Archive for September, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hu Jia: some Time, in an unguarded Moment…

Hu Jia (胡佳), 37, may be released from jail in June next year. Obviously, noone can tell for sure. Even top officials find at times that the judiciary in China frequently lacks “rightful procedures”. When Hu was an environmental activist, but not yet considered guilty by the CCP (and hence by every “legal” mainland Chinese publication) of “libeling the Chinese political and social systems” and “inciting subversion of state power”, a China Youth Daily Freezing Point supplementary journalist named Cai Ping met with him at the newspaper’s venue, and in July 2001, she wrote an article. She was “moved” by Hu Jia’s life, and apparently found much of it disturbing at the same time. The following excerpts of the Freezing Point article quoted here are translations by Black and White Cat.  Cai asked Hu:

“What will you do in the future? You work so hard, how is your health ever going to get better? [Hu had contracted hepatitis several years before he talked with Cai.] How will your girlfriend come back? [*) see “Note” underneath] Do you plan to get married? You can’t depend on your parents your whole life.”
Hu Jia can’t answer this. He sighs deeply and says: “I can’t turn back. I don’t dare think about the future. I know that if I want a family and a career, I need a basic monthly income. […]”

Hu is an exceptional individual in many ways – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be completely indifferent to the way others, including people outside his life, may view him. And even if he still is indifferent – as he apparently was when he was interviewed in 2001 -, he will probably be aware that the state organs who persecute him will use any of his personal problems to make his place in society appear questionable. When he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail in April 2008, Xinhua newsagency referred to him as an unemployed father aged 34 and [..] holder of a college degree. Xinhua’s characterization of Hu seems to correspond to some extent with Cai Ping’s perception, almost seven years earlier, even if less benevolently than hers. Xinhua’s reference to Hu’s place in society carefully recommended the question, “what’s wrong with that man?”, rather than to address any of the problems Hu had pointed out before he was abducted, placed under house arrest, and finally jailed.

A life in accordance with ones own conscience in a country ruled by a party with unlimited powers against the individual can come at any price such a party wants to exact. Life under such circumstances is frequently referred to as kafkaeque once conflicts occur, and it may be a fitting adjective here. In one of her best-known books – Between Past and Presence, Six Exercises in Political Thought (New York, 1961), Hannah Arendt quotes Franz Kafka‘s parable “He”:

He has two antagonists: the first presses him from behind, from the origin. The second blocks the road ahead. He gives battle to both. To be sure, the first supports him in his fight with the second, for he wants to push him forward, and in the same way the second supports him in his fight with the first, since he drives him back. But this is only theoretically so. For it is not only the two antagonists who are there, but he himself as well, and who really knows his intentions? His dream, though, is that some time in an unguarded moment – and this would require a night darker than any night has ever been yet – he will jump out of the fighting line and be promoted, on account of his experience in fighting, to the position of umpire over his antagonists in their fight with each other.

If Hu Jia would wish to be in an umpire’s position is impossible to know. In any case, Arendt’s way of reading Kafka’s  parable wasn’t that “he” would want to become a power that be which could then rule over his antagonists. Rather, “he” would be an umpire in that he could judge the force of the past (that one pushing him from behind) and the force blocking his road, and pushing from, ahead (and, one might assume, to make corresponding, sound decisions for himself, based on his ability to understand the nature of those forces).

But while Hu Jia’s intentions can’t be assessed  (given that he isn’t free to communicate them),  a parable (no matter what it originally intended to say) is free for all kinds of interpretation, and for everyone’s hunches. The Chinese state likes to see itself not in the role of an antagonist to its own people, but in a benevolent and helpful role. Everything that goes wrong must originate from the individual’s faults, not from the state. This applies to its conformist and non-conformist subjects alike. Dissidents – or people who are on their way to become dissidents – are habitually “invited for tea” – to be asked  questions, because the state organs want to know  the dissident’s or nonconformist’s  positions and intentions in advance, to give him or her specific instructions, or to make unveiled threats (but without ever conceding that these threats come from those who are offering the tea – and rather acting as if any trouble ahead stemmed from some kind of natural law, due to the individual’s “mistakes”). The CCP’s first approach to blocking a possible dissident’s road ahead has become “a cup of tea”. Or, as Ronald Reagan, an American president, suggested in 1982, in a speech to the British House of Commons (referring to the Soviet Union then), democracy’s enemies have refined their instruments of repression.

