Archive for November, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Belgian TV crew attacked in Henan Province

Tom Van de Weghe and his crew were attacked in a rural area of Henan province while interviewing people suffering from AIDS, according to the Foreign Correspondents Club of China on Thursday, according to boxun.com.

According to a statement on the Foreign Correspondents Club website,

Van de Weghe, his cameraman and assistant were beaten up and robbed of tapes, phones and money as they attempted to report on HIV-Aids in Henan province.

Eight thugs pulled their van over, reached inside to unlock the doors, dragged the crew on to the road and punched them into submission. [.....]
Earlier in the day, the reporters had been questioned by a policeman. Soon after, they were followed by two unmarked cars. After several hours, they were stopped again, surrounded and forced to hand over a tape. Locals said the thugs in this incident were Zhoukou and Gangshan county officials.

The journalists tried to return to the airport, but their van was pulled over a third time on a dark road, where the violent assault took place. The reporters were beaten until they handed over their tapes, identity cards and belongings.

The incident apparently occured in Shangqiu County (商丘县). According to Van de Weghe in VRT’s (Belgium) Het Late Journaal he was told that nationwide rules didn’t apply and that “we in Henan make the rules”.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Vote for MyLaowai

Chinalyst has opened its China Blog Awards 2008. Justrecently isn’t competing but has voted for mylaowai.com.

This is meant to be sort of a recommendation to do likewise, so I should say why. I’ll give you my reasons in a Chinese order – I’ll start with more trivial reasons and finish with my most important reason.

a) The Baby Panda will get “it” otherwise

b) mylaowai inspired this beautiful blog to come into being

c) mylaowai is (mostly) funny,

d) classy writing and

e) provocative

I’d like to say a bit more about “e)”. In my view, some of the mylaowai content is either bad taste or offensive. But it seems to me that much of the spirit in which all that stuff is written can be found in the comment thread here – and blogging is about speaking your mind.

You will find a lot of commenter reactions to mylaowai’s posts, sometimes nodding in agreement, sometimes critical, and sometimes hostile and in pretty bad taste too.

I’m thinking of mylaowai.com as a litmus test: How far do Chinese (often living overseas themselves) and foreign readers disagree with mylaowai? How far do they agree? And most crucially: how much free speech can the supporters of China’s leadership or its status quo stand?

Mylaowai.com speaks through its posts, and through its commenters. Among all the China-related blogs which I know, I think mylaowai is exactly what a blog should be like.

The place to vote is over there.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What does Chen Shui-bian’s Arrest Mean for China?

Hsieh Chang-ting (Frank Hsieh, 谢长廷), former Taiwanese premier and DPP presidential nominee who lost against Ma Ying-jeou in March this year, said in an interview that if former president Chen Shui-bian did wrong, he should pay the price and be tried. However, noone should leap to conclusions. The judicial system only enjoyed the trust of less than 30%. Hsieh also said that street demonstration in a democratic society should be organized and carried out in an orderly and non-violent way.

The Time China Blog quotes Hu Shuli, editor leading Chinese financial magazine Caijing as saying that Taiwan’s judicial process

is special for Chinese around the world. When a former leader is detained in an ordinary jail cell, it’s clear that China’s old feudal saying that “punishment reaches no officials” is no longer valid.

The Time Blog also quotes Apple Daily publisher Jimmy Lai:

…as difficult as it may seem, China should look for help from Taiwan. The island has institutions that protect and nurture ideas. It is a place where people don’t have to be afraid of holding unpopular opinions. Most importantly, Taiwan has a fully functioning democracy.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Zeng Jinyan’s Blog wins Voice of Germany Award

In a post of November 28, Zeng Jinyan takes the opportunity of Thanksgiving Day to thank the readers of her blog for reading, even though most posts’ contents are painful. She also thanks the commenters, no matter if they offer support or speak out against her posts. The time readers take to write and react encourages her and makes her feel happier.

She also writes about a phone call from the Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany). Someone of the radio staff informed her that her blog had won one of the station’s blog awards.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Vitaly A. Rubin (1976): Thoughts do not Die

In February 1972, Dr Vitaly A. Rubin, a Senior Research Fellow in Chinese Studies at Moscow’s Institute of Oriental Studies, applied for an exit visa to emigrate to Israel. Rubin was Jewish, educated in the orthodox tradition of his people. Following his visa application, he was pressured into resigning his position at the Institute, his works were withdrawn from circulation, citations of his writings disappeared, and many of his professional colleagues shunned him. *)

After several months of waiting, Rubin was denied his visa, ostensibly on the grounds that he was “an important specialist” whose services were needed in the USSR.

