Archive for October, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The BoZhu Interviews: a Translator and his Blog –

the internet’s blessings, the uphill battle battle of practicing foreign languages, and an old novel’s lasting relevance

Huolong started blogging eleven years ago. During the earlier stage, in Harbin, he mostly wrote about everyday life, his reading experiences, his work, hopes and fears, about childhood, classmates, and friendship. He originally started blogging in Chinese, but his blog soon became a blend of Chinese and English-language posts. Somewhere in the process, translation became another topic, and has by now segregated into his main topic. He lives and works in Beijing.

Huolong’s complete blog can be found here, and it also contains a category with English posts only.

The interview:

Q: You have been blogging for more than a decade, and for much of the time, you have been a bi-lingual blogger. Why do you blog? Was there a key moment where you felt that you should share your experiences and your feelings, which got your blog (or blogs) started?

A: Firstly, I want to express myself. A blog, or rather the broader Internet with all its applications built and flourishing on it, is a blessing for people like me. Secondly, I want to help. I’m a professional translator with Chinese as native tongue and English as a foreign/second one. I’ve been in this trade for more than a decade and have learned a great deal I want to share to do some good. Last but not least, I want to build some online brand for myself. My website helped me land my first and second jobs in Beijing and even played a great role in making my wife (just a classmate back then) believe I remained a not-so-bad person in 2004 after the long 14 years during which we’d lost each other.

Q: What’s the worst online article or post you have ever read about China (that you remember)?

A: The article or post I can’t remember. But I still remember a China blog that never fails to repulse me: Mylaowai.com. In its newest post, he called the Chinese police officers “monkeys” and implied that their brick-breaking palms are useless for performance of their duties. This only further enhances my belief that Mylaowai has an unbalanced mind. For example, he couldn’t seem to understand that physical sturdiness is a small but key part of their overall capabilities. Only Mylaowai seems to assume that the Chinese officers don’t think high-tech is crucial to modern police actions.

Q: A number of your readers have subscribed to your translation training serial. How many persons are taking part? Do you know some of them personally? Do you feel that they are making headway, and do you get feedback which you put back into your courses?

A: Currently, there are about 300 subscribers to my newsletters, with some of them being my office colleagues. Most of them are only casual subscribers. I’ve seen no meaningful results since I started the newsletter more than a year ago.

[Update, Oct 28, follow-up question 1]:

Q: Are you mulling ways to guide subscribers to more efficient problem-solving?

A: Yes. I’ve tried in vain and found that it’s extremely difficult to change how they think about translation learning or that they are not dedicated enough.

[End of update follow-up question 1]

Q: How did you learn English? Which approach was most helpful? School? Work? Reading? “Real Life”?

A: Generally, I taught myself to use the language. I owe my English to a now controversial man named Li Yang, an English-language teacher-businessman whose teaching and motivation approach is characterized by crazy shouting by large English-learning crowds. I haven’t met him personally. But I bought some of his books in 1996. And in his books, he showed how people could learn good English in a non-English-speaking environment. According to his teachings, if I speak English well, I can then understand it well both spoken and written and write it well. Another secret he revealed is that reading is the shortest-cut to wisdom and knowledge accumulated over the years. I then went almost crazy practicing speaking English and became a devouring reader. As every language professional understands it, learning and studying a language involves everything associated with it and is a never-ending uphill battle. His methods make the process easier for me. My problem is the same as that of most other English learners in China: I have listened and spoken too little. This is where I must and will improve.

[Update, Oct 28, follow-up question 2]:

Q: Baike Baidu describes Li Yang’s approach as one that would tear down psychological barriers, when it comes to speaking (or shouting) – the fear of making mistakes and losing face (false shame). Does this explain his concept correctly?

A: His concept is more than tearing down the barriers, which I think is the only the first step. It also includes practical methods about how learners can learn English better, e.g. tongue muscle training and special English-pronunciation techniques for Chinese speakers. His concept also includes a key component: Learners should learn the language sentence by sentence, article by article, and book by book. This is a very effective antidote to the bad habits of most English learners in China, who tend to learn and study English vocabulary, grammar, listening, speaking, reading and writing as completely separate components. They dream that the components will fall into place automatically and then their English will be good one day. That day will never come.

[End of update follow-up question 2]

Q: Do you expect a broader readership to pay attention to your articles – about translation, or about your personal life -, or is yours rather a niche blog for a small circle of specialists? Would you mind if a broader readership got strongly involved in your commenting threads? Would you mind controversy?

A: I’ve only recently – that’s about one year ago – shifted my blogging focus to translation and languages. So now I only expect a much less-varied audience. It’s always good to have a bigger and more participatory readership for any types of blogs. I don’t mind controversy as long as I consider it constructive.

Q: Do you have a policy on trolls? Can you think of a reason to ban a commenter from your threads?

A: No. I don’t need any currently maybe because my posts don’t attract those people. I don’t like off-topic, abusive, or meaningless comments, to name a few.

Q: How closely do you follow Chinese and non-Chinese blogs respectively? Do you (as a reader) or they (as bloggers) focus on certain, recurring kinds of news or topics?

A: I like blogs with meaty contents. I’m a subscriber to quite a few Chinese and English blogs and read them every day. Most of them are in English. Their topics include translation, language, Internet, history and quotations.

Q: Being a bilingual blogger, you seem to follow both Chinese- and English-language blogs, and blog posts written by Chinese and foreign bloggers alike. Do you see anything their blogs would have in common? And what makes them different from each other?

A: The blogs I read are too diverse in topics and styles to have any commonalities. If there is one, I think it’s the dedication with which the bloggers write great contents.

Q: Have you seen big changes in your own blog or blogs, and in the Chinese, or foreign “China blogosphere” respectively since you started blogging yourself? Have you seen changes in the mainstream media?

A: For my blogs, I have changed to focus on language and translation topics. Sorry, I haven’t read enough China blogs or pay enough attention to changes, if any, to the mainstream media to offer useful inputs.

Q: Which is your favorite blog? (Please don’t name mine.) What’s the most informative online source about China?

A: My favorite is EB Blog because it’s written by experts and very informative and intelligent. I only casually read “China blogs”, and this is not enough for me to come up with any informed answer to the second question.

Q: Have you ever stopped reading blogs because you felt they were becoming boring, or because they angered you?

A: Yes. Mylaowai, for example.

Q: In your view, has China changed since you started blogging? Have your feelings changed? Has the world changed? How so?

A: Ten years have passed since I began my first website. A great many things have happened. China now is a polarized and layered society and people in it don’t always know or bother to know what’s happening in the rest of the society. That’s about the case for me, my peers, and those within my close and remote social networks. During the past decade, we worked hard under great pressure in competitive cities and thankfully our life got better year by year. And now we still see hope for even better life. This must be a unique feeling or observation from a global perspective because China is only one of the few countries that have generally succeeded in achieving its ambitious economic and social development goals that have lifted the country out of poverty during the past decade and positions the country for greater prosperity in the future. Politically, China is no better than ten years ago and might be worse. Government power still runs unchecked while the officials can have their own way in most cases. I’m not sure this is good for China’s future even though they have driven the economic growth for the past several decades.

[Update, Oct 28, follow-up question 3]:

Q: You mentioned the Britannica blog earlier in this interview. The blog looks somewhat like the equivalent to BBC Radio 4 (a station you once had on your blog roll, I believe). This is what a British commenter once wrote:

Really, you must understand that Radio 4 is the nearest thing the British middle class has to Pravda. It dispenses a particular kind of wisdom which distinguishes one from the vapid upper class and the benighted working class. Its effect on the minds of the British public is to create an image of middle-class respectability which no evidence to the contrary can dispel.

In the context of Chinese society having become a more layered society, can you think of something similar to BBC Radio Four – a Chinese website or a broadcaster – who would cater to a similar middle class in China?

A: It’s hard to define what the Chinese middle class is. If they are well educated, have professional or technical jobs, and earn enough money, I think they will like CCTV’s movie channels and Sina.com.cn.

[End of update follow-up question 3]

Q: Besides your main translation/personal blog, you have also run a blog devoted to the Dream of the Red Chamber (or Mansion), since 2007. It seems to be hibernating. Why is that?

A: This blog is mainly one for collecting posts by other bloggers or writers. Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place, but Google searches yield few articles about that novel that I think warrant reposting. That novel is encyclopedic in scope and depth: life and death, life experience, history, philosophy, literature, food, health, architecture, and so on. Writing good articles about it requires lots of “been there, done that” stuff, acute observation, expansive thinking and great dedication. I view the novel as a description of a declining society in which the enlightened few saw no way out but still had hope in their heart. Historically, the novel described the decaying Chinese life and society in the 17th and 18th centuries during which time Europeans started to produce great science, technology, art, and literature, explored overseas and experienced drastic changes that led to the Industrial Revolution. China missed them all. This, I think, makes the author one of the most-visionary Chinese people in history.

Q: Is there an unasked question to which you would like to reply anyway?

A: Yes. I would like to say something again about the future of my blogging. I want it to be a source of useful information, a place where my readers find seriously written contents related to language and translation. I have learned to focus and concentrate in blogging. And finally thank you very much for this interview.

Q: The pleasure is all mine.

This interview can also be read here. This interview was conducted by an exchange of e-mails, October 27 – 28.
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Related

» Dream of the Red Chamber, a translation by H. B. Joly, 1891
» All BoZhu Interviews
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wu Sike on his Way to Syria: Understanding and Support

Apparently one day after a press conference on Monday – as covered by China National Radio (CNR, the domestic radio service), foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu reappeared in a regular press conference, and commented on Syria, according to a China Radio International‘s (CRI) Chinese service report of today:

CRI report, correspondents Zhai Lei, Wang Ce: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu reiterated in Beijing on October 25 that China hoped that all Syrian parties would solve their differences by dialog and peaceful means, thus resolving the conflict.

国际在线报道(记者 翟磊、王策):中国外交部发言人姜瑜25日在北京重申,中方希望叙利亚各方通过对话以和平方式解决分歧,化解矛盾。

On that day’s [October 25] regular press conference, Jiang Yu, mentioning the situation in Syria, said China hoped that the relevant parties in Syria would be able to attach most importance to the state’s and the people’s interests, dismiss violence, and avoid clashes and bloodshed. She said the Syrian government should actively implement its promised reforms, respond to the people’s legitimate demands, and all Syrian parties should take part in a peaceful process with a constructive attitude.

在当天的外交部例行记者会上,姜瑜谈到叙利亚局势时说,中方希望叙利亚有关各方能以国家和人民的利益为重,摒弃暴力,避免流血冲突。 她表示,中方认为叙利亚政府应该积极落实改革承诺,回应人民的合理诉求,叙利亚有关各方都应该以建设性的态度来积极地参与和平进程。

Jiang Yu also pointed out that in order to ease the situation in Syria, the international community should promote solutions of the differences through dialog and play a constructive role in safeguarding peace and stability in the entire Middle East.

姜瑜还指出,国际社会应该为缓和叙利亚局势、推动通过对话解决分歧以及维护中东地区的整体和平与稳定发挥建设性作用。

Xinmin Net (Shanghai) republished the report sixteen minutes after CRI.

Another four hours later, German news magazine Focus (Munich) put an article online:

Syria is getting under growing pressure from its remaining ally, China. On Tuesday, the People’s Republic asked the autocratic government in Damascus to end the bloodshed and “to comply with the legitimate demands of the people”. Shortly ahead of a visit by a an envoy from the communist country [to Syria], a spokeswoman of the foreign ministry in Beijing said that China hoped for an end to the violence and a peaceful dialog. No details about the [envoy’s] visit were given.

Syrien gerät immer stärker unter Druck seines verbliebenen Verbündeten China. Am Dienstag forderte die Volksrepublik die autokratische Regierung in Damaskus erneut auf, das Blutvergießen zu beenden und den „gerechtfertigten Forderungen des Volkes nachzukommen“. Kurz vor dem Besuch eines Gesandten des kommunistischen Landes sagte eine Sprecherin des Außenministeriums in Peking, China hoffe auf ein Ende der Gewalt und einen friedlichen Dialog. Details zum geplanten Besuch wurden nicht genannt.

China was moving away from its previous position, writes Focus. Less than three weeks ago, China and Russia had blocked a UN resolution which condemned Syria’s brutal action against the protest movement and stipulated sanctions.

According to Reuters, a Chinese envoy, Wu Sike (吴思科), will visit Egypt and Syria, from Wednesday through Sunday.

Wu Sike is an old expert when it comes to violence, and avoiding it.

Islamic countries from government to the people, all understand and support the measures the Chinese government took to maintain stability,

he said in August 2009, on a news briefing after a tour of Qatar, Algeria, Syria, and Iran. Back then, he was referring to the “7-5 incident” in Xinjiang.

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Related

» China urges Syria to positively fulfil…, Xinhua, Oct 25, 2011

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ma Ying-jeou: a Peace Treaty, and a Referendum, definitely, maybe

On October 17, Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou suggested that there could be a peace treaty with China within a decade, provided that there was “a high level of support from Taiwan’s public”.1)

Two days later, oppositional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen told a press conference that

a peace agreement with China would not necessarily guarantee cross-strait peace and security. Using the 17-point peace agreement Tibet signed as an example, Tsai said that despite promises to ensure genuine autonomy, freedom of religion and Tibetan culture, the Chinese occupation of Tibet only brought repression on the Tibetans, their religion and culture, forcing the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959.

Ma then accused Tsai of downgrading Taiwan’s status as a sovereign country, by comparing it with the Sino-Tibetan agreement, which had been one between a central and a local government.

This looked like a game with partly2 reversed roles – the president upholding the banner of Taiwan’s sovereignty, and the opposition leader belittling it. In fact, Tsai had reminded the president of how China views Taiwan – which, after all, is exactly the way it  viewed Tibet, half a century ago.

But by Thursday, one day after Tsai’s press conference, the president himself apparently felt a dire need for a pit stop, and moved to reassure voters over his proposals for a peace treaty with China, saying it would only be signed if it was first approved in a referendum. Channel News Asia noted that observers have so far tended to believe a peace treaty is a rather remote prospect, because it will involve difficult questions, such as who should sign the agreement on either side.

And not only who, but who in which capacity, I’d like to add. If Ma trusted the polls, which seem to show him clearly ahead of Tsai Ing-wen, he may not have triggered this debate. Early this month, Wong Chong Xia (黃創夏), in an article for the KMT-leaning China Times (中國時報), had warned that the pan-blue camp better led by more than ten per cent in the polls to make sure that voter turnout wouldn’t bring about pan-green election victories after all.

On October 19, China’s Global Times quoted a UDN (blue-leaning) opinion poll as showing Ma’s support rating at 43 per cent, some nine per cent ahead of Tsai Ing-wen, his “US and British-educated” rival.

Formosa (美麗島電子報), an internet news website, criticized Ma for not planning before acting on something as big as a peace agreemeent3).

Since his preace talks deliberations eight days ago, Ma had

managed to make a joke of his own proposal and give the DPP not only tremendous election momentum, but huge momentum for referendum law reform,

notes A-Gu, who translated some of the Formosa article. And very much to Wong Chong Xia’s chagrin, Ma Ying-jeou, the should-be winner, still acts the opposition leader,  following Tsai “right at her bottom”.

But it looks as if even that can’t be done steadily.

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Notes

1) The Voice of America (VoA) added a somewhat sloppy review of cross-strait relations and their history to its report, apparently with some input from AP and AFP.
2) The reversal would only have been only partly anyway, because Ma explicitly kept to the KMT tradition of regarding Tibet from a “Chinese central government’s” perspective.
3) Formosa’s vice chairman is Wu Tsu-chia (吳子嘉), whose political leanings I don’t know, but who doesn’t seem to care which side will like or dislike a news story, so long as it may be considered a story anyway.

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Related

If Tsai doesn’t play the ‘Race Card’…, July 5, 2011

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Global Times: “The Sea Disputes that Some Countries have Created”

Foreign ministry press conference, Beijing, October 24,  with spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜), quoted by chinanews.com (中新网).

Q: [..] According to reports, South Korean police detained three Chinese fishing vessels on October 22, and are conducting investigations against some of the fishermen. Could you confirm?

问: 第一,据报道,韩国警方22日扣留了3艘中国渔船,并对部分中国渔民进行调查,请证实。

A: As for your first question, the general consulate in Gwangju is working hard on this matter and asked the Korean side to keep the law enforcement process civilized, avoiding force, and to practically guarantee the safety and legal rights of the people from the Chinese side. The Chinese authorities in charge will follow the development closely.

答: 关于第一个问题,中国驻光州总领馆正在紧急处理此事,要求韩方文明执法,在执法过程中避免暴力,切实保障中方人员的安全与合法权益。中方有关部门将密切关注事件进展。


Global Times (English edition), October 25 (local time):

The sea disputes that some countries have created not only threaten China’s long-term interests over the sovereignty of its sea borders, but also challenge the unity of China’s politics on the issue. Growing voices urging the government to “strike back” will eventually form through influence.

Currently, China’s mainstream understanding is that it should first go through the general channels of negotiating with other countries to solve sea disputes. But if a situation turns ugly, some military action is necessary.

This public sentiment will influence China’s future foreign policy. Countries currently in sea disputes with China may have failed to spot this tendency, as they still perceive China through conventional wisdom. Thus, the South China Sea, as well as other sensitive sea areas, will have a higher risk of serious clashes.

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Related

» Not India’s Pakistan, Economist, October 22, 2011
» Sino-Vietnamese Communiqué, October 16, 2011
» The Nine-Dotted Line, FOARP, September 30, 2011
» Hit and Tow, Legal Education, June 10, 2011
» Chinese Trawler collides with Korean Coast Guard Boat, December 18, 2010
» A Nefarious Turn, September 25, 2010
» Zhao Nianyu’s Three Taiwan Commandments, June 19, 2010

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The BoZhu Interviews: “Social Media Provide a Common Virtual Space” –

an interview with Catherine Yeung


Catherine Yeung runs the blog Under the Jacaranda Tree,

a public forum with a personal aspiration: to fulfil a longstanding wish, shared by several friends, to provide a cyberspace venue for some overdue open and honest discussions about the internal conditions of the People’s Republic of China and their effects upon the international community and the Earth.

Under the same virtual tree,  Catherine’s co-blogger Ned Kelly (or his re-incarnation, for that matter) runs his virtual pub, not necessarily, or not exclusively, with China-related topics.

The Interview:

Q: I’m feeling tempted to call this interview “blogs, and what became of them” – there has been one post Under the Jaracanda this month so far, and the previous post is from April. During the first two years after you and Ned Kelly started the blog, your average number of posts per month was exactly thirteen. Why the slowdown?
A: I didn’t slow down at all. I’m actually blogging much more often than before. It’s just that I’ve been doing it at other places, rather than at the Under the Jacaranda Tree Blog. I started my Twitter account in 2009, and so far I have posted 13,450 tweets. My Sina Weibo venture commenced about a year ago. And I am also in the process of migrating from Facebook to Google+.  My co-blogger Ned is doing more or less the same thing. The only difference is that Ned has moved on to writing about Australian and American politics, while my focus is still on China.
Q: Could you share some links?
A: My Twitter name: WLYeung;  my Google+ Profile: https://profiles.google.com/u/0/106435663716662310692.
Q: How would you usually introduce yourself, when meeting people, and asked for a few words about yourself?
A: This is Catherine Yeung from Under the Jacaranda Tree Blog. I write about China.
Q: You are Australian, and of Chinese ancestry. You read both Australian and Chinese media. Which are the three worst Australian news article about China you can remember – and vice versa? Which are your favorite information sources, be it on the internet, or elsewhere?
A: In my opinion, Australian journalists have, by and large, done a decent job reporting about China. The best among them are: John Garnaut, who writes for the Fairfax News Group; Stephen McDonell, ABC’s China Correspondent; and the very talented Jane Hutcheon.
For me, the worst media reports on China ever written by an Australian are in fact not published in Australian newspapers.  And they are not even written by a journalist. I’m referring to two articles by the ever illusive “former Australian diplomat to Russia” Gregory Clark: “The Tiananmen Square massacre myth” published on 15 September 2004 in Japan Times, and “Black info and media gullibility: creation of the Tiananmen myth” published on 1 July 2011 by the same news service. To cut the long story short, back in 2004, Mr Clark claimed that the Tiananmen Massacre was a western media fabrication. He has recently upgraded his allegations and is now adamant that the entire incident was some kind of gray propaganda concocted by British intelligence.
My co-blogger Ned wants to add a note here about worst Australian news report on China. Ned says, “Any media publication that bears the title “China’s Rise” is bad, period.” His remark reminds me of an Australian politician, the self-proclaimed father of Australia’s republican movement Malcolm Turnball MP. Mr Turnball is now running a regular column for the Fairfax news group promoting China trade. I have a distinct impression that Mr Turnball is the Kissinger Sino-US PR team’s latest recruit. But I may be wrong. Only time can tell …
My blog roll represents a significant part of my information sources. I also receive first-hand information from media contacts I have established via Twitter.
Q: If Australian papers or correspondents are more informed about China, could it be for the relative proximity between the two countries? And does professional reporting, in your view, amount to a more informed public in Australia, than in Europe or North America, for example? Or is there no great difference in quality between coverage from the three continents, anyway?
A: I didn’t say Australian journalists are “more informed” about China. I am just suggesting that most of them are “as informed” or “as professional” as many first class journalists from other developed countries. Those three Aussie journalists in particular are not just professionally qualified, they also have good language skills. John Garnaut speaks Mandarin and is a human rights lawyer by training. Stephen McDonell speaks fluent Mandarin and Spanish. Jane Hutcheon speaks fluent French and Mandarin, and has acquired near-native proficiency in Cantonese.
Q: Under the Jacaranda Tree is meant to be a place for people to meet online and to discuss China-related issues. What motivated you to start it?
A: Under the Jacaranda Tree Blog was started as a celebration of my co-blogger Ned Kelly’s completion of his sojourn in China. It’s meant to be a continuation of a dialogue we had been conducting on and off for many years via letters and emails. It is also a tool for us to reach out to the world. As you know, Western Australia is, by all accounts, a rather remote part of the world (and here we are not just referring to its physical location).
Q: How closely do you follow Chinese and non-Chinese blogs respectively? Do you (as a reader) or they (as bloggers) focus on certain, recurring kinds of news and topics?
A: I subscribe to more than 70 online publications, some in Chinese, some in English. They include blogs, newspapers and journals. I am following more than 400 Twitter users and 80 odd Weibo users. Among them there are Chinese dissidents, academics, media workers as well as China-based foreign correspondents. I’m also a part of the HK InMedia network. It is my intention to read as widely as possible. But it seems the topics that constantly catch my eyes are: media censorship, mass incidents, corruption, rule of law (or the lack of it) and religious freedom.
Q: Have you seen big changes in your own blog or blogs, and in the Chinese, or foreign “China blogosphere” since you started blogging yourself?
A: Yes indeed. However, I see those changes as a reflection of similar changes in the entire China blogosphere. They are mostly propelled by the discovering of new social media. Nowadays, I’ll use Twitter for a quick exchange of information, Google + for sharing video clips or posting detailed analysis of current affairs, and conventional blogging for longer pieces of translation or for advocating a certain course of action. I hope I can integrate all these into a single platform. But unfortunately the WordPress template I’m using for my blog does not have the best tools for such endeavour. I am still searching, and will be grateful if technologically savvy readers can give me some suggestions.
Q: In your view, has China changed since you started blogging? Has the overseas Chinese community changed? Or has the world changed? How so?
A: I’ve seen many changes, but they are not all good news. The space for freedom of speech in China has dramatically contracted in the last 2 years, particularly among the dissident community. The Chinese censors’ effort is closely matched by the CCP propaganda department’s much improved strategy at selling China’s soft power. Meanwhile, the so-called pro-democracy faction among overseas Chinese community worldwide has been more or less discredited. The world is now more eager to see a stable China than before the 2008 financial meltdown, to the extent that many world leaders are willing to overlook some rather obvious human rights violations that are happening in China.
Q: Being a bilingual blogger, you seem to follow both Chinese- and English-language blogs, and blog posts from Chinese and from foreigners alike. Do you see anything they would have in common? And what makes them different from each other?
A: They are very different. The difference is not just confined to the topics they picked. Let us take the Wenzhou train crash as an example. Most English-language bloggers wrote about how the news was censored. There were some discussions on possible implications for the Chinese government, but they are not in great details. Many Chinese bloggers who wrote about this incident, however, seemed to be more interested in the way the rescue was handled. They were also eager to ascertain whether there were signs of a cover-up.
Ultimately it comes down to a different reason for blogging. English-language bloggers who write about China are doing so mostly as observers. Most of them want to use their blogs as a forum to provoke discussions. For many Chinese bloggers, particularly those who are living in China, the blogosphere is a virtual space for them to gather, to exchange information, to gossip, to monitor the authorities and to plot the kind of actions that they cannot otherwise have contemplated in the real world.
The good news is: the difference between the two groups of bloggers can be bridged. From what I can see, social media, such as Twitter and Google +, or even the Weibo, have provided a common virtual space for the two bloggers’ groups to converge. The exchange of minds is made possible by bilingual bloggers (or “bridges”, as my friend Isaac Mao calls them). With the number of bilingual bloggers and online projects growing, I am confident that the gap will be gradually narrowed.
Q: Weibo is often portrayed as a social or political game-changer in China. Would you agree with that? How do you feel about Weibo?
A: I’m still feeling my way through Weibo. So I may be able to shed more lights at a later stage. But my first impression is that it’s a bit of an exaggeration to call it a game-changer. However, as mentioned above, I believe social media such as Weibo can provide a common space for some meaningful cultural exchanges. So I strongly urge those of you in the English-language China blogosphere to go over there and have a look. A friend of mine, who is doing a Japanese major in university and doesn’t speak any Chinese, has recently set himself up at Sina Weibo with the help of Google Translate. He says he is having fun and is thoroughly enjoying the experience. So why don’t you have a go too.
Q: Have you ever stopped reading blogs because you felt they were becoming boring, or because they angered you?
A: So far only one blog has this kind of effect on me. And of course you won’t be surprised if I mention the name “the Fool’s Mountain” ….
Q: You are an active campaigner for human rights. Do you feel that global reactions to human rights violations are usually disappointing? Why should people with a vested economic interest in China care about human rights, and speak up for people who are persecuted, even as they may harm their business by doing so?
A: No, I don’t find global reaction disappointing. I just find world leaders’ presumptuous attitude unsettling. As a matter of fact, pressure from the international community and human rights organisations has proven to be very effective in putting a check on human rights abuses in China. Ai Weiwei’s release from illegal detention, among a few other cases, is a good example.
For Australian businesses who say they don’t care about human rights in China, as long as business keeps going, I have a word of warning for them: those who allow evil to conquer the world will suffer from its consequences. If human rights abuses are acceptable in China, there is no categorical reason why they are not acceptable in other parts of the world, including Australia.
A note from Ned: “JR, I am referring you to Kant’s categorical imperative.”
Q: You said before that the pro-democracy faction had discredited itself. Was it for leaders being presumptuous? In which ways? Or is it for misinterpreting the status quo, or for  the American and European economic setbacks of the past three years?
A: As far as I know, the overseas dissident community has always been fragmented and there are rather serious internal power struggles among key members. It’s possible that there are personality clashes. But I’m more inclined to believe that agents from CCP’s United Front Work Department have infiltrated the community. Many of these overseas dissidents have been away from China for too long and their views on current issues are out of date. Consequently, activists in the PRC find it difficult to take them seriously. For many PRC-based Chinese netizens, the title “民主斗士“, or democracy fighters, is considered a derogatory term.
Q: Is there an unasked question to which you would like to reply to all the same?
A: Just one: Which flavour chocolate you like best? White, milk or dark?
Answer: All of them.
Q: Catherine, thank you very much for this interview.

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The interview was conducted by an exchange of e-mails.

Concerning Catherine’s suggestion that I should give Sina Weibo a go, I’ve actually done that a few months ago. I’m only occasionally reading there, so far.

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Related

» All BoZhu Interviews
» Jacaranda, Wikipedia

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Zhou Youguang: don’t Blame Confucianism – make it Work

Zhou Youguang (周有光) is the man who “invented” the hanyu pinyin – those pronounciation helpers not only used by foreigners who learn Chinese, but also by Chinese elementary school students, before they learn the simplified characters. The following was posted on his blog some five months ago – thoughts about how to make Confucianism work in our times.

Every country’s culture includes modern and traditional culture. Modern culture is  mainly about internationally shared natural and social sciences; traditional culture is mainly a nationality’s culture, history, philosophy, and religion. Our universities’ curricula are mostly modern culture, with a small share of traditional culture, which reflects the degree to which our country has entered globalization, and retained particular national features. Every culture, knowingly or not, carries out modernization.

每个国家的文化都包含现代文化和传统文化。现代文化主要是国际共同的自然科学和社会科学,传统文化主要是本民族的文史哲和宗教。我国的大学课程大部分是现代文化,小部分是传统文化,这反映我国进入全球化的程度和保持民族特色的现状。每一传统文化都在自觉或不自觉中进行现代化。

Confucianism maintained imperial rule, and built a stable and prosperous feudal society. During the second millenium, it produced great and correct accomplishments. Confucianism wasn’t there to serve post-feudal times. To blame Confucianism for not being able to serve democracy or science is no adequate historic viewpoint. The Fourth-May era attacked Confucianism, which made as much sense as to criticize Confucius for not understanding English. At that time, there was no English language. To make Confucianism work for the post-feudal times isn’t Confucius’ responsibility; how to make Confucianism modern is the responsibility of current generations.

儒学的历史任务是维护帝王政权,建设稳定而繁荣的封建社会。在二千年中做出了伟大的、光荣的、正确的成绩。儒学不是为后封建时代服务的,责备它不能为民主和科学服务,不符合历史观点。五四时期打孔家店,好比责备孔夫子不懂英语,那时英语还没有产生呢。叫儒学为后封建时代服务,责任不在孔夫子,而在今天的一代:如何使儒学现代化。

Modernizing Confucianism should include

  1. Removing feudalism, building up modernity
  2. removing conservatism, building up creativity – for example, “I narrate, but I don’t innovate” must change into “I narrate and innovate”1)
  3. removing dissimulation, building up practicality; sayings such as “man and nature are one, sage inside, king outside” will find it difficult to reach modern young people – both its shape and content needs reform. Our forefathers didn’t know what nature is, and easily put the two together. Today’s people have at least elementary scientific understanding, and man and nature don’t fit together. There’s a five-year old poet in India, his anthology is titled “Let me touch the Sky”, and he may welcome people and nature sitting together. Old  bottles may be filled with new wine, but if the artwork on the bottle disgusts people, there will be no people who want to try its good taste. Imperial thoughts have turned into swearwords – who would still want to be called a king? You call yourself a sage, and other people will want to scoff [at you], too! What’s hard to understand for modern youth will hardly play a role in modern society.

儒学现代化的原则应当包含:1、除去封建性、建立现代性:例如“君为臣纲”要改为“官为民仆”。2、除去保守性、建立创造性:例如“述而不作”要改为“述而又作”。3、除去玄虚性、建立实用性:例如“天人合一、内圣外王”这个说法难于为现代青年所接受,形式和内容都要改革。古人不懂什么是天,不妨把天和人配对。今人对天至少有了初步的科学理解,天和人配不成对了。印度有一个五岁的小诗人,他的诗集叫做《让我摸摸天》,他会欢迎把天和人排排坐。旧瓶可以装新酒,可是如果旧瓶上贴着使人恶心的广告,就不会有人来尝这美味。帝王思想已经成为骂人话,谁还愿意自己称王?自称圣人别人也要嗤之以鼻!难于为现代青年所理解,就难于在现代社会发生作用。
Confucianist content needs to be explored one by one, and should be seen in three different categories:

  1. What has guiding meaning for modernity, such as “to know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge” is to be kept
  2. what’s correct in principle, but not in specific cases, needs to be changed, such as “Parents can’t do wrong” should be put “天下有不是之父母”.2) Parents have their faults, may be an reassuring figure of speech. [Update, Oct 27: for the source of the original quote and a discussion, see commenting thread.]
  3. What’s not in correspondence with modern requirements should be abandoned, such as “Women and ordinary people are hard to handle”.3)

儒学内容要逐项研究,分为三部分:1、对现代有指导意义的,从之。如“知之为知之,不知为不知,是知也”。2、原理对、具体不对,改之。如“天下无不是之父母”要改为“天下有不是之父母”,父母有错,好言劝说。3、不合现代要求的,弃之。如“唯女子与小人为难养也。”

There are people who say that illiterate people were in need of being converted to religious Confucianism, studied people needed Confucian were in need of Confucian dissimulation, and young people were in need of Confucian practical wisdom – but these three [rationales] exclude each other, and might as well go their own ways respectively. Isn’t that an essential phenomenon of transition?

有人说:文盲群众需要儒学宗教化,书斋学者需要儒学玄虚化,现代青年需要儒学常识化,三者并行不悖,不妨各行其是。这是过渡时期的必然现象吗?

Ever since the Han dynasty, Confucians have made thorough studies of chapters, sections, sentences and phrases in ancient writings, and added explanatory notes, added footnotes to the Five Classics, to Confucius and to Mencius. Genuine development and innovation was very rare, but many wise sayings were left behind, having universal and perpetual meaning. Future development should bring Confucius spirit “as the most timeous sage [or saint]4”  into play, and turn the ancient, feudalism-serving Confucianism into a modern, “post-feudal” Confucianism.

汉代以来,儒家大都钻研章句训诂之学,给五经和孔孟做注解,很少有实质性的发展和创新,但是留下许多至理名言,有普遍和久远的意义。今后发展,应当发挥“孔子圣之时者也”的精神,使为封建服务的古代儒学变成为“后”封建服务的现代儒学。

Zhou Youguang isn’t the only blogging academic who explores Confucianism and modernity – Wang Zhicheng would be one of many others -, but Zhou is arguably the oldest blogging academic  who is pursuing this interest in particular, and reform more in general. He turned 105 in January this year.

Underneath the “notes” section, I’ve listed some posts which may or not be “related” to this topic.

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Notes

1) 子曰:“述而不作,信而好古,窃比于我老彭。” Confucius said, “I transmit but do not innovate; I am truthful in what I say and devoted to antiquity. I venture to compare myself to your Old P’eng.” (Analects, 7:1 / 论语述而篇第七章1) Also: “I transmit but do not create. In believing in and loving the ancients, I dare to compare myself with our old Peng.”
2) I’m exceeding my time limit, seeking for a proper translation of “天下有不是之父母” – maybe a reader can help out here.
3) In full: “子曰:唯女子与小人为难养也,近之则不孙,远之则怨” – Confucius said: “Only women and non-gentleman are difficult to handle. Be close to them and they lack humility, stay away from them and they complain.” (Analects, chapter 17, 25.)
4) In full (according to a blogger’s translation):
孟子曰:“伯夷,圣之清者也;伊尹,圣之任者也;柳下惠,圣之和者也;孔子,圣之时者也。孔子之谓集大成。集大成也者,金声而玉振之也。金声也者,始条理也;玉振之也者,终条理也。始条理者,智之事也;终条理者,圣之事也。智,譬则巧也;圣,譬则力也。由射于百步之外也,其至,尔力也;其中,非尔力也。”
Mencius said, ‘Bo Yi among the sages was the pure one; Yi Yin was the one most inclined to take office; Hui of Liu Xia was the accommodating one; and Confucius was the timeous one. In Confucius we have what is called a complete concert. A complete concert is when the large bell proclaims the commencement of the music, and the ringing stone proclaims its close. The metal sound commences the blended harmony of all the instruments, and the winding up with the stone terminates that blended harmony. The commencing that harmony is the work of wisdom. The terminating it is the work of sageness. As a comparison for wisdom, we may liken it to skill, and as a comparison for sageness, we may liken it to strength – as in the case of shooting at a mark a hundred paces distant. That you reach it is owing to your strength, but that you hit the mark is not owing to your strength.’

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Related

» At 105, now a Government Critic, NPR, October 19, 2011
» Lee Teng-hui’s New Central Plains, Oct 18, 2011
» Confucius relegated, April 27, 2011
» Neither Law, nor Order, April 21, 2011
» Does Confucius matter outside Asia, Dec 12, 2010
» Not Father, but Son, The Guardian, Febr 21, 2008

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Death of Wang Yue, and the Irresistible Conclusions

Everyone seems to know who Wang Yue (王悦) is, or rather, was. The two-year old girl from Foshan, Guangdong Province, has become world-famous for having been run over by a van,  whose driver reportedly crushed her twice – according to other reports, two vans were involved. Closed circuit camera recordings showed some 18 people walking past Wang Yue without trying to save her.

Now there is “soul-searching” across China, according to media coverage – and there seems to be a “search for the Chinese soul” among the international media, too  – with the happy expectation that there won’t be much of a soul to be found in China, it seems. Even Eric Fish, a regular contributor to China’s official mouthpiece Global Times, and a “devout atheist”, wants the Chinese to come to Jesus. OK – that’s a misquote. This is what he writes:

I’m a devout atheist and tend to think dogmatic religion plays a largely negative role in society, but I can’t count the number of times in China I’ve shaken my head and wished more people believed in hell.

Contrary to Eric Fish’s blog, mine is powered by cold-war motivations, and I will therefore – probably – not be suspected to be a China apologist – I’m therefore confidently saying this:

There definitely is a “moral vacuum” in China. There are “moral vacuums” in other countries, too. In Germany, there have been several cases in recent years when people were abused or beaten up at underground stations. In one case, a twenty-three year-old who tried to escape ran into a car and died on the spot. Most of these cases happened and happen in public, here in central Europe. In most cases, few or no  people seemed to be prepared to even take note.

Many U.S. states and Canadian provinces have introduced Good Samaritan Laws to prevent

a rescuer who has voluntarily helped a victim in distress from being successfully sued for ‘wrongdoing’.

One may guess that some episodes, rather unflattering for individuals or society, preceded the enactments of these and similar laws.

Western reporting of Wang Yue’s accident and death is overblown, in my view. The Chinese public has good reasons to ask themselves questions, and legislation that would make aid compulsory might be a good first step – provided that people don’t need to fear lawsuits for “wrongdoing” while trying to help there, either. A law that punishes people who get involved, while police, bars, or judges continue to suspect a helper to actually have caused the accident (“why else would he try to help?”) would only make things worse. Before people who try to help can do so on a reasonably sound legal basis, you will never find out how much or little “moral” is actually there.

