Archive for June, 2008

First, a few links:

EastSouthWestNorth Summary

China Digital Times Summary

Reuters Report

Xinhua Report

A bunch of comments over at the Peking Duck

If you’re too lazy to click on the above links, here’s my own summary. A middle school girl is found dead. Her relatives went to the police to get answers, but didn’t get any. People protest and burn down police stations and police cars. Riot police then come in and restore order.

The above are the confirmed facts. The stories being published on Chinese message boards have all kinds of stories, mostly relating to how the girl was raped and killed by boys related to the security ministers. There’s also some controversy overy whether the girl’s uncle, who was beaten when he tried to go to the police station, is alive or dead. The stories also tend to make the protesters seem heroic and how they’re sticking to these evil policemen and local officials. Now I  like the idea of ‘people power’. It would be great if this was a story of ordinary Chinese people standing up for justice and the dignity of this poor dead middle school girl, but I don’t think this is necessarily the case.

If you look at the videos that were posted, it’s obvious that most of the people were just bystanders and gawkers taking pictures of burning cars and the people who are actually protesting. Now it can be said that these people are taking these pictures to show the world that the people of Wengan are standing up against the corrupt officials, and this is probably true for some of them, but I believe that the majority of those were just watching the riots because there’s nothing better to do.

The people who were rioting and burning down the cars… well, I think a lot of them are just the local hoodlums who have finally been given the green light to wreck the mass chaos that they always dreamed of doing while being judged by their peers and ordinary people around the world as heroes.

And finally, there are the classmates and relatives of the girl. I guess these are the people who actually care and form the core of the protest. If she really was raped and the police were doing a cover up, then yeah, I would consider this core group of people to be the leaders and heroes of a righteous mass movement. If it actually really was a suicide, then this group of people are still leaders and heroes of a mass movement for more transparency in police work and the media. If the core group knew it was a suicide and are organizing the protest for personal gain or malicious purposes, then I would say that they are extremely intelligent in rousing the anger of the Chinese Mob for their cause.

Whatever the case may be, the anger of the Chinese Mob can be utilized to great ends. Maybe there will be a lot of pressure to find out the truth. Maybe there may be some transparency and justice will prevail. Or maybe the Mob will move on to criticizing America for biased reporting on this issue or start demanding that Mongolia be reincorporated into China.


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On Coach’s Turf, Lagat Aims for Olympic Gold <- (completely unrelated link)

Back when I was a kid, I had many dreams of becoming an athlete. I was entranced when I watched my first American football game: the Washington Redskins against the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl. Every recess I went out and rumbled around the fields, throwing that old pigskin around until my jeans became hopelessly discolored with dirt and grass stains. However, I was never able to join the school flag football team because my parents didn’t have time to shuttle me from one place to another.

It wasn’t until high school that I was able to join a real team. At first I wanted to join the football team since that was my life-long goal, but I realized that high school football players were idiots, jerks, and ass holes. So instead, I joined cross country. Running. And I liked it.

In China, my running has completely fallen apart. I can barely do three miles anymore without coughing up a storm. The heat in the summer, the cold in the winter… and the pollution that hangs over the city every day of the year… it really makes one with low willpower decide to stay inside and play computer games instead of go out for a run. However, I do make it out to the track at Beijing Aeronautics and Astronautics University every now and then.

There are a lot of people on that track. About fifty percent are elderly men and women walking around the track while they sip tea from their water bottles. Another forty percent are made up of students, mostly girls, who are also walking and occasionally jogging around the track. Another eight percent are boys who sprint for 100 meters before stopping to stretch and chat with their friends for an hour or two in the shade. There’s about one percent of non-student men who run about 400 meters before going off to the side to smoke. Finally, there’s that finally 0.5 to 1% of the people on the track who are all decked out in nylon singlets, running shorts, and expensive imported Saucony running shoes.

In China, there exists a pretty strong culture of physical fitness. Old people are often seen doing some kind of outdoor exercise, may it be tai chi, Chinese hackey sack, badminton, or simply walking. A decent number of schoolboys and college guys are involved in basketball, football, or at least ping pong (though there are also a bunch of them who just stay inside and play computer games all day). Girls, while a lot of them don’t exercise during the daytime for fear of getting dark, usually come out in the evening to do a little bit of jogging or walking as well as badminton and ping pong. Fatter people, who would look pretty normal compared to an overweight American, are often ridiculed or at least poked fun of.

The Olympics coming to Beijing probably had something to do with the spurt of physical activity taking place in China today. Like the old college that I used to teach at in Guangdong has all the students run around the school once a day or something like that. However, I think this has a lot more to do with Chinese culture, western imperialism, and Communist ideology with some leftover linkages to early Chinese intellectual movement on Social Darwinism.

