Archive for March, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lee Kwan Yew: Parents should speak Mandarin with their Children

Singaporean Chinese parents should speak Chinese with their children as often as possible, Lee Kwan Yew (Li Guangyou, 李光耀), Singapore’s senior minister suggested at the opening ceremony of the Speak Mandarin Campaign 2009 (SMC). Lee made his speech on March 17, thirty years after having launched the campaign. “If the government had left language habits to evolve undirected, Chinese Singaporeans would be speaking an adulterated Hokkien Teochew dialect”, he said. “To effectively promote Mandarin, we closed down all dialect programs on Radio and TV from 1979. (…) I understand the strong emotional ties to one’s mother tongue. However, the trend is clear. In two generations, Mandarin will become our mother tongue.” Lee pointed out that English was mastered by Singaporeans without difficulty, and that a combination of fluent English and Mandarin offered value-add to China as a trade partner. The Speak-Mandarin Movement should not be mistaken for a movement to switch from local dialects to Mandarin as a main language in Singaporean Chinese households, but as a movement for such households to speak more Mandarin, next to English, said Lee.
“China wants to collaborate with us because through English, we are able to connect with the West. At the same time, our Mandarin is fluent enough to communicate with PRC Chinese on different topics and subjects.”

Both Lee Kwan Yew and Lim Sau Hoong (林少芬), chairperson of the Promote-Mandarin Council, mentioned the 2008 Beijing Olympics in their opening speeches. Lee also expressed regret that he and his wife had put the emphasis on English when talking with their children, rather than on English plus some Mandarin.

According to education department data quoted at the event, English is the main language spoken in ethnic Chinese households in Singapore. The use of local dialects dropped from more than 60% in 1980 to less than 10% in 1988 – about ten years after Lee, then prime minister, had started the Speak-Mandarin campaign. Since 2001, use of local dialects is said to be less than 2%.

Mandarin (or putonghua, or guoyu) makes sense economically, but it hasn’t always been family-friendly. The grandparents’ generation didn’t – and still doesn’t – always speak Mandarin, which creates a language barrier to their communication with their grandchildren.

While China is seen as a both established and promising business partner, Malaysia might become Singapore’s motherland again – but probably not in the near future. Lee Kwan Yew brought the topic up in 2007, in an interview with Pacific Perspectives:

When [Malaysia] kicked us out [in 1965], the expectation was that we would fail and we will go back on their terms, not on the terms we agreed with them under the British. Our problems are not just between states, this is a problem between races and religions and civilizations. We are a standing indictment of all the things that they can be doing differently. They have got all the resources. If they would just educate the Chinese and Indians, use them and treat them as their citizens, they can equal us and even do better than us and we would be happy to rejoin them.

Lee gives orders when he thinks something should get done in Singapore. And he gives advice when he thinks that something should get done elsewhere. In 2005, he advised Germans to pace their economic and social reforms up further. A hesitant approach only made restructurings more painful, rather than more endurable:

It is painful because it is so slow. If your workers were rational they would say, yes, this is going to happen anyway, let’s do the necessary things in one go. Instead of one month at the spa, take one week at the spa, work harder and longer for the same pay, compete with the East Europeans, invest in new technology, put more money into your R&D, keep ahead of the Chinese and the Indians.


Related: Branding China – Language(s) of a Multi-Polar World, May 18, 2008

Related: Wikipedia article on SMC

Monday, March 23, 2009

South African Government Blocks Dalai Lama Visit

The Sunday Independent said the Chinese embassy in South Africa had confirmed its government had appealed to South Africa not to allow the Dalai Lama into the country.
(…..) The Dalai Lama was invited to participate in the conference by Archbishop Tutu, Mr De Klerk and former South African President Nelson Mandela. (Reuters)

Source: Daily Nation, Kenya, March 22

As a government we have not extended an invitation, and therefore the issue of a visa does not arise.
Ronnie Mamoepa, foreign affairs spokesman

We would not do anything to upset the relationship we have with China.
Unnamed South African official, quoted by Business Day

Source: BBC, March 23

Friday, March 20, 2009

Xinhua: NPC Tibetan Delegates, visit to U.S.

The following is a translation of a Renminwang article. Pictures: 新闻联播 (Xinwen Lianbo,, March 20. Corrections and suggestions concerning this translation are welcome.
— JR

A delegation of National People’s Congress delegates visited American cities like Washington D.C., New York etc. from March 15 to 19. In meetings, talks and press conferences, they explained Tibet’s economic and social development to Americans of all walks of life, to Overseas Chinese including Tibetan compatriots. Their explanations about freedom of religion, protection of traditional culture in Tibet etc. drew a lot of attention in the United States.

