Archive for June, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Arunachal Pradesh and the “Disingenuous” ADB

A board meeting at the Asian Development Bank was scheduled on March 26 and 27. It was to discuss its 2009 – 2012 strategy on India, including India’s request for a US$2.9 billion loan approval for a project which included a $60 million flood management, water supply and sanitation project in Arunachal Pradesh. This may sound innocuous to the uninitiated reader, but only so long as he doesn’t understand that Arunachal Pradesh is Chinese South Tibet. China asked for a postponement of the meeting. It was assumed, but not confirmed, that Beijing didn’t want to endorse a project in a region it claimed as its own.

But yesterday, the Asian Development Bank made an unwise move in approving the loan. Wang Yuan, an editor with China’s Global Times, wrote an editorial based on an interview with Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies today. It describes the perception that the US and Japan are backing India’s hard-line stance and do little to further unity among the bank’s member states.

But what should unite the bank’s member states? For one, it could be the bank’s cause itself: to help its developing member countries reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of their people.

That’s what the Asian Development has done by approving India’s loan request. And that’s what China tried to obstruct. If it really considers Arunachal Pradesh its own territory, it should care for the well-being of the people living there, rather than looking at the project as a bargaining chip.

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Related: “They actually said Greater Tibet, May 10

Monday, June 22, 2009

Riots in Shizhou City, Hubei Province

Update: The correct spelling of the city should be Shishou.

Tu Yuangao (涂远高), aged 24, worked as a chef at Yonglong Hotel (永隆大酒店) in Shishou City (石首市), Hubei Province. He was found dead in front of the hotel at 20:36 on June 17. According to initial forensic examination, no fatal injuries were detected. However, police found a testament in his flat which expressed “world-weariness”, reports Xinmin Evening News.

Police therefore initially determined that Tu had killed himself, and ruled out homicide. Police was in touch with Tu’s relatives and urged an autopsy, which was refused by his relatives, writes Xinmin Evening News. A crowd of people who didn’t know the facts assembled on Dongyueshan Road (东岳山路) and Dongfang Road (东方大道), set up roadblocks, obstructed traffic, while onlookers were jeering. According to reports quoted by Xinmin Evening News, the number of people was between one- to tens of thousands, and thousands of armed police were sent to Shizhou City from several places in Hubei Province. From the morning into the night of June 20, several clashes were reported, leaving several police people injured and several fire brigade and police vehicles damaged. According to Xinmin Evening News, the situation is now back to normal, while investigations on Tu’s cause of death continue.

The first page of the report currently shows pictures and video footage.

Riots triggered by distrust in official findings or decisions have happened in hinterland provinces several times in recent years, such as in Longnan in November last year, and over the death of a teenage girl in Wengan County, Guizhou Province, in June last year.

The Earth Times carries a different take on the events in Shizhou City. According to Earth Time’s report, Tu’s father demanded an investigation, while police insisted that Tu had committed suicide.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Confucianism and Modernity (4)

This is the last instalment of my translation of Prof Wang Zhicheng‘s essay of May 20 – his reflections on the contemporary Confucian thoughts which he had introduced earlier.

The previous three legs are here:

(1)     (2)     (3)

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Assessment and Reflections

Prof Yu Yingshi knows his history. He sees the decline of Confucianism rather clearly, the reason of which is that traditionally, Confucianism couldn’t exist separately from institutions. Once the separation was there, Confucianism lost its pillar and became a roaming ghost. In the mid-1990s, Yu thought that he had found a way for Confucianism to play a role in today’s world. Confucianism becoming part of peoples’ daily lives, or latency within daily life, existing on daily life, pervasion of daily life were apparently views based on the understanding that in post-modernity, Western civilization was dominating.

Prof Tu Weiming is somewhat more optimistic than Prof Yu. He also sees modern-times Confucianism in decline. He seems to have a sense of mission, playing the role of one of contemporary New Confucianism’s third-period representatives. [see “Fourth Category” here.] He wants Confucianism to play a role as a local resource of wisdom in today’s cultural and religious diversity.  Being a scholar who advocates the coexistence and mutual benefit of the different cultures, he encourages Confucianism’s participation in the dialog of cultures and religions and having Confucianism play its proper role through dialog. However, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism and other dialog partners are all very substantial dialog partners, and although Confucianism is seen as a religion by many Westerners, it is a rather small “denomination”, compared with all the others. Also, in China itself, the argument about Confucianism being a religion or not never seems to end, and so far, no final conclusion has been found. If Confucianism can play a role as a religious tradition with similar strength as other religions deserves reflection and even doubt.

