Posts tagged ‘Britain’

Friday, June 12, 2015

The BoZhu Interviews: If you want to Believe the Best or the Worst about China, it’s easy enough –

Ji Xiang about getting started with China, stereotypes, and finding a balance between Chinese and Western ways of life.

Ji Xiang is a blogger from Europe who lives in China. In his first blog post, in 2008, he explained how he got his Chinese name. And he is probably one of very few foreign China bloggers who started blogging almost right on arrival in the country, and have kept to the habit ever since.

Q: Ji Xiang, you are Chinese by name, but you are actually from Europe, right?

That’s right. My mom’s British, and my dad’s Italian. I grew up in Italy, although I have also lived in Britain. It’s not too obvious unless you look at my blog very carefully though. Interestingly, some of my readers have assumed I was American in the past.

Q: Could that be because your stance comes across as more “pro-Western” than that of most sinologists or Westerners who speak Chinese? It seems to me that both Foarp and you stand out as rather critical of what might be called “cultural relativism”, or a preparedness to find human rights violations tolerable because of a country’s culture, a “situation on the ground”, etc.

Well, I’m not sure if that makes you seem more like an American or not. Foarp is after all British. But to be honest, I think a lot of Westerners who speak Chinese have the same sort of opinions as I do. I don’t think of myself as “pro-Western” really, I am quite aware of all the bad things Western countries have done around the world, and the shortcomings of the “West” (if there really is such a thing as the West. But that’s another debate). But that doesn’t necessarily mean being pro-Chinese.

When it comes to human rights violations, I don’t really buy cultural justifications. I mean, East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea have created systems where basic human rights are respected, so it obviously isn’t only Western countries which can reach that point. The argument that human rights have to be put aside when a country is still poor and developing is more complicated. I think certain basic rights, like the right not to disappear, be tortured or speak your mind without going to jail, should be respected, and I don’t think the right to have a full belly clashes with these other rights.

There might however be a good argument for not holding elections in countries where most of the people are illiterate, or divided along ethnic or tribal lines. Say in Yemen or Burkina Faso. Even in Arab countries, it is clear that elections often bring religious fundamentalists to power.

Q: You went to China as a teacher in 2005, and came back to the country as a student. How did you get interested in China? You’ve spent a number of years there now, haven’t you?

I actually taught in China in 2004, and that was just for a summer. I then went back to China because I got a scholarship to get a master’s degree there. I have spent over six years in China by now.

Q: Was 2008 a good time to start a blog? You might have started one in 2005, the heydays of the (English-language) “Chinese blogosphere”. Was there a key moment where you felt that you should share your experiences, which got your blog started?

Well in 2005 I didn’t live in China, and had only spent a few months there. I had no basis for writing a blog about it. I only discovered recently that that was supposed to be the heyday of the “Chinese blogosphere”. Pity I missed it. I started my blog when I started living in China full-time. In the beginning, it was mainly to share my experiences with my family and friends back home. Now it’s turned more into a blog of commentary about China.

Q: Do the statistics or feedback give you an idea about who your readers are?

A bit. Most of my hits are from the United States, but I think that might be to do with the fact that most of the VPNs people use in China redirect there. Curiously, I also seem to have a lot of readers from Germany, Ukraine and Russia (well, you are one of the ones from Germany). Other than that, my most read posts are the ones with titles which people can come across randomly on Google.

Q: Apart from the blogs your blogroll, are there others – about China or other countries and topics – that you read regularly?

To be honest, not really. I mostly look at those few blogs on China which are on my blogroll (which includes your one). And there is my uncle’s blog, he lives in Israel and blogs about his life there and Israeli topics.

Q: Did family history contribute to your interest in China?

Not really. I don’t have any relatives who have lived or live in China. Having said that, the first time I came to China was with my parents. They are active in the international Esperanto movement, and in 2004 the World Esperanto Congress was in Beijing, so they were going to China to attend it and I went with them. That’s when I first got interested in China. Being able to speak Esperanto helped plug me in to the community of Chinese Esperanto speakers, which has been a nice way to get to know some cool, unusual Chinese people.

Q: Most bloggers will sometimes be surprised by the responses a post of them triggers. Have there been reactions and comments that surprised you during the past seven years?