CCTV: vivid examples and detailed and accurate data

CCTV: vivid examples and detailed and accurate data

During their stay, the delegates had extensive contacts with politicians. On March 16, they held talks with a high-ranking State Department official [apparently deputy assistant secretary of state John Norris, although Luo Ruizhi (洛瑞智) as a Chinese transcription looks unusual], on March 17, they met the House of Representatives US-China working group co chairs Mark Kirk [R-IL] and Rick Larsen [D-WA], House Judiciary Committee Chairman, John Conyers jr (D-MI) and others. On March 19 they had talks with several state and city council members in New York. The delegation used vivid examples and detailed and accurate data to brief them on the development of human rights undertakings  in Tibet, on freedom of religion, and the development of Tibet after the 3-14 incident, expounded the Chinese government’s policy toward the Dalai, refuted the problems involved by the wrong words and actions of the Dalai Clique and some Western people.

The American politicians reiterated the position of the American government and acknowledged that Tibet is an inseparable part of China’s territory and that it absolutely does not support “Tibetan independence” and said they were very glad to have direct exchanges with NPC delegates from Tibet and to hear the Chinese Tibet’s NPC delegates’ voices. This was very importment for enhancing mutual trust. They hoped there would be opportunities to develop such exchanges further.

During their visit to the U.S., the delegates had talks and round-table meetings with responsibles of the Asia Society, researchers from the Congressional Research Department, and experts and scholars of the Brookings Institution, from think tanks as well as other people with influence in American society, and gave direct and open answers to their questions. The American side expressed that the face-to-face discussions [with the NPC delegates] increased their understanding of Tibet, mutual trust, and made them to look at the problem from different perspectives.

Including the Overseas Chinese, including the Tibetan compatriots living in the United States and those with [Chinese / Tibetan] ancestors they were very interested in Tibetan’s construction and development. On March 15 when the delegation had just arrived in America, they met with representatives of Tibetan compatriots living in Washington, conveyed fellow Tibetans greetings to them, and informed them about the latest changes in Tibet’s economic and social development. On March 18, the delegation once again had  long and large-scale discussions with Overseas Chinese and academic circles in New York. Wide circles of overseas Chinese expressed their warm welcome to the arrival of the delegation and said that this visit to America at this time was indispensable, because many people in Western society had many misconceptions about Tibet. The members of the delegation lived in Tibet, had grown up in Tibet and could use their own experience to explain Tibet’s history and current situation, which made them very authentic. Everyone was of the opinion that as members of the Chinese nation, the Tibetan compatriots had a long traditional culture, and also the right to modernize and to share in the achievements of civilization. They hoped that the Dalai would soon stop his separatist activities and do some things of real use for the Tibetan people in his lifetime.

During the stay in America, the delegation attached a lot of importance to communication with the media and had interviews with the media on many occasions and presented Tibet’s past and present in many ways. On March 17, the delegation held a press conference in Washington D.C., with nearly fifty journalists from more than twenty media organizations, such as Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, the Voice of America, “U.S. News And World Report” and “World News”, “Sing Tao Daily” [and some which I find hard to translate], answering all their questions in detail. After the press conference, the head of delegation, NPC delegate, deputy director of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s People’s Congress Standing Committee and living Buddha Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak gave an exclusive interview to USA Today and other media. In New York on March 19, the delegation also gave interviews to a lot of media.

On CCTV: Lanny Davis

On CCTV: Lanny Davis

The delegation’s trip to the U.S. was met with a lot of interest from American society. USA Today, the Voice of America and other important media for the first time reported prominently on the delegation’s activities. Former U.S. president Clinton’s media counsellor Lanny Davis said that the visit of a delegation with delegates who lived in Tibet and presented Tibet’s real situation was a very good form of communication and suggested to have similar activities in the future, in order to increase the understanding of Tibet’s situation among Americans from all walks of life.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Quote: Hollywood, Coca Cola, and Drugs,8599,1884187-2,00.html
I said it before and I am saying it again. Hollywood, Coca Cola, and drugs are bigger threat to Tibetan culture than any Chinese policy. Read the link and find out how Tibetan youth in India have become drug addicts and are being looked down upon by locals. It would be long before any anti-Tibetans riot breaks out in India.

sing666, commenter on Time China Blog, March 11

Umm, yes. Especially Coca-Cola.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good Ganbu: Coca-Cola hurts Competition and Kids

Earthquakes are Dangerous

Earthquakes are Dangerous


Earthquakes are dangerous, and nothing can be done about them. We will rule nature of course, but not quite yet. No matter how conscientously the construction companies, under the wise leadership of the good local ganbus, build the schools, they will collapse when an earthquake of such a magnitude as the Wenchuan Earthquake of last year strikes. Besides, compared to some other dangers, the dangers of earthquakes are small.

For example, Coca Cola is much more dangerous. They tried to take over motherland brands like Huiyuan and distort our markets. Fortunately, the motherland is now very strong and won’t allow foreign companies to push the Chinese people around when they go shopping.

I think you made sort of a reasonable decision and successfully defeated the imperialist plot, but your measure was only 50% good, and still 50% bad. Because you haven’t banned Coca-Cola from the shelves of our nation yet, and too many people still fall for this imperialist opium.

Little Xue Xiao for example, aka Cola Boy, has lost his right arm during the earthquake. That’s bad enough, but the really terrible thing is that this poor kid is addicted to Coca-Cola!

I, the good ganbu of the older generation implore you, the generation on duty now, to rid the shelves of that fizzy drug from America once and for all, and to replace it with good national brands. As you all know, our own stuff is much healthier.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Mental Overstayer (I)

His visa may be perfectly alright. He may have a green card. In the worst case he may have invested heavily, and with the wrong local partners. He has arrived from somewhere abroad, and lives in some foreign country now. He may even earn a good amount of money, more than he would in his home country. But he may still be in the wrong place.

To be clear, these are a lot of maybes. But this is a small, speculative study, mostly about what can go wrong abroad, not about what is going fine. Let’s head into it with Westerners in China.

Westerners in China

I know many Germans who came to China to learn the language, to teach there, or to work there, sometimes for a foreign-invested company, sometimes for a Chinese company. And there were a lot of happy backpackers travelling the country for up to six months, and China never ceased to amaze them.

The backpackers, and arguably the language learners, are the happiest bunch of people staying in China. They sip the cream from the coffee of globalization and return home again with tons of photos, diaries, happy memories, and sometimes with improved language skills. Westerners who stay in China for longer, to teach English for example, and to learn more about the country than a backpacker probably will, can be happy people, too. But they may also get frustrated more often, because teaching is about interacting with people who have something to gain or lose. The students, for example. Or Chinese teacher colleagues or superiors, when they see the Westerner as a strong and different competitor. Teaching is about work and results, and when you stay in a place for some time, you will inevitably have to deal with conflicts. And when you are no backpacker, you can’t just turn away and try something else, somewhere else.

Then there are Westerners who work for foreign-invested or for Chinese companies. They are frequently referred to as foreign experts. Their stories are often more complicated. That’s especially true if their employers only have tasks for them in China, but not at home, or in Rio de Janeiro. If the employee has no other choice because he has to make up his mind very quickly, he will go to China. If he is in high demand from other companies and might switch to another to escape the China job, his employer may offer him great career prospects at home after a successful stint of, say, two years in China. But anyway, if people don’t really like the idea of working in China, but do so just because their bosses at home want them to, chances are that their job will be more unhappy, and less successful than it could be otherwise. Sometimes, foreign experts are mental overstayers from day one. Of course, not every foreign expert is an unhappy expert.

And then there are the disillusioned China fans. When people who have only been there on a package tour are lecturing JR about how great the China is, JR imagines that they would probably be the greatest China haters if they stayed just a little bit longer. Some do stay longer, and become semi-professional China-bashers. Disappointed lovers spell real trouble. JR likes to refer to them as China borderliners, although this is of course pretty blanket. Obviously, China borderliners are likely to be borderliners in any place anyway, their home country included. Borderliners may love you today, and hate you tomorrow. China borderliners may love China today, and hate it tomorrow. We might say that they are mental overstayers from day two, three, or four after their arrival. But just for the record, not every disillusioned China fan is a borderliner.

When does a Westerner in China become a mental overstayer? That’s hard to tell. Lisa Carducci for example may never become one. One possible explanation could be the three-years-old playing hide-and-seek state of mind which can hit all people in certain situations, no matter how intelligent or stupid they generally are. If and when it hits depends on where someone’s soft spot is. JR thinks that Carducci switches into the three-years-old playing hide-and-seek mode when it comes to China as her country. Have you ever tried to play hide-and-seek with a three-year old? If not, let me tell you how it will most likely go: the kid runs into a corner of a room, turns his face to the wall and says “you can start searching now”.
When Carducci sees something unpleasant – something unpleasant which is specifically Chinese and no part of the global durned human comedy, she turns to a corner, closes her eyes and believes that the ugly turd on China’s image is no longer there. Of course, you won’t see her literally standing there in the corner. You will probably hear her and her likes utter a line like “well, this has cultural reasons”, or “this is because the Western imperialists were so mean to the Chinese“.

There are many Carduccis in China. The good thing is that they don’t do much harm.

The mental overstayer does harm. If he’s trying to play things nice and politically correct anyway, he’ll do himself a lot of harm. If he decides that a turd thrown at him by someone Chinese should be thrown back at the polluter himself, it sometimes makes sense. If he throws it at any Chinese national who comes in his way, it makes no sense. The indiscriminate mental overstayer will usually hit someone – or anyone. When you are in a place in China, chances are that there will be a lot of Chinese people, and your turd can hardly miss them. Generalizing the problem a bit, JR thinks that the mental overstayer, trying to play things nice or not, will end up doing everyone around him long enough at least some harm. No matter if he eats the shit nor throws it around, he will start stinking and catch unhygienic diseases. If he starts blaming his host country for that, he has finally become an inveterate mental overstayer.

To be continued.
Update (September 2, 2010): Continued »

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

About fenqings

… the fenqing and the troll can best be compared to the short guy in the corner of the bar, whom all the women are ignoring, and so he decides to be as obnoxious as possible in the hope that somebody – anybody – notices him.

Granite Studio

Sunday, March 15, 2009

News from the German Countryside,

i. e. from Verden (Aller). Will my good old friend Taide ever grow up?

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