As a result of China’s economical and political development, some scholars or non-scholars have begun showing interest in Chinese peoples’ identity and the prospects of China’s development. Therefore, they don’t take the road of  contemporary New Confucianism [xiandai xin ruxue, 现代新儒学, see second category – ruxue rejected by Jiang Qing], but appear to emhasize Chinese Confucian religion, thus protecting or developing Confucianism. Prof Zhang Xianglong sets out from the perspective of cultural diversity and, in view of Western culture being so strong, believes that protecting Confucianism requires special protection zones to maintain the practise of the traditional Confucian way of life. Confucian schools represented by Jiang Qing are more vehement, strongly advocating an organizational Confucian structure. They even believe that Confucian religion has existed since prehistoric times and that it is the root of our civilization which must be promoted and bring about a new era’s outer king. Within today’s gradually developing democratic development, as for the “king”, in terms of connotation and actual significance, Jiang Qing stands for the teachings of one school. But to become reality, any of these ideas needs to be in tune with the context of our times and its development indicators. Traditional Marxist understanding of Confucianism sees Confucianism as an object of research, without much participatory experience. To the Marxists, Confucianism is an academic topic, not a matter to be practised and developed. And to the young Confucian scholars represented by Prof Peng Guoxiang may advance along the direction opened by Yu Yingshi, Tu Weiming, Liu Shuxian, et al. But Peng Guoxiang is also facing a set of problems. Even if Confucianism can be seen “as a religious tradition and as an intellectual tradition” which takes part in the dialog of  religions and civilizations, and if humanist international dialog can give Confucianism “its own significance in its own place” [see Peng Guoxiang, fourth category there], just acting as a specimen of some tradition won’t be sufficient.

We are entering a second Axial Age. As philosopher Karl Jaspers saw it, the eighth to the second century B.C. were the Axial Age, when philosophers and religious teachers whose influence would extend beyond the following two thousand years emerged in different regions of the earth. Having reached the first half of the 20th century, Jaspers became aware that humankind was possibly on the eve of a second axial age. During the second half of the 20th century, especially in the 1990s, more and more people felt  that humanity was entering a second axial age. We might call it the Second Axial Age.

I carried out a comprehensive analysis of the second axial age, summarizing its seven characteristic awarenesses: (1) global or holistic awareness, (2) ecological or earth awareness, (3) feminist or Yin [] consciousness, (4) dialog awareness or awareness of the other, (5) cross-cultural awareness, (6) non-realism (non-essentialism, non-foundamentalism)1), and (7) qinzheng2) or life awareness.

To some extent, Tu Weiming, Liu Shuxian, Peng Guoxiang et al are all aware of the Second Axial Age’s rise. Tu Weiming himself once said that he and Ewert Cousins, who advocated the thought of the second axial age, are good friends, and that he knows the thoughts advocated by Cousins well. Leonard Swidler, several times presented by Liu Shuxian as an advocate of the second axial age as well, sees the second axial age as an age of dialog. No matter how people understand Confucianism, and no matter what Confucianism was traditionally up to, Confucianism must now face the current great transformation of humanity, and even more so, following this great transformation, rise to its appropriate role. This requires that it innovates and undergoes fundamental change. The development of the times calls for realistic Confucian practise. The creation and practise of an age of diversity calls for a modern Confucianism, and for Confucian participation. As for the Confucian problems, we need a new perspective of understanding. To get past the nostalgia of Confucian religion, we need to advance an axial change in thought.

The Era of Confucianness

But up to now, people don’t see eye to eye on what the second axial age is. Some only mind certain or several aspects of it. Under these circumstances, we need a clearer understanding of Confucianism. So far, fundamentally speaking, Confucianism may find it easiest to enter and to accept the second axial age. It can in all likelihood make an extremely important contribution for humankind.