Given the unlimited role of a totalitarian state (even if it voluntarily takes a more refined approach than before when it appears suitable), such a state – in Kafka’s picture – would be a defining factor in both the force pushing the individual from behind (the past), and in the force pushing the individual back from the road ahead (the future). According to Hu’s wife, Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕) – and confirmed by Cai Ping’s 2001 article -, Hu Jia’s father, of Qinghua University, and his mother, of Nankai University, were both condemned as rightists as students. Hu’s parents may not have condoned the life their only child lead in 2001 – “The people who understand me most are my old girlfriend and my best friend Lin Yi” -, but they wouldn’t let him down. His friends and family, more or less understanding of what he does or who he is, and having been under the party’s rule for most or all of their lifetimes, appear to be forces behind him.

Besides, parents are parents. Cai Ping quoted Hu’s father as saying that “if Hu Jia needs a liver, I’ll give him my own”.


*) Apparently, she wouldn’t come back. Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, his wife, became acquainted in 2007.

Kou Yandin: yi qie cong gai bian zi ji kai shi, Hainan Publishing House, 2007


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Wikipedia: Senkaku Islands, an Article and a Letter


Why Japan claims the Senkaku Islands, Asahi Shimbun, Sept 23, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Senkaku Islands and Business: a Nefarious Turn

PRC foreign ministry statement

On September 7, 2010, the Japanese side illegally arrested 15 Chinese fishermen and their trawler, and held the captain in custody until September 24. Against this serious violation of Chinese territorial sovereignty and the human rights of Chinese citizens, the Chinese government expressed strong protest.

The Diaoyu Islands and islets have been Chinese territory since ancient times, and China has indisputable sovereignty over them. The Japanese side holding the fishermen and their vessel and any forms of legal action against them were all illegal and invalid. The Japanese side must apologize to and compensate the Chinese side for this incident.

China and Japan are close neighbors, and to adhere to developing a strategic and mutually beneficial relations correspond to the fundamental interests of the people of both countries. The two sides should solve the Sino-Japanese problems through dialog and consultation and protect the general situation of the two countries’ relations. This Chinese position hasn’t changed and will not change.

September 25, 2010

“Out but not Over”

China’s response seemed to take an especially nefarious turn when it apparently suspended its export of rare-earth minerals, which are vital to making electronics components used in everything from handheld gadgets to cars. On September 23rd China emphatically denied that it is blocking exports. And this may be true: there probably isn’t a formal directive. But in a country where informal rules abound, exporters know that it can pay to withhold shipments—in solidarity with a government that is angry at its neighbour.

The Economist, Sept 24, 2010


Will Kan apologize,, Sept 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Phrasebook: as Different as Jing and Wei

Phonetic transcription: jīng wèi fēn míng

An encyclopedic explanation:

泾渭分明是一个成语,源自一大自然景观。渭河是黄河的最大支流,泾河又是渭河的最大支流,泾河和渭河在古城西安北郊交汇时,由于含沙量不同,呈现出一清一 浊,清水浊水同流一河互不相融的奇特景观,形成了一道非常明显的界限,成为关中八景之一而闻名天下。后人就用泾河之水流入渭河时清浊不混来比喻界限清楚或 是非分明,也用来比喻人品的清浊,比喻对待同一事物表现出来的两种截然不同的态度。

As clearly different as Jing and Wei is a proverb, based on a natural landscape. The Wei river is the Yellow River’s biggest tributary. The Jing river in turn is the Wei river’s biggest tributary. The place where the Jing and Wei river converge, at the northern suburbs of the ancient city of Xi’an, they are taking on both clear and muddy patches, because of the different quantities of sands they carry, the scene of their waters that don’t blend together, instead featuring obvious boundaries between each other, makes their junction one of the Eight Scenic Spots of the Guanzhong Plain, and known all over the world. Later generations applied the anology of the two rivers’ unmixing waters to (the ideas) of clear boundaries or on unclear distinctions, but also to the moral qualities of people, or to two sharply different behaviors in treatment of identical things.