Chinese culture seemed to have more fascination with immortality and longevity than western cultures. This probably has something to do with the lack of an afterlife in Chinese religious beliefs. So how do you live longer? Well you gotta stay in top physical shape of course. And then there’s all that western imperialism in China that took place a couple centuries ago. China was militarily weak, which had more to do with organization and technology than anything else, but military strength is usually connected to physical strength, (probably left over from the days when soldiers had to swing around giant halberds instead of pushing buttons to launch missiles), so the Chinese government started to ban opium smoking and encourage physical fitness. Finally, there’s the communist ideology. In communism, it’s the worker who is prized, not those intellectuals. The workers image is this hardened, tough man who can endure for 25 hours inside a steel mill shoveling coal and hammering stuff. If that is the ideal member of society, then the members of that society must be physically strong.

However, while physical fitness itself may be encourage, there isn’t much competitive sporting activities in China. I mean there are clubs where people go to play a little football or basketball together. Kids are learning how to rollerblade and rock climb. People go and practice kung fu or taekwando. But there isn’t that kind of competitive team sports that exists in America. I mean kids in the states have been playing little league baseball, representing their cities or schools, since they were in primary school. High schools compete against each other in a highly organized structure that goes from city to section to state to nationals. And universities? I mean what’s bigger than March Madness other than the Super Bowl?

That doesn’t exist in China. However, I think that’ll change soon. China will be extremely competitive in all the individual sports like diving, gymnastics, and ping pong. That’s because of all the sports training institutions that exist in China. However, in team sports like basketball and football, they’ll most likely fail (especially the men, though the women for some reason do pretty well). There are leagues in China, but anyone who’s watched two Chinese football teams play against each other without committing suicide knows that their level is sub-par at best.

For China to do well in team sports, first there needs to be a massive increase in funding for education. Instead of creating sports institutions, just increase funding for all universities in China. This will enable the schools to diversify away from the old planned and segmented education system where each school specializes in just one subject. Once they do that, the universities can also start their own sports programs. In the beginning, they can compete against other schools in the immediate area. As the system progresses, it can move up to the province, and finally, nationwide level competitions. If that is achieved, Chinese athletes can no longer be criticized as being ‘manufactured’ and the Chinese men’s football team…

…well, the Chinese men’s football team will probably suck ass for all eternity, but maybe their basketball team will show some improvement.

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10,000 Visits

Well, I didn’t think I would have been able to keep this blog going for this long… and I really didn’t expect to get more than five hits a day, but lo and behold after a few months I check the counter and I have ten thousand visits.

Thank you readers for taking the time out to read my nonsense. More thanks to the people who comment. And the most thanks to the people who post interesting comments.

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Hot Weekend…

Damn, it was hot this weekend in Beijing. I’m extremely envious of all the more ‘plump’ Chinese men who can roll up their shirts and rest the bundle on top of their bellies. Whenever I try to do that, it fails miserably because my girlfriend hits me multiple times.

Other methods of keeping cool in the heat are more traditional, like keeping one’s shirt unbuttoned, fanning oneself with newspaper advertisements, or the most popular one would be to find a place with air conditioning and sit there for the whole day with a few friends and drinks brought in from a cheaper location.

I also noticed that the girls in Beijing are less seen with an umbrella than the Guangzhou girls. I mean Guangzhou is hotter, but I think that has more to do with the humidity than anything else while the sun’s intensity is actually pretty equal.

You would also think that rooms with no window would stay cooler due to the lack of sunlight penetration, but that assumption would be false. A windowless room actually is much hotter because heat created by electronic devices and warm bodies are trapped inside the room for all eternity.

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A sense of community elusive in East Asia

The article above is pretty interesting in it’s criticism of Asian countries for failing to put aside the past and move forward as a community like what Europe did/is doing. Here’s an excerpt:

To be blunt, there is no community. Each of the major countries – China, Japan and South Korea – clings to its own vision of the future, to its own self-serving version of history, and relates to the outside world as a sole actor, and almost never in terms of regional interests or priorities.

I won’t disagree that there isn’t much in the sense of community here in East Asia. I mean even Taiwan, which is supposed to be a province of China, has their own regional goals that is contrary to that of the PRC (obviously) and Japan (like those disputed islands).

Some would say that East Asia looks a hell of a lot better than what’s going on in Africa. I mean with all these civil wars, genocide, fighting over resources, fractured states, and terrorism all over the continent, East Asia looks pretty damn good. However, in another part of the article, they say:

The first thing that must be said about East Asia is that for all of its economic achievements, it lags woefully behind much of the rest of the world in important ways.

You can’t compare East Asia to Africa because it’s so much richer. Some people have been arguing that all the problems taking place in Africa is due to lack of economic growth. The reason why China isn’t bombing Taiwan is because they don’t want to destroy their economy and links to the rest of the world. When you’re a land locked country in Africa with no natural resources, then you don’t have much to lose.

But is it really fair to compare the level of cooperation in East Asia to that of Europe? I mean the European Union is nothing short of amazing in my own opinion. I still can’t believe that all these countries that used to kill and hate each other not too long ago (especially the recently admitted Eastern Europe countries) have united in the way that they have.