After visiting Vietnam, I wrote a post on why the Vietnamese dislike China. It got quite a few reactions from Vietnamese readers, most of them proving my original point. One of them actually claimed that Daoism, the I Ching and the idea of Ying/Yang originally came from Vietnam and not from China. Total nonsense as far as I know. Unfortunately unreasonable nationalism is widespread throughout Asia. At its basis lies a wall of mental rigidity and misinformation which is very hard to break through.  Then again, Europe was probably similar up until the Second World War. And Westerners have their own unreasonable prejudices, just look at the persistence of antisemitic tropes among some people, or how so many Europeans will complain that immigrants get more benefits from the state than locals even when it just isn’t true.

Q: It seems that you’ve got most of your Chinese education in the North. Is that so, and do you think it differs from learning Chinese language, ways of interaction, etc., in the South?

You are correct. Although I’ve traveled all over China, I live in Beijing. It’s a stereotype to say that the North is best for learning to speak Mandarin, but actually I think you can learn just as well in most big Southern cities, because nowadays most people speak it there too. I think the Southern Chinese do tend to be a bit more like we imagine the Chinese to be (quiet, indirect, reserved), but in the main I don’t think the cultural difference between Northern and Southern China is that huge. It might not even be as big as the one between Northern and Southern Italy! Whether you live in a small or a big city, and a rich or a poor part of China, probably makes more difference to your experience. But I’ve never lived in Southern China, so I stand to be corrected.

Q: How would you describe your daily life? Is it becoming still more “Chinese”, concerning your choice of food, newspapers, internet sources, or television?

In some ways I am, and in some ways I’m not. I would say that my lifestyle has stopped becoming more Chinese for a while. In fact, after an initial enthusiasm for “going native”, which many foreigners have at first, I think I have found a balance. In a city like Beijing you can find loads of foreign amenities, and it would be silly not to make use of them. On the other hand I wouldn’t want to live in a bubble like some expats do. It really comes down to who you hang out with, and I still hang out with lots of Chinese.

When it comes to food I am pretty Chinese: I like eating Chinese food when it’s properly made, and I even do my best to cook it at home. I have long stopped eating street food or patronizing cheap, hole-in-the-wall type places though, because of concerns about the hygiene and the quality. Many Chinese seem to have come to the same conclusion. Foreigners who pride themselves on being able to eat in such places without minding the consequences are either young foreign-exchange students, or they are pretty dimwitted.

When it comes to media, I still look at Chinese newspapers every now and again to see what they say, but for real news I mostly turn to foreign sources. Of course the language is one issue (it is obviously still much quicker for me to read in English or Italian), but also I think the European media is just superior in terms of giving you a decent picture of what goes on in the world, and, when it comes to sensitive issues, even in China! Same for entertainment: although I sometimes watch Chinese shows and films, in the main I still watch far more foreign ones. I make full use of Chinese internet sites like Baidu or Weibo though.

Q: Do you see changes on Weibo, in terms of real-name requirement, censorship, etc.?

When I got an account in 2011, it still wasn’t necessary to give your ID/passport number. As far as I know now it is, although I have heard you can still get away with giving a false one. In any case, I am sure that if they really want to they can find out who you are.

Q: Generally, when reading your blog, I got an impression overtime that you might think of China as a project, as a country or civilization headed into a rather benign future, compared with Western societies. And on the other hand, your criicism of China, or its political system, sounds pretty much like the general global criticism of it. Is this an accurate impression?

I’m not entirely sure where you got that impression from. I have unquestionably been getting more pessimistic about China, its system and its prospects over the last few years. I think to an extent the current system is geared in such a way that China always gives the impression to outsiders that it’s almost on the cusp of becoming a decent, progressive, modern and confident society, but then it never quite does. I think the political system is good at producing GDP growth, but pretty hopeless at solving the country’s huge social problems. Yes, China has more and more subways and high speed railways, and that’s useful and good for the people, but surely a country like China could do so much better than just that?

I hope China gets better with time, but I don’t think it’s a given that, if you wait 20 or 30 years, it’s all going to be much better. That’s how a lot of Chinese seem to think: just wait a few decades, and everything will solve itself. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

I think my criticism is also a bit different from that of someone who’s never lived in China, because I am far more aware of aspects like the rise of Chinese nationalism, which many foreign commentators seem blissfully unaware of.

Q: That unawareness seems to be quite a phenomenon. This is what Bruce Anderson (himself not necessarily a human-rights champion) said about Edward Heath, in a BBC radio documentary. Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt might be another case in point.

Is there something Russia (for example) could learn from China, in terms of soothing external propaganda, or winning influential people over abroad?