Wm. Theodore de Bary wrote in his preface to the English translation that

One cannot claim for Rubin’s work that it is the fruit of highly original research or the product of newly discovered materials. He has no access to previously unknown texts. If anything, working in isolation and handicapped by restrictions on his movements, he has experienced extraordinary difficulty in keeping up even with other work in the field. Hence these essays make no claim to being exhaustive or definitive; instead their singular merit and appeal are to be found in the interpretive insights and unusual perspectives afforded by Rubin’s personal experience in the twentieth century of problems already agitating classical Chinese thinkers in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.

According to Steven I Levine, who translated Ideologiia i kul’tura drevnego Kitaia (the Russian title of the book) into English, Rubin’s family went through hard times after Russia’s October Revolution.

Vitaly Rubin’s uncle, Isaac Rubin, a prominent economist, was charged with possessing docuuments sent to him by Social-Democrats abroad (a serious offense in Stalin’s Russia), and he was sentenced to prison and subsequent exile. Because of his brother’s crime, [Vitaly Rubin's father] Aaron Rubin lost his job and was compelled to eke out a living by doing miscellaneous translations from more than a dozen languages.

The Rubin family were outsiders within the Soviet Union, but in the 1940s, there was an obvious need to take sides:

When war broke out in 1941, Vitaly Rubin, then a student at Moscow State University, volunteered for the army. He later wrote that, “As a Jew I felt my place was at the front”. In October 1941, while Soviet armies were retreating from the German onslaught, Rubin’s division was encircled and he was among the many taken captive. After three days, however, he escaped, rejoined the army, and fought in the bitterly contested battle of Kaluga.

In Stalin’s Russia, escape from a POW camp was viewed not as a mark of heroism and loyalty, but as grounds for suspicion. With the war still raging and the entire population mobilized for national survival, special labor camps were established for former prisoners of war.

Rubin contracted spinal tuberculosis after labor prison work for eighteen months. He was then informed that he had been politifcally rehabilitated and sent home on a stretcher. He resumed his studies aged 25, his interests included

Chinese archaeology, social institutions, and the political philosophy of pre-Han China. His work increasingly focused upon the theme of the relationship between the individual in society and the demands of the state.

Individual and State in Ancient China was an unusual publication, given censorship and the fact that Rubin had apparently neglected some or many of the confines of censorship when writing the Essays. His explanation later was that his topics were probably that exotic and marginal within Soviet science that his writings probably didn’t have to meet the same standards as more popular or mainstream issues – probably, there were no subsumable standards, and the number of readers who might take an interest in the essays was considered to be small and rather irrelevant. From conversations with persons who had no relationship whatsoever with sinology – doctors, engineers, scholars, and so forth – I know the degree of interest with which my book was read (Rubin).

The publishing house later got a dressing-down from the Central Committee of the CPSU, for “relaxation of ideological vigilance”, according to Mr Rubin’s own preface to the English edition of his essays. But his own troubles began with his visa application.

As de Bary (see first para) observed, it was Rubin’s own life and the constraints on his work inside the Soviet Union which made his essays special. When he wrote the essay about Confucius, there hadn’t been a translation of it into Russian ever since the Soviet Union had been established – Confucius was (rather unfavorably) interpreted by Russian sinologists, but the sage wouldn’t get a chance to speak for himself in Russian. Taoism was much more liked by the party orthodoxy then, because the Taoist philosophers were viewed in the USSR as materialists and dialecticians – in contrast to Confucian classics, all the classical works of ancient Taoism were available in Russian translation in the 1970s, according to Rubin’s English edition preface.

Rubin had to wait for his exit visa from 1972 to 1976 – and without international support, especially from individuals in the field of Asian studies, the visa might have been unattainable altogether. In the meantime, Rubin was subject to the kinds of harassment every totalitarian system seems to have in store for its “traitors”: a house search in 1973 by the KGB, confiscation of manuscript and archival materials, cutting off his phone line in 1974 during a two-week hungerstrike (it was never connected afterwards), or two weeks in jail without any charges during a visit to Moscow by US president Nixon also in 1974. Rubin suffered a heart attack in August 1974.

In a message to foreign supporters in the spring of 1975, Rubin wrote,

Each morning I wake up with the thought – three years have passed since I have been locked up here. It is impossible to wait. I have to do something, but I turn over in my mind every possible course of action and for the thousandth time, I come to the conclusion that every way ends up against a wall.

I cannnot help myself; there is nothing for me but to help others, as far as possible, to escape from this kingdom of violence and lies, to tell the truth and work in my own field.