There really doesn’t seem to be much want from the governments of the Asian people for more cooperation. People are still hung up about what happened during World War II and the Korean War. They’re all still demanding apologies all the time and pointing at the wrong-doings of other nations to stir up nationalism. Instead of hatred dying out with the last generation, it’s being passed down to the youth.

I personally don’t see much progress in the near future of East Asian cooperation. I get the feeling that everyone will just condemn it as ‘The Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere’ in sheep’s clothing. Or something awkwardly stated like that.

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S African Chinese ‘become black’

The High Court in South Africa has ruled that Chinese South Africans are to be reclassified as black people.

I just find this article humorous after reading about how much Chinese people dislike blacks. In the end, all that matters is money. Economics triumphs over cultural biases once more! Long live economics! 经济万岁!

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Here’s an interesting article about Africans in China: Chocolate City

While picking through clothes, Cote claimed that he had many Chinese friends here. To prove his point, he walked up, and pats the store-owner on his head. Or, he playfully kicks at the store-owner’s leg. He’ll loudly greet them, “Friend, how are you recently?” His “friends” don’t respond. Some pull out a cell phone and intentionally ignore him. Others impatiently wave at him, and say in a combination of Chinese and English: “if you’re not buying anything, then go… quickly GO!”

It seems friendship only exists between the Africans. When he runs into a fellow clothes dealer, Cote trades fists and claps with them, and quickly chats in their native tongue. Not many travel alone like Cote, most are in groups of twos or threes. They walk all of the malls from afternoon until the evening. They fold up the plastic bags full of clothes, and use a rented car to haul it away.

On one stall, Cote is told that the jeans he’s interested in are 20 RMB a pair. He fiercely throws the pants at the stall-owners head, angrily asking, “how it can be that expensive!?” He turns and goes. After the shocked stall-owner recovers, he stares at the back of the thick shoulders of the departing Cote. He opens his mouth, and then closes it, changing to a single phrase in Cantonese: “Crazy black guy!” (痴线黑佬)

Some people have been claiming that this article is racist since it depicts Africans in a negative light. I think it’s pretty equal in showing both the negativity of the Chinese who deal with the Africans as well. But I’m not going to talk about the article too much. It’s just a starting point.

The relationship between the Yellows and the Blacks is complicated. There was this one time when I got into a ‘confrontation’ with several black youths on the BART (the San Francisco Bay Area’s light rail system) train. I was tired after a long day in the accounting office and was just staring blankly out the window. The four black youths were loud, dancing around in the empty car and annoying the few empty passengers around. They tried to hit on this white college student, but she ignored them so they called her a bitch and moved on to the next victim. Eventually they got to me.

It all started with the usual racist stuff. You know, they asked me what ‘ching chong’ meant in Chinese. So I told them (stupidly) that ‘ching chong’ meant ‘I’m a fucking idiot’. Which of course leads to all four of these thugs to stand and sit uncomfortably close to me while they hated on me. Finally, they got to their stop so they spit at me before they left.

Now let’s go over to China. There was one foreign teacher who liked to ride his bike in the rural area around our university. He’s just doing his own thing, minding his own business and taking a break on the side of the road, when this group of high school Chinese kids ride by on their bike shouting things at him in Cantonese. Now this foreigner speaks Mandarin so he smiles and tries to talk to them. Instead of replying, the kids just shout ‘Fuck you! Fuck you!’ in English, laugh as if it was hilarious, and ride off on their bikes.

What can we learn from these experiences? Well, first of all, people are bigger jerks when they have their buddies with them. And… well, that’s pretty much it. We tend to remember the bad more than the good. Race relations are complicated because of cultural differences, but if the people in the interaction are of different economic, education, religious, or political backgrounds, there are even more complications. To blame it all on just ‘culture’ is just a cop out.

So before I end, I’ll mention some good interactions between the Yellows and Blacks to balance out the negative stories that I told above.

There was this one time when I was working at an event. There was this big black dude from Florida who was trying to sign up students for a Washington Mutual back account. In return, he would give them a free t-shirt. I helped him set up his table and he would talk in a heavy southern accent about how much he liked California and how he hoped to start his own business. He asked a lot about Chinese culture and wanted to know where he could get good Chinese food around the area so I gave him the location of my uncle’s soup joint in Oakland. After the event was over, we scavenged some left over pizza, I helped him lug his stuff over to the Washington Mutual van, and he gave me a free t-shirt.

Another time I went out to eat with a British-Black foreign teacher in Guangzhou and he ordered something off the menu by pointing. When the food came, he said they brought the wrong thing, but they showed me the menu and apparently he pointed at the item below what he wanted. Instead of getting angry at him, they scolded me for being a stupid Chinese who was incapable of giving good hospitality to the ‘foreign guest’ before bringing out a replacement dish.

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