Although there is some awareness of the second axial age among Tu Weiming, Liu Shuxian et al, most of their attention is on Cousins‘ and Swidler‘s concepts of it. They haven’t been fully aware of the concepts of the second axial age  advocated by Don Cupitt and Karen Armstrong. Cousins and Swidler are aware that we are entering the second axial age and have worked to adapt Christianity (particularly Catholicism) to this age. But Cupitt and Armstrong, and Cupitt in particular, are much more radical. Cupitt not only emphasizes that we must adapt to the second axial age, but that there has to be a completely new beginning, that religious tradition must be re-created, towards a second axial age religion.

In a traditional sense, Confucianism, Confucian school and Confucian religion are facing difficulties, somewhat similarly to Christian religions. But speaking in a practical sense, the challenges and blows Confucianism has seen and suffered remain the strongest ones, being in the state of a wandering, roaming ghost. During history, Christian religion saw challenges during its history, too, but although Chistian religion faced more and more challenges in Britain and Northern Europe, as humanism and scientism were thoroughly victorious, Christian relgion still didn’t become a roaming ghost. Also, Christian religion is very differentiated and diverse in itself, sometimes these inside tensions were bigger than tensions between Christian religion and Buddhism. Inside Christian religion, we can see its voice and strength on its way to the second axial age. In fact, it conducted Christian religions’ deconstruction and reconstruction. For example, we can see the reflections on Christian religion of the advocate of cross-cultural dialog, Raimon Panikkar.

According to Panikkar, Christendom is a civilization which is now past, and can’t be restored. Christianity is a religion. When Christendom withdrew, the West entered the era of Christian religion, and maintained it until today. But Panikkar discovered that the Western Christian religious era is gradually entering the era of Christianness. As Cupitt says, in an era where consumerism is popular, religious sanctity became part of daily lives, and daily life itself became the place of sanctity.

Confucianism collapsed and became a roaming ghost. But Confucianism can’t remain a roaming ghost forever.  So how can Confucianism express itself and practise, participate in the creation of the axial age? Maybe we can’t expect a normative answer from Confucianism any more. Maybe the way for Confucianism to express itself is to consciously enter the era of Confucianness. Confucianness is a characteristic of Confucianism participating in the creation of the axial age – just as Confucius himself, back then! As an ethical practise, Confucianness embodies the immanence of Confucian civilization. It’s the Confucian school’s characteristic for the Confucian school. Confucianness doesn’t depend on any form of institutionalization.  Confucianness is open, it invites all universal elements to get involved, global ethics is its outside transformation. Confucianness is about dialog. In dialog with other civilizations, it wants to put questions to its tense self. Of course, Confucianness is also about politics, it carries some kinds of ethical theories. Confucian school is currently its kind of expression, and a kind of method in the creation of the new civilization of a second axial age.

Confucianness belongs to the principles displayed and created by second-axial-age Confucianism. To say it in a traditional way, going towards the second axial age, Confucianism becomes second-axial-age Confucianism and displays abundant Confucianness. The principles of Confucianness and the seven main characteristics of awareness link with each other and may create a completely new Confucianism.  Because of a variety of reasons, Confucianism declined in modern times, but this decline doesn’t  indicate its disappearance. Confucianness is immanent. After having gone through a transitional period, Confucianness can newly regain its vitality – because harmony is humankinds imperative of the highest order.

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1) I’ll need an expert’s input for these terms…

2) qinzheng (亲证) apparently means “bearing witness” to something.

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Related: A New Axial Age (about Karen Armstrong), EnlightenNext, Dec 2005 – Feb 2006

1)
Saturday, June 20, 2009

An Army of Porn Watchers

War on Porn

War on Porn

Hello Children,

civic participation is unfolding at unprecedented speed in our country, reports our revered news agency:

BEIJING, June 19 (Xinhua) — Beijing will recruit an army of tens of thousands of volunteers by the end of this year to help strip “lewd” content off the Internet, the Capital Civic Enhancement Committee Office (CCECO) said here Friday.

Hermit has no doubt that millions of patriotic compatriots will wish to volunteer for this unpleasant, but essential task.

___________

Related: Google China reportedly blocked or shut down, France 24, June 19

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Kofi Owusu and the German Keyboard

Maybe the Lonely Planet I read years ago just wanted to be polite – it said something like that you could easily cope in Germany with reasonable English skills of your own, because many or most Germans spoke English. But Herr Kofi Owusu would hardly agree. He attended the Voice of Germany‘s 2nd Global Media Forum in Bonn, and observed elections in three German states.