Rubin’s exit visa came in 1976, just as the English translation of his Four Essays was about to go to press, according to the publisher. Rubin about his book:

In creating the book I perceived my task as seeking to understand the subject matter, as well as the central idea, of each of the philosophers. This thought, which probably seems banal to the Western reader, will become clear only somewhat later, once the appraisals of the ancient Chinese thinkers in the Soviet literature are set forth **) – appraisals to which I implicitly objected.

The second premise of my research was the conviction that thoughts do not die. In other words, I proceeded from the assumption that living in the second half of the twentieth century in the USSR, I could derive for myself something of essential value in Chinese writing of five centuries B.C. I felt, moreover, that these ideas could be most relevant for me because, despite the differing circumstances in which we live, what unites us is more important. We face the same questions about the meaning and goals of human action, of good and evil, of the relationship to authority, and of the value of culture. Such an approach seems to me imcomparably more fruitful and productive than attempting to deprive philosophical ideas of their transcendent meaning by emphasizing the dependence of a philosopher on the socio-political conditions of his time in a kind of historical reductionalism. [.....]

Confident that it is possible for humans to make contact across the broad expanses of world culture, I believe it is also possible to solve questions of interpretation in the field of intellectual history by addressing one’s own interior experience. An awareness of my own place in history helps me orient myself in many theoretical controversies, and the study of ancient Chinese culture convinces me that man at that time confronted the same problems as he does now. If this is so, I have the right to resort to an experiment in thought through an analysis of my own path.

_______________________________________

*) All quotes and all information (if not otherwise stated) from the forewords and prefaces of Individual and State in Ancient China, Essays on Four Chinese Philosophers, by Vitaly A. Rubin, translated by Steven I Levine, Columbia University Press, New York, 1976. The book may no longer be for sale at regulary book shops, but should be available through online sources like amazon.co.uk or antiqbook.com. You may also find it in larger public libraries (that’s where I found it).

**) Rubin’s preface gives a short account of the appraisals of the ancient Chinese thinkers in the Soviet literature – this blog post may give you a small idea of it already, but it’s only meant to be a reading recommendation. I read Rubin’s essays as a student more than ten years ago, and will probably read them again over xmas…

_______________________________________

Rubin was born in 1923 and apparently died in a car accident near Beersheba in October 1981. In his late years, he was apparently a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Scientific Interview with Hermit the Taoist Dragonfly

Hermit the (angry) Taoist Dragonfly

Hermit the (angry) Taoist Dragonfly

JR: Hermit the Taoist Dragonfly is the authoritative expert on issues like Buddhism, Falun Gong, India, imperialism, the righteousness of the Chinese Communist Party, science, Taiwan, Taoism, Tibet, and the calamitous way Western media steer otherwise happy, nice and peaceful people into terrorist madness. Thank you very much for bestowing this opportunity for an interview on us, and let thy gifts to us be blessed.

Hermit: Ahem. Thanks for listening to a voice of reason.

JR: Thank You. It is a great honor to get the chance to listen to you. I think it is very important to steer against the pathological bias in the Western media. That’s our mission, and we are very glad about your patronage.

Hermit (eagerly): Yes, indeed. The evilness and wickedness and envious and destructive motivation of the Western media can’t be pointed out often enough. But I’m confident that some day, all blogs will be as wise as yours and those very few misguided people will know better and repent their callous, creepy and feudal ways from the dustbin of yesterday.

JR: Are you confident that His Holiness the Dalai Lama will repent, too?

Hermit (frowns): His Holiness?!

JR: Oh, umm, sorry. It slipped me. I still have to learn. I’m a neophyte of truth, and I still have a long way to go before I can approach the Altar of Reason and Truth. Umm, anyway, do you think that that ******* jackal in Dharamsala will repent, too?

Hermit: Don’t worry. You learn very fast. You are a very promising and flexible neophyte of reason and truth. I’d almost say that you are a friend of the Chinese people.

JR: Bu gan dang, bu gan dang!

Hermit: No, really! Anyway, who cares what the ******* jackal in Dharamsala will do? It will be dead soon.

JR: But do you think that this will end the conflict around Tibet?

Hermit (frowns): Which conflict?

JR: Oh, umm, I mean, that fuss that a small minority of Tibetans and their foreign lackays around the world are making about Tibet which is in fact a fortunate place that luckily happened to become part of the Chinese territory

Hermit (screams): You are an idiot! Tibet was, is, and always will be Chinese territory!!!

JR (tearful): Oh, please, Sir! Give this humble piece of dirt one last chance to listen to your wisdom!

Hermit: OK. One last chance. Be careful.

JR: I will.

Hermit: OK.

JR: Umm…

Hermit: Shoot!

JR: I’m feeling so humble and awkward in my stupidity…

Hermit: It’s OK. I’m confident you will learn very fast.

JR: Thank you, master.