Well, Chinese officials certainly are very good at flattering foreign visitors, saying the right things to them, and appearing reasonable and friendly. I don’t have much experience with the Russians, but I doubt they are as good at it. It’s probably not something you can learn either, it’s deep-rooted in the culture.

You have to remember that most Westerners know little about China, and obviously want to be open-minded. The unawareness of the rise of Chinese nationalism probably also lies in the fact that China does tend to leave other countries alone, as long they don’t have any territorial disputes with China of course, and as long as they don’t express any views on what China defines as its “internal affairs”. Of course China’s neighbours are very aware of its nationalistic side, especially the ones which have territorial disputes with it. But people in other parts of the world don’t get to see this side of things. And its not obvious to the casual visitor either.

The European media also focuses too much on the Middle East and almost never talks about Asia’s potentially explosive problems, like the dispute in the South China Sea and the anti-Japanese feeling in China or Korea. The only thing they ever talk about is the issue of Tibet, which has certainly damaged China’s image.

Then again, the real issue is one of projection. Many left-wing Westerners are predisposed to think well of any power which challenges the United States anywhere, regardless of what it really is or does. If you want to believe the best about China (or the worst for that matter), and you don’t live there, it’s easy enough. Right wingers on the other hand may see China’s rise as a vindication of free market economics, or god knows what. Everyone sees what they want to see in China, and no one knows much about it. This has always been the case.

Q: Do you have arguments with Chinese nationalists?

Well, in a sense I do, because I have political arguments with people in China, and most Chinese are nationalists at some level, although the level varies. The level of open-mindedness towards opinions which clash with modern Chinese nationalism, as the schools and media have constructed it, also varies. I know many Mainlanders who are perfectly open minded even about issues like Taiwan, and don’t just toe the line. I think they are a minority however. And by the way, they aren’t necessarily the people with most international exposure. On the other hand if you are talking about dyed-in-the-wool fenqing, rational debate is all but impossible.

Q: You have blogged in English for nearly seven years, and quite recently, you have also started a blog in Italian. What’s next? A blog in Chinese?

My written Chinese is really not good enough to blog in it. I would actually be more likely to start a blog in Esperanto, a language I also speak.

Q: Ji Xiang, thanks a lot for this interview.

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

____________

Related

All BoZhu Interviews

____________

Monday, May 11, 2015

China’s Press commemorates WW2: Criticizing the Impenitent by Lauding the Remorseful

This was the commemoration of VE day, but the military parade in Moscow on Saturday rather looked like VJ Day. Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping took the seat that had been US president George W.Bush’s ten years earlier, and proably would have been Barack Obama’s, hadn’t he stayed away, as most Western leaders did, as a reaction to Russia’s Ukraine policies.

Xi Jinping's Moscow Mercedes: Germany's leaders boycotted the parade, but the German-made car pool didn't

Xi Jinping’s Moscow Mercedes: Germany’s leaders boycotted the parade, but the German-made car pool didn’t (CCTV/Xinwen Lianbo coverage, click picture for Youtube video)

Also, for the first time ever, according to Chinese media, a Chinese guard of honor took part in the parade. Xinhua celebrated the great moment:

Greeting the air of spring in Moscow and marching to the “Katyusha” theme, the 102-strong People’s Liberation Army guard of honor, full of high spirits, passed Moscow’s Red Square, showing military prestige, and manifesting national power. On the reviewing stand, Chairman Xi Jinping stood and waved to them.

迎着莫斯科的春光,踏着《喀秋莎》的旋律,由102人组成的中国人民解放军仪仗方队意气风发走过莫斯科红场,走出了军威,彰显了国威。检阅台上,习近平主席起身向他们挥手致意。

But they didn’t only attract the world’s attention for their gallant formation and morale, and not only for their distinctive arrangement rhythmic marching pace, and also not only this was the first time that this was the first time China dispatched a guard of honor to take part in a Red-Square military review.

在莫斯科红场,中国军人吸引了世界的目光,这不仅仅是因为他们军容严整、士气高昂;不仅仅是因为他们独特的队形编排和富有韵律的步态步速;也不仅仅因为这是中国首次派出仪仗方队参加红场阅兵。

The Chinese troops on Moscow’s Red Square attracted millions of peoples‘ attention. This guard of honor, representing the Chinese troops‘ image, vigour and strength made people remember the sacrifices made by the Chinese and Russian armies in the world’s just war against and victory over fascism, manifested the strategic and coordinated relationship between the Chinese and the Russian armies, taking the common mission of their two countries to maintain the peaceful development of the world.