I seem to perceive an undertone in much of the international coverage – stuff that amounts to what MyLaowai has uttered with his usual candidness:

Is there anyone in the world who believes for a single second that this doesn’t happen every day in China? If so, you are a touch naive, my friend. This is how it works: Some baby / old geezer / idiot [delete as appropriate] wanders out into a street / highway / service lane. Truck / car / taxi runs them over. Said vehicle usually drives off, with the driver not being aware of the fact the the bump in the road was made of meat because he, too, is a fucking retard like all his shit-for-brains cuntrymen, but on the off-chance that the driver does know what happened, said vehicle will stop, reverse over the now-much-easier-to-hit target in order to make sure of the job, before then driving off. After all, a dead person is cheaper to pay out for than an injured one if you are ever caught, which you won’t be, because nobody actually gives a damn about anyone else. Home of civilisation my arse.

In my view, MyLaowai has it wrong on several counts this time, but especially when he believes that the global public were “unaware” of what happens in China on a daily basis, or acting as if they were unaware. Quite the contrary. It’s what everyone had “suspected”, anyway. The news story would have had much less “potential” if it had happened in Vietnam – but if even the godless Chinese public does some “soul-searching”, it confirms foreign prejudice most handily. The good news is that all the numb passers-by were Chinese.

When it comes to bigotry, it’s hard to tell who’s doing better – the Chinese or the foreign media.  I have heard way too many western business people showing off with their “guanxi” in China, with having had dinner with some big local or national cadres, and having eaten the brain out of the skull of a not-quite-dead monkey. One such case was actually documented by Der Spiegel, in 2007 – the man, a German investor, thought of himself as a man who knew China, until his technology was ripped off. At that moment, Chinese behavior was deemed “immoral”. (Monkeys don’t count.)

China probably has a tradition which isn’t helpful. It has a political system which is deeply immoral. But that topic won’t make it into our newspapers. Our own relationship with China’s despots are too intimate to identify it as an issue.

Rather than addressing China’s moral issues, we should address our own, first of all – in our cozy relations with totalitarian governments, and issues within our own societies.

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Related

» A Fly-Head-Sized Benefit, January 8, 2010

Updates / Related

» … und ging vorüber, Sinica, Oct 25, 2011

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Friday, October 21, 2011

All in one Dragnet: Huanqiu’s Revolutionary History Pages

Yang Fan, according to Huanqiu Shibao

Yang Fan, according to Huanqiu Shibao

Huanqiu Shibao celebrated Double-Ten (the day of the Hsinhai Revolution or Xinhai Revolution) with an opulent detective story1), about Yang Fan (扬帆), and the crucial role he played in saving Shanghai’s first or second CCP mayor Chen Yi (陈毅) from a KMT assassination plot in 1949.

It’s the stuff patriotic movies are made of, too:  Shanghai still under the retreating KMT’s bombardments, KMT spies everywhere, and Yang, in his capacity as Shanghai’s public security bureau’s deputy director, uncovering one of the plot’s traces after another.

How Chen Yi smiled indifferently (or coolly, 淡然一笑), saying in Sichuanese dialect that “if he (the assassin) wants to come, well, let him come – but don’t let him escape; detect and defeat him; catch the whole lot in one dragnet” (他要来就让他来吧,绝不能让他跑了,我们要全力侦破,一网打尽).

Most Huanqiu readers are probably aware of Chen’s fate during the cultural revolution. By that time, the Long March veteran had become foreign minister, and

Rabid Red Guards seeking to seize the Foreign Ministry. Chen Yi was hauled before a struggle session and beaten. Zhou Enlai rescued him and led him away. Chen lost his office, his freedom, his health, and died January 6, 1972,

China Daily describes Chen’s fate, in an undated biography. Yang Fan himself was in trouble much earlier, in 1955. By then, he had become Shanghai’s Public Security chief.

Reasons given for his sudden problems differ somewhat, depending on source. Republican China suggests that

Jiang Qing, for her open sexuality on Shanghai Bund and implication in a KMT arrest in 1934, was given negative feedback by underground communists like Yang Fan, for which Jiang Qing & Kang Sheng, in Feng Zhijun’s opinion, had routed Yang Fan & Pan Hannian in 1954 and put them to lifelong imprisonment.2)

Frederick C. Teiwes3), in Politics at Mao’s Court – Gao Gang and Party Factionalism in the Early 1950s (New York, 1990), confines himself to stating that Yang’s case was “too complicated and tangential to be dealt in full here” (i. e. in the context of his book’s topic, the “Gao Gang affair”. But in short,

Yang was implicated by his functional role directly under Pan [Pan Hannian, Shanghai first deputy secretary, accused of being a double-agent for the KMT, see Teiwes,p. 131 – JR] as well as close personal ties to Pan, and he was further vulnerable due to the enmity of Jiang Qing relating to events in Shanghai literary circles during the 1930s. The various charges against Pan and Yang became particularly salient in the context of the sufan campaign against hidden counterrevolutionaries, which got under way in spring 1955. There was really no convincing proof of their guilt at the time, but by the same token there was no unambiguous evidence of their innocence.

Also according to Teiwes, Han Fan was rehabilitated in 1983 (Teiwes, p. 132).

That’s why Fan was starring in Huanqiu’s Double-Ten detective story after all.

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Notes

1) Huanqiu Shibao’s article is based on excerpts from an article by “Approaching Science” (走近科学), September 2011 – apparently a CCTV / CNTV serial, and not a paper.
2) My general impression of the Republican China website is that they are somewhat philistine.
3) Emeritus Professor of Chinese Politics, University of Sydney
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Related

» Cultural Activities, October 19, 2011

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