Hermit: No need to call me master. That is an old, feudal and unreasonable habit. We are all equal under the benevolent collective leadership of the CCP.

JR: Yes. Umm… anyway, why is the wise leadership so angry about the French president’s meeting with the ******* jackal of Dharamsala? I mean, that feudal guy is completely meaningless, isn’t he, umm, it?

(Hermit leaps to his feet and starts dancing and sings Because We Want To.)

Hermit (somewhat out of breath): Is Because We Want To good enough for you?

JR: Oh, umm, yes, of course. It’s very reasonable.

Hermit: You don’t look convinced.

JR: Oh, err, umm…. sorry… hang on (tries hard to give his currently consternated face a convinced and faithful expression).

Hermit: Good.  Now, I can see that you are trying hard to become a better learner of reason and truth and to do away with your old feudal ways. As a reward, I’ll give you some more information.

JR: Oh, thank you!

Hermit: You’re welcome. You know, faith and trust is very important before people can share the truth. The truth is very obvious, but it is also a big secret.

(JR hangs on Hermit’s lips.)

Hermit: The problem with such meetings between the ******* jackal and Western heads of state or government who should be respectable but make themselves unrespectable by the choice of people they surround themselves with is that they instigate the media

JR: Oh, my… umm… Oh shit!

Hermit: Indeed. As we all know, the media – especially the Western media, but even our own media require constant vigilance and control – the Western media are very dangerous and in cooperation with the CIA and other forces hostile to the Chinese people (Chinese includes the Tibetans with a Han majority) they keep instilling terrorism into the brains of a small minority of Tibetans… (Hermit is getting more and more vocal) … they want to split and weaken China!

JR: That’s absolutely disgusting, and also, it brings a lot of misery into the lives of common, innocent Han and Tibetan Chinese who live so happily and harmoniously together, except for a very small, slavish minority!

Hermit (almost ecstatic): Yeah!

JR: But…

(Hermit frowns)

JR: You know… I’ve been thinking about this for a long time…

Hermit: … so what. Thinking for a long time can lead to terrible results. I think you’d better get active for the great course of global harmony…

JR: Yes, indeed. But Confucius says that one has to correct the names to put language into accordance with the truth of things

(Hermit listens with an expression of mild disgust)

JR: … and I’m wondering… is the fuss about an allegedly unfree Tibet the same as the fuss about the Israeli settlements in the West Bank?

Hermit (screams): WTF!!

JR: Umm… forgive me… I just mean, I’m sure I’m wrong, but if all the trouble with the few remaining bits of feudalism in Tibet is triggered by the media time and again, would the fuss about the Jewish settlements in the West Bank collapse if the media stopped reporting it?

Hermit: You are either retarded or stubborn! You have no idea! You’ll never learn! The settlements in the West Bank are created by the CIA! The Han settlers are people who just want to bring those stupid Tibetans the light! Umm… I mean… reason and truth! And commerce! And progress! That’s a very, very big difference! And you have made a very, very serious, serious mistake!

(JR throws himself to the floor with his face to the earth.)

Hermit: Nobody can demand other to do anything, he/she does not want to do; not even HI (His Idiot) Dailai can do that. It is the choice that individual has to make whether to prosper or to wither away.

JR (bashfully mumbles from the molehill he has dug himself into in the meantime): But if the individual makes that choice, how can it be that the media

Hermit: The policy of Western Europe towards minority Muslim and Africans is nothing to be proud of either. At least, the standard of living of Tibetans is improving and lifespan of ordinary Tibetans increases. They can have a choice to be part of economic boom in China or part of the failure of HI DL. There was a Canadian native who had a similar dream. The last time I met him, he was broke, drunk and lying on the street dying.
Look at the changes China has to make in the last 30 years to prosper. I have said enough on this subject. I am signing off. Bye with a lot of luck.

(Hermit kicks into the molehill and strides away.)

___________________________

Thanks to sing666 and doris333 on the Time Blog Commenters’ Thread for making a mountain out of this humble molehill.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Justrecently forecasts China’s Economic Growth for 2009

I’m using China Galaxy Securities’ forecasted growth rate of 8.6 per cent, quoted by China Radio International, as a benchmark.

I predict 8.5 per cent or less.

Thank you for your attention.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Economist predicts 2009

The Economist has collected predictions for the year ahead – articles and comments about expected developments around the world.

James Miles of the Economist writes about China after the Olympics. Kevin Rudd believes that medium-sized countries like Australia can lead by example on issues such as financial stability, climate change, and development.

We may also pick one of three scenarios on the American economy (or build our own scenario).

But I’m afraid I’ll have to use the spreadsheets for preparing my income statement first. That will be about 2008.

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