Observe Our Elections

Observe Our Elections

I’m not sure if he had a cup of tea with Zhang Danhong, too.

I’m more inclined to agree with Herr Owusu’s take on our degree of internationality, than with the Lonely Planet‘s old edition. Only few Germans speak English with ease. And more Germans than you might expect speak only very little English. Which is bad, because if they listened to the BBC only once, German media – state-owned and privately-owned alike – would lose most of their audience, and deservedly so, until they start improving.

Another fact is that this country is still not as digital as Japan. Herr Owusu was given a first-class reception in many ways, he writes, but his hotel offered no internet access. Unless the guests had their own laptop with them, that is. He had a hard time finding an internet cafe. OK. I might say that this has cultural reasons. German peoples’ idea of data protection, for example. Not too many people here can imagine that anyone would do business with any computer but his own anyway.

But while I feel tempted to apologize for the quality of our media, our election posters, or for the level of English language skills here, I’ll make no apologies for the alleged lack of digitalization. Germany basically invented the MP3 player player, as the Lonely Planet almost correctly observes (in fact, America invented it, too – the LP was too polite once again), and I only wish that all that tech had ended up in a trashcan, rather than competing with the rest of our media in dumbing the kids down. Instead, it was marketed. Which, in turn, may be one reason why people here don’t speak decent English. They never learned it thoroughly. They were too distracted.

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Travel Advice:
When using a German keyboard and searching for the character “@” [at], press “ALT GR” (to the right of the space bar), and “Q”.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Searchword of the Week

overstayer wants to go home but no money

Dear Overstayer:

good luck.

JR

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good Ganbu: Consistency is Most Important

Revolutionaries are always innocent

Revolutionaries are always innocent

Comrades,

Chairman Mao said:

On a blank sheet of paper free from any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written, the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted.

I think that Green Dam Youth Escort software is a commendable invention. I understand from CNN (which I watch to understand our enemies’ intentions and plans and counter them) that you, the younger generation of ganbus, are facing some challenges which we, the older generation of ganbus, wouldn’t have encountered.

These challenges are of course shameless. They want to open our gates to the enemy and let them pollute the lily-white souls conscience of the Chinese public with this kind of porn.

Now, I must say that you, the younger ganbus (as you are less experienced than us who were on the Long March and have seen the world), have committed some well-intentioned, but grave, errors. No, I’m not writing about legal issues. Legal matters are only for crooks and for the enemies of the people. The good Chinese people know what is good or bad from their hearts, with some occasional help from their ganbus. But you have allowed our law to mushroom during recent decades, and now you are getting caught in its exuberant twiners. Besides, too much use of law also corrupts the collective conscience of our nation. The enemies have made you believe that their kind of “law” makes your rule more consistent. But see what happens?

You are exacerbating your initial mistakes by compromising and showing signs of weakness! And you even fall for our enemies’ propaganda! You are too simple, sometimes naive. I must tell you that consistency is most important for leadership.

Just like me, you must expose yourselves to foreign porn to understand our enemies’ schemes. But you seem to be overexposed to it.

A good ganbu sees the world, but his revolutionary still remains lily-white. He analyses the poisoned apples, but unlike the common people, he doesn’t eat them. And if the innocent people are becoming tempted, he re-educates them, and makes a curtain fall in front of the ugly things from the laowai world. No discussions!

This won’t only keep the people’s collective conscience uncorrupted, and leave enough space for the Good Ganbus to adorn this conscience with most beautiful characters. It also makes sure that bad content from abroad doesn’t enrage the common peoples’ decent-but-simple minds and distracts them from their studies, making them write long, futile web pages rather than strengthening the motherland by gathering useful knowledge. Such provocations and distractions are also ploys used by our enemies.

This has been a long letter. Hope it’s been helpful.

Very concerned:

Hao Ganbu

*)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Frank Epilog on a Commemorative Season

I didn’t write a post to commemorate anything last week. I didn’t even feel any need to do so, as there were apparently more than enough other people out there who were more than eager to do the job for me. I only wish a few of them hadn’t been talking out of their arses. […..]

mylaowai.com, June 16

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