在莫斯科红场,接受检阅的中国军人令万众瞩目。这支代表中国军队形象、精神和实力的仪仗方队,令人追忆中俄两国两军为世界反法西斯正义战争胜利作出的牺牲和贡献,彰显着中俄两国两军全面战略协作关系,承载着两国共同维护世界和平发展的使命。

As China’s military passed across Moscows Red Square, the sound of their footsteps expressed the solemn promise of forever remembering history.

当中国军人走过莫斯科红场,铿锵的足音里,表达出铭记历史的庄严承诺。 […]

Forgetting history spells betrayal (忘记历史就意味着背叛), writes Xinhua. Probably, this does not refer to the way the article itself celebrates what was the CCP’s Red Army at the time of World War 2, and ignores the role of the KMT’s – then regular – Chinese troops.

To commemorate war means avoiding war. Seventy years ago, Chinese and Russian did immortal deeds in the world’s war against and victory over fascism. In this 21rst century, the two countries are permanent members of the United Nations‘ Security Council, and bear a great responsibility for the protection of the fruits of victory in World War 2 and international fairness and justice, for the promotion of the international order taking a more just and reasonable direction, for regional and global peace, security, and stability.

纪念战争是为了避免战争。70年前,中俄为世界反法西斯战争胜利建立了不朽的功勋。在21世纪的今天,两国作为联合国安理会常任理事国,对共同捍卫二战胜利成果和国际公平正义,对促进国际秩序朝着更加公正合理的方向发展,对地区及世界的和平、安全、稳定,都负有重大责任。

Kind of naturally, the mainstream Western press is taking a less cordial look at the parade and its supposed implications.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has used the anniversary to whip up patriotism and anti-Western sentiment; at a parade in Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko said Moscow was trying to hog the credit for the World War Two victory at Ukraine’s expense,

says an article published by the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, and concerning Russian-Chinese cooperation, the Guardian’s foreign affairs commentator Natalie Nougayrède wrote on March 26 that

China has a 2,500-year history of strategic thinking driven by a deep distrust of external players. Don’t expect a People’s Daily front page proclaiming a new era of Chinese openness towards the west. Nor should Vladimir Putin’s Russia think that it will find an amenable partner in Xi’s China if it continues to turn its back on Europe. China sees Russia as a declining power that can eventually be transformed into an economic colony – reduced to the role of oil and gas provider. China believes it can make strategic gains if Europe and Russia continue to clash.

While German chancellor Angela Merkel, just as the majority of Western leaders, boycotted the military parade on Saturday, she did meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, to hold talks after they had laid down a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier together. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) refers to Merkel as having acted as the West’s chief interlocutor with the Kremlin throughout the Ukraine crisis, which might serve as one explanation why Merkel didn’t avoid meeting Putin altogether. But in its English broadcast on Monday, Radio Japan added another interpretation:

Merkel and other Group-of-Seven leaders cited the Ukrainian crisis for their absence from Saturday’s parade in Moscow, marking seventy years since the victory over Nazi Germany. But Merkel attended a wreath-laying ceremony in an apparent attempt to show that Germany has faced up to the responsibility for the Nazi atrocities.

That, however, didn’t keep Merkel from unusually plain talk at a joint press conference with the Russian leader. While Putin referred to Germany as a partner and friend, and, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, even suggested that Germany had been the first victim of the Nazis, Merkel said that German-Russian cooperation has suffered a grave setback by Russia’s criminal annexation of Crimea, in violation of international law, and the military conflict in Ukraine (hat durch die verbrecherische und völkerrechtswidrige Annexion der Krim und die militärische Auseinandersetzung in der Ostukraine einen schweren Rückschlag erlitten).

On May 6, in a speech at Schloss Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war camp in western Germany’s state of Northrhine-Westphalia, German president Joachim Gauck, known as a fiery anti-communist, made a speech which took many political observers, at least in Germany itself, by surprise. He addressed a fact that is frequently unknown or hardly known among Germans, and particularly West Germans (thanks not least to what China’s media might have criticized as cooked history textbooks, if West Germany had been Japan):

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

These prisoners were forced on long marches, transported in open goods wagons and sent to so-called reception or assembly camps that provided almost nothing at the start – no shelter, not enough food, no sanitary facilities, no medical care. Nothing. They had to dig holes in the ground and build makeshift huts for shelter – they tried desperately to survive somehow. Huge numbers of these prisoners were then forced to do hard labour which, in their weakened and starving condition, they often did not manage to survive.

The Beijing Evening News (北京晚报) combined a rendition of Gauck’s speech with another laudably self-critical one by Germany’s permanent representative at the United Nations, and a much less laudable one (at least according to the paper itself) by Japan’s permanent representative:

In contrast [to the German permanent representative’s speech], Japan’s permanent representative at the UN, Motohide Yoshikawa, only said: “Our behavior created misery for the peoples of the Asian countries. We must not close our eyes to this.” After that, he made big words about Japan’s “contributions to international peace, and Japan’s support for the United Nations”.

____________

Related

» China invites Russian Troops, Kyiv Post / Reuters, May 11, 2015
» Even closer, The Atlantic, May 10, 2015
» Wo sind die Nachtwölfe, Telepolis, May 10, 2015
» India’s Grenadiers join Parade, Telegraph India, May 9, 2015

____________

Friday, March 27, 2015

Monthly Summary: March 2015 – Death of a China Expert

Bremen, East of Central Station, March 26, 2015

Bremen, East of Central Station, March 26, 2015

1. How’s your Weibo going?

Mainland regulators say people will be able to have nicknames – they will just have to register them with website administrators first,

the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported in January.

The rule apparently took effect on March 1, but yours truly, himself running a Sina Weibo profile, hasn’t been contacted yet.(Having said that, it’s a very low profile – I’m reading there, but I’ve never posted anything myself.)

Either way, it’s »not »the »first try by the authorities to control or to intimidate the microbloggers, and time will show how serious they are this time.

Either way, ways appear to have been found to spoil much of the interest in microblogging.

2. Rectifying Political Ideology at Universities

That blog by Fei Chang Dao was posted on February 25, but it’s probably as important in March and in future. Even if you read no other China blog, make sure you read Fei Chang Dao, and China Copyright and Media, for that matter. What they cover matters much more than the not-really-uncertain fate of Zhou Yongkang – if you want to understaaaaand China.

3. Kailash Calling

Travelling Tibet can be an easy affair, or it can be cumbersome. It might depend on who you are, and where you come from. Here’s an account of scuffproof cheerfulness and patience.

4. “Two Meetings”

The annual tale of two meetings has come to its serene conclusion again this year, with China’s new normal. Just to have mentioned that, too.

5. Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

The Economist suggested in November that

China will use the new bank to expand its influence at the expense of America and Japan, Asia’s established powers. China’s decision to fund a new multilateral bank rather than give more to existing ones reflects its exasperation with the glacial pace of global economic governance reform. The same motivation lies behind the New Development Bank established by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Although China is the biggest economy in Asia, the ADB is dominated by Japan; Japan’s voting share is more than twice China’s and the bank’s president has always been Japanese. Reforms to give China a little more say at the International Monetary Fund have been delayed for years, and even if they go through America will still retain far more power. China is, understandably, impatient for change. It is therefore taking matters into its own hands.

The “People’s Daily” suggests that the AIIB is intended to be complementary to top dogs like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Britain, France, Germany and Italy are European countries that want to be founding members of the AIIB, the British move (which came first in Europe, it seems) angered Washington, a so far reluctant Japanese government may still be persuaded to join the Beijing-led project, and Huanqiu Shibao quotes Russian foreign multimedia platform Sputnik as quoting an analyst as saying that America, too, might still join, so as to hamper China’s influence that way.

6. In Defense of the Constitution: Are you mad?

Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou appeared to question the mental faculties of a Fulbright exchange academic who had asked if the KMT couldn’t drop its claims in the South China Sea.

“Are you mad?”, asked the president – reportedly -, then adding that abandoning those claims would be unconstitutional. He’s also said to have reacted somewhat wooden in another exchange with Fulbright scholars, on the same occasion, March 19.

7. Lee Kuan Yew, 1923 – 2015

Ma’s prayers for Lee Kuan Yew‘s early recovery weren’t terribly successful either; Singapore’s elder statesman died from pneumonia after weeks in hospital. Lee had his admirers both in China and Taiwan, especially for very low levels of corruption in Singapore, and apparently, he had a admirer at the American top, too. Probably no great surprise for John McCain or the tea partisans.

According to “People’s Daily”, Lee was a China expert and a West expert. According to other sources, he appeared to be a democracy expert, too (but he denied that claim).

In an apparently rather terse statement, Benjamin Pwee (方月光), secretary general of the Democratic Progressive Party of Singapore (one of several opposition parties, but neither of them influential in Singapore’s flawed democracy) said that

all great leaders are still people, and inevitably, one can find words of praise and of contempt. But at this time of national grief, let’s remember the contributions he made for the people of Singapore, and affirm his contributions.

“所有伟大的领导人毕竟都是人,难免可褒可贬。但在这个举国哀悼之际,让我们记得他为国人做所的贡献,肯定他的贡献。”

Singapore’s authorities closed the “Speakers Corner” at Hong Lim Park on Monday, for an undefined period. Reportedly, truly “free speech” never really ruled there, anyway.

____________

Related

想要更多政治空間和言論自由, CNA, March 23, 2015

____________

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman: “One Country, two Systems” a “Great Success” in Hong Kong

Q: The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued the 36th Six-Monthly Report on Hong Kong on February 26. What is China’s comment?

A: Since the return of Hong Kong, “one country, two systems” has been proved to be a great success, and is recognized by the world. The Central Government of China will continue to implement the “one country, two systems” policy and the Basic Law, resolutely support Hong Kong’s democratic development in accordance with the law, and safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.

I would like to stress again that the Central Government of China resumed its sovereignty over Hong Kong on July 1, 1997. Since then, Hong Kong has been a special administrative region of China. The so-called “responsibility” that the British side claimed to have over Hong Kong simply does not exist. Hong Kong affairs are completely China’s domestic affairs. No foreign country has any right to interfere.

FMPRC (English), Febr. 27

____________

问:26日,英国外交部发表第36份《香港问题半年报告》。中方对此有何评论?

答:香港回归以来,“一国两制”的实践取得巨大成就,举世公认。中国中央政府将继续坚定不移贯彻“一国两制”方针和基本法,坚定不移支持香港依法推进民主发展,坚定不移维护香港长期繁荣稳定。

同时,我要再次强调,1997年7月1日,中国中央政府恢复对香港行使主权,香港成为中国的特别行政区,英方对香港的所谓“责任”是不存在的。香港事务纯属中国内政,任何外国无权干预。

FMPRC (Chinese), Febr. 27

____________

via Radio Taiwan International, Febr. 27, 2015

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nanjing Massacre MemorialDay: an Enorth account of a War Veteran’s Memories

The following is a translation of an article published by Enorth, an official online news portal for Tianjin municipality. Explanatory notes put into [square brackets]. Links within blockquotes inserted during translation. Mistakes during translation likely.

Main Link: National Memorial Day: Tianjin’s only Chinese Expeditionary Force Veteran tells Story of Japanese War

Enorth — He was fifteen at the time of the Nanjing massacre, and witnessed the panic and helplessness of the refugees who had escaped from there, and the bloody images of Japanese soldiers hunting the common people of Nanjing. He gave up the pen for the sword, and as a member of the Whampoa / Huangpu Branch Seventeen, joined the Chinese Expeditionary Force and fought in the battle of Taungoo, the fiercest in the defense war of Myanmar, he’s the only Tianjiner still living and in good health who was part of the Chinese Expeditionary Force – the War of resistance against Japan veteran Yang Cenfeng. On December 13, 2014, the first day of commemoration [of the Nanjing massacre] held in China, 93-year-old Yang Cenfeng told us this dark period in history 77 years ago, which no Chinese people can ever forget.

天津北方网讯:南京大屠杀发生之时,他15岁,目睹了南京城逃出难民的惊恐无助,目睹了日本军人追杀南京百姓的血腥画面。他投笔从戎,以黄埔十七期的身份,加入了中国远征军,参加了缅甸防御战最惨烈的同古战役,他就是天津现今唯一健在的中国远征军军官、抗日老兵杨岑峰。在2014年12月13日,中国首个国家公祭日之时,93岁的杨岑峰向我们讲述了77年前,那段黑暗、但每个中国人绝不能忘却的历史。

Nanjing falls, Blood colors the Yangtze River

南京失守 血染长江

Seventy-seven years ago, Yang Cenfeng was in senior high school and living in a family of seven, in Wuhu, next to the Yangtze River. This was a gateway to Nanjing, with only some ninety kilometers between there and Nanjing. After the Japanese had occupied Nanjing, the burning, killing and looting started, and some lucky Nanjingers fled in panic to Wuhu, which, although peaceful, saw the Japanese soldiers coming nearer with each passing day.

77年前,杨岑峰正在读高三,一家7口住在长江边的芜湖,那里是南京的门户,距离南京仅有90多公里,日本人占领南京后,烧杀抢掠,有些幸存的南京人惊恐地向芜湖逃难,而芜湖也非太平之所,日渐被日本兵逼近。

At the time, everyone had heard about the disaster of Nanjing, and hated and feared the Japanese. And in fear, the people of Wuhu spent the Spring Festival days of 1938.

那个时候,人们都听说了南京城的惨剧,对日本人又恨又怕。而在恐惧中,芜湖迎来了1938年的春节。

“I remember the day of Spring Festival, we were just having a somewhat gloomy family reunion dinner. Just when the meal came onto the table, the air-raid sirens went off, and Japanese airplanes passed through, dropping bombs. At the time, the planes flew at particularly low heights, and I could clearly see the Japanese flag underneath the wings. They bombed unscrupulously, strafing here and there, and whereever they went, they left ruins, and seas of fire”, Yang Cenfeng said.

“我记得春节那天,马马虎虎地吃着团圆饭。刚把饭端上桌的时间,放空警报响了,日本的飞机过来轰炸了。当时飞机飞得特别低,我可以清楚地看见机翼之下的日本国旗。他们素无忌惮地投炸弹、扫射,所到之处一片废墟、一片火海。”杨岑峰说。

When the Japanese army approached Wuhu, many common people of Wuhu also fled into all directions, placing their hopes on the New Fourth Army on the northern side of the Yangtze River.

随着日军逼近芜湖,大批的芜湖百姓也是四散逃窜,在他们的心里,江北的新四军是希望所在。因此,大批的百姓都聚集在长江边,等着轮渡,过江逃命。

Yang Cenfeng’s recollections continue with a description of how people fleeing Wuhu and waiting for the ferry to the northern banks of the Yangtze – the place densely crowded – were bombed by Japanese warplanes, with countless numbers of people dying on the riverside, or dying in the river. How many people actually died, Yang Cenfeng doesn’t know, but he remembers how the water of the river turned red from the blood, from people who had come there to seek survival.

Yang Cenfeng’s family leapt from death back into life, finding survival in a small village in Jiangbei [here, geographically and literally: north of the Yangze River] under the protection of the New Fourth Army. At the time, a political instructor named Huang left an unforgettable impression on Yang Cenfeng.

死里逃生的杨岑峰一家来到了江北新四军保护下的一个小村子避难。当时,一位姓黄的指导员,给杨岑峰留下了难忘的印象。

“He put us into groups of, say, forty to fifty students, he told us that ‘young students should protect and defend China’, put us into a few groups so that we would stand guard, and taught us many songs to boost our morale.

“他把我们青年学生召集在一起,大约四五十人吧,告诉我们‘青年学生应该保家卫国’,把我们分成几组,站岗放哨,还教了我们很多歌,鼓舞我们的士气。”

Instructor Huang’s lessons turned Yang Cenfeng to the idea of giving up the pen for the sword, and after a stay of four or five months in the village, he enrolled at the Huangpu Military Academy’s Southern Anhui [皖南 stands for Anhui-south]. Together with fourteen classmates, all eye witnesses of the Japanese invaders’ atrocities, walked more than 150 kilometers in four days, and reached the administrative office in Tunxi in southern Anhui, and joined the army to join the resistance against Japan.

黄指导的教诲,让杨岑峰萌生了投笔从戎的念头,在小村子呆了四五个月之后,黄埔军校在皖南招生。目睹了日本侵略者暴行的杨岑峰和14个同学步行4天150多公里路,来到了当时皖南行署所在屯溪市,投笔从戎,参加抗日。

“My family wouldn’t let me go, so I secretly took three silver dollars from home and went to Tunxi with my classmates.”

“当时家里人也担心不让去,我就偷偷地拿了家里的3块大洋,和同学们走到了屯溪。”

But an application for [entrance] exams required graduation from senior high school. Lacking qualification, Yang Cenfeng and his classmates, with their own determination and willpower to resist Japan, impressed the school and were finally admitted to the exams. Going through layers of selection with subjects of literature, math, English, politics etc., Yang Cenfeng and ten of the classmates who had traveled with him entered Huangpu Military Academy.

但是,按照报考要求高中毕业,杨岑峰和同学们不够资格,他们就用自己抗日的决心和毅力打动着校方,最后终于感动了校方参加了考试。在经历了文学、数学、英语、政治等五六门功课的层层选拔,杨岑峰和其他同来的10位同学,加入了黄埔军校。

Having become a student of the Huangpu Branch Seventeen, and because of the Japanese closing in, southern Anhui became into imminent danger, and to protect the young seed of resistance against Japan and national salvation, the Branch Seventeen had to be transferred to Chengdu in Sichuan. After a four-months walk, Yang Cenfeng and his classmates arrived in Chengdu, and began their life of learning there.

成为了黄埔17期学员之后,由于日本人的步步紧逼,皖南岌岌可危,为了保住这些抗日救国的种子,黄埔17期学员需要转移到四川成都,杨岑峰和同学们步行4个多月,来到了成都,在那里开始了黄埔军校的学习生活。

The article / its rendition of Yang Cenfeng’s memories describes the year of 1941 as the peak of the Japanese war, with Academy students becoming replaces for soldiers who lost their lives or their fitness to fight. After two years at the academy, Huang joined the 96th Division of the Fifth Army of the Chinese Expeditionary Force as a platoon leader and a second lieutenant (少尉排长).
The Chinese Expeditionary Force is described as a model of China cooperating directly with military allies, and also claims that this had been the first time ever that Chinese troops had left the country to fight in a war (这是中国与盟国直接进行军事合作的典范,也是甲午战争以来中国军队首次出国作战 …). In the three years and three months of Chinese involvement in the China Burma India Theater, China deployed some 400,000 soldiers, 200,000 of who became casualties, the article says, and describes the battles in which Yang Cenfeng took part as the fiercest in the defense of Burma / Myanmar. The battle of Taungoo is described as Yang Cenfeng’s most agonizing and most deeply-felt experience of Japanese troops’ brutality (他一生中最惨痛的经历,也是最深刻感受到日本军队残忍的一幕).

Withdrawal to Savage Mountain, Supporting the Flying Tigers

撤退野人山 支援飞虎队

But because of a Japanese breakthrough at the British flank, the 200th and 96th divisions of the Chinese Expeditionary Force were surrounded, and after defending to the last for eight days and eight nights, Tonggu could still not be held. In the end, after breaking through the encirclement into the endless virgin forests of Savage Mountain, the 96th Division went through Putao in northernmost Myanmar and entered Yunnan province, returning home.

然而,由于英军侧翼被突破,中国远征军200师和96师被包围,在死守了8天8夜之后,同古最终还是没有守住。最终,96师从茫茫的原始森林野人山突围后,从缅甸北端的葡萄进入云南福贡回国。

Looking back at the breakthrough at Savage Mountain, Yang Cenfeng says that rather than a way out, it was another dead end. Behind them, the enemy forces pursuing them, in front of them, the virgin forests as a no man’s land with all kinds of venomous serpents, wild animals, and disease awaiting them.

回忆起野人山突围,杨岑峰说,那与其说是生路,其实也是另一条死路。后面有敌军追,前面原始森林无人区又有各种毒蛇猛兽、瘟疫疾病等着他们。

“You won’t believe it, but there were ants as long as your fingers,” Yang Cenfeng says. “Diseases claimed many lives, and it was even worse for the few women soldiers. They became unable to walk and had to lie on the naked ground to wait for death to come.”

“说起来你们不信,蚂蚁都有手指那么长。”杨岑峰说,“瘟疫疾病夺走了很多人的生命,那些女兵们更惨,走不动了,最后只能在原地等死。”

There are people who have recorded this kind of miserable story: 1,500 wounded and ill soldiers were unable to go with the troops’ withdrawal, but didn’t want to be captured and humiliated. They set themselves on fire and became martyrs …..

曾经有人记录过这样一个极为悲惨的故事:1500名伤病员无法跟随部队徒步撤退,又不愿意被俘受辱,最后点火自焚,壮烈殉国……

In the end, with astonishing willpower, the 96th Division completed its roundabout route in 35 days, through the northern Myanmar Savage Mountain, across more than 300 kilometers, with less than half of them making their way home.

最终96师以惊人的毅力,用了35天,跨越了整个缅北野人山,绕道300多公里,人员损失大半终于撤回了国内。

After returning to Kunming, Yang Cenfeng’s troops were deployed to protect Kunming airport, working with the famous “Flying Tigers”. Finally, after completing the northern Burma counter attack, thus reopening the international traffic line, safeguarding a stream of international support into China and driving the Japanese army out of southwestern China, after clamping down on and inflicting heavy losses on the Japanese troops in northern Myanmar and Yunