disappearing. The spirit which makes her beautiful and peaceful is disappearing. She is becoming us, becoming what she does not want to become. What other choice does she have when facing the anxiety of being alienated? To hold onto her tradition and culture, and revive her ancient civilization? Or to commit suicidal acts which will only add to Han nationalists’ bloody, shameful glory?

Calls for dialog with the Dalai Lama

3. The Chinese government claims that “there is sufficient evidence to prove this incident was organized, premeditated, and meticulously orchestrated by the Dalai clique.” We hope that the government will show proof of this. In order to change the international community’s negative view and distrustful attitude, we also suggest that the government invite the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights to carry out an independent investigation of the evidence, the course of the incident, the number of casualties, etc.

Tibet Information Theory

7. Ultra-nationalism is an emotion, not reason; therefore censorship is a bed for such emotion, fostering extreme-Tibetan, extreme-Han, Japan hatred, Taiwan hatred and other extreme emotions.

All links courtesy of China Digital Times.

So there are two reasons why I post these links. One is to show that the west has fallen for the CCP’s biggest propaganda lie: that the Chinese people are all united in thought and beliefs. The other reason is because I have writers block and can’t think of anything to write about. So let’s end with another link:

Pandas vs. Kangaroos

To try to give the team every chance of success, the Chinese federation is using every trick in the book, which is why the Socceroos are playing at altitude, at the hottest time of the day, at the end of a long journey deep into the southwest of the country.

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