Baidu Baike

An example of how As different as Jing and Wei is used as a referral to different moral qualities of people can be found in the following translation exercise. The translation is a fable, about the fisherman and the demon (or about Understanding the Devil / Giving the Devil his Due):

一位渔夫从大海里捞上来一只密封的瓶子, 他打开了瓶口,瓶子中冒出了魔鬼。魔鬼不但不思报恩,却扬言杀死渔夫……当然,聪明的渔夫并没有死,他机智地使魔鬼重新回到了瓶中,又将瓶子投回了大海。

A fisherman pulled a sealed bottle from the sea and when he opened it, a demon came out of it. The demon not only refused to repay the fisherman’s kindness, but instead threatened to kill him. Of course, the intelligent fisherman didn’t die, but ingeniously made the demon get back into the bottle, then throwing it back into the sea.
Same as most other fables, this one teaches  to abandon evil for the principle of goodness. The good fisherman with his cleverness, and the brutal demon in his stupidity are as clearly distinct in this story at one glance, as are Jing and Wei.

College English Translation Course, Heilongjiang People’s Publishing House, July 2006

Previous Phrasebook Entry: zhū bā jiè dào dǎ yī pá, June 17, 2010

Can you Speak Zhongwen, 活龍翻译博客, comments, September 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Japan to release Zhan Qixiong

Japan is to release Zhan Qixiong, a Chinese fishing boat captain from Shandong Province who had been under arrest for two weeks, accused of deliberately ramming two Japanese patrol vessels near the Senkaku Islands, reports the BBC.

Roland Buerk, the BBC´s correspondent in Tokyo, writes that

Japan’s government is looking in to reports that China stopped shipments to Japan of rare earths – elements in which it has a near monopoly vital for the manufacture of hi-tech goods like electric cars.

Meantime, four Japanese men are reportedly being held in China, on suspicion of illegally filming in a military area.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What is China Thinking?

I think U.S. officials, pundits, and academics sometimes give China too much credit for far-sighted policymaking; Tom Friedman has written so many columns praising China’s energy strategy he should go work for Xinhua.

Joshua Kurlantzick, Council on Foreign Relations blog: “What is China thinking?”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Wen on Political Reform: no Hidden Ambitions

Both in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, and in a meeting with American Chinese-language media, Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao (温家宝) said this week that his government was seeking political restructuring. In his UN statement (“Getting to Know the Real China”) of Thursday, Wen told the General Assembly that his government would continue to deepen institutional reform:

We will endeavor to narrow the gap between urban and rural areas, between different regions and between the rich and the poor. We want to make sure that each and every citizen shares the benefit of China’s reform, opening up and development. While deepening economic restructuring, we will also push forward political restructuring. Otherwise, we cannot achieve the ultimate goal of economic reform and we will lose what we have gained from our modernization drive. We respect and protect human rights, uphold social equity and justice, and strive to achieve the free and all-round development for our people. This is the important hallmark of a democratic country under the rule of law. It is also a basic guarantee for a country’s lasting peace and stability.

Also, China would

continue to carry forward its fine culture. The development of a country and rejuvenation of a nation require not only great economic strength, but more importantly great cultural strength. The moral values and wisdom drawn from the 5,000-year Chinese civilization belong not only to China but also to the world. We will vigorously develop cultural programs and accelerate the development of a moral and ethical code that is commensurate with our socialist modernization drive and consistent with the traditional virtues of our nation. We respect the diversity of civilizations and will increase dialogue and exchanges with other civilizations to forge a common cultural bond for humanity. The Chinese nation, who has created an economic miracle, will create a new cultural splendor as well.

Wen repeated his theme about political reform in support of modernization in a meeting with people in charge of American Chinese-language media and Hong Kong and Macau media (美国华文媒体和港澳媒体负责人), as quoted by Changjiang Ribao (长江日报):

If economic reform doesn’t get the protection that comes from reforming the political system, it won’t be fully successful, and even the achievements made so far could still be lost again. In the reforms of our political system, what needs to be addressed most importantly? I believe the most important thing is to guarantee the the liberties and rights of the people given to them by the constitution and the law. That is to say, to mobilize the masses of the peoples’ initiative and creative spirits, in a relaxed [宽松 (kuān sōng), sometimes also translated as “liberal” – JR] political environment, enabling people to develop an independent spirit and creative thought, to let the people obtain freedom and comprehensive development – the main connotation of democracy and freedom.

Of course, when China wants to establish a country democratic ruled by law [or a country with law and order – 中国要建立一个民主和法治的国家 (fǎ zhì)], the so-called rule by law means that after a political party took power, it should act in accordance with the constitution and the law, the party’s will and positions must be turned into constitutional and lawful provisions by rightful procedures, and the ways of organizing must be enacted in compliance with the constitution and the law – only that can be called a country governed in accordance with the law (依法治国, yī fǎ zhì guó). This may take some time, but it is what modern civilization and modern politics demand, and it is what we must strive for.

When Wen previously called for political reform and loosening an excessive control by the CCP in Shenzhen on August 21, the Guardian suggested that

Wen’s comments – taken at face value – would appear to mark a change in the formula that has governed China since Deng inaugurated his economic reform.

Not so fast, argues D. S. Rajan, director of the Centre for China Studies in Madras (Chennai), India. Both party and state chairman Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao himself were steadfastly subscribed to Multiparty Cooperation and Consultation under the leadership of the CCP. Rajan’s paper also provides a summary of both critics of political liberalization in China, and its advocates.

What is rarely pointed out is that both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao have almost reached the ends of their political careers. Both of them will probably step down in 2012/2013, as party chairman and leader of the government respectively, after two five-year terms in office.

Pensioners are often wiser than the active workforce, or, as John K. Fairbank, an American sinologist, found in “The Great Chinese Revolution”, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

For sure, as Wen told the United Nations yesterday, China will continue to carry forward its fine culture.


Oppose the Scarlet Letters, Sept 5, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wen Jiabao / Jiang Yu: This Sophistry will not Stand

Chongzhuanged: Wen Jiabao

Chongzhuanged in New York: Wen Jiabao

冲撞 (pinyin: chōng zhuàng) has at least two meanings: to bump into someone or something else (a more neutral translation would be to collide with someone or something), and to offend someone.

To be chongzhuanged is the best thing that can happen to you if you are a fenqing, or a fenlao, i. e. in constant need for angry and rightful agitation in your otherwise boring or hopeless personal life.

By bumping into an innocent Chinese fishing boat, a Japanese patrol boat triggered the anger of the entire Chinese people, Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao (温家宝) told an audience of Overseas Chinese, Chinese insititutions, and overseas students’ representatives in New York on Tuesday evening (local time). The ongoing arrest of the fishing boat’s captain (Zhan Qixiong) was absolutely illegal and unreasonable, and had caused his relatives serious harm, said Wen, apparently referring to reports that the arrest of the fishing boat captain had led to the death of his grandmother. Besides, it had triggered the anger of Chinese at home and abroad. The Japanese side had turned a deaf ear to Chinese tries to negotiate, and the Chinese government had no other choice than to adopt the necessary countermeasures. If Japan didn’t release the captain unconditionally, China would begin to take action, and Japan would have to bear all the serious consequences (如果日方一意孤行,中方将进一步采取行动,由此产生的一切严重后果,日方要承担全部责任).

On Wednesday (local time in China), foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu accused Japan’s government of “indulging in untenable sophistry” (日方的狡辩是站不住脚的). Only if the Japanese side immediately corrected their mistake (纠正错误) and unconditionally released the arrested captain, further damage to relations between China and Japan could be avoided. The Japanese actions also violated the fourth political document (中日第四个政治文件) between the two countries which stipulated that problems should be solved by dialog.

Japan and China had agreed to issuing a fourth political document in May 2008, during a visit by Chinese party and state chairman Hu Jintao to Japan. Previous political documents had been the China-Japan Joint Communiqué of 1972, the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1978 and the China-Japan Joint Declaration of 1998, according to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi.


“My Granny died at the hands of an imperialist Japanese kitchen machine”, July 27, 2009
Scientific: The Hainan EP-3 Incident, Aug 8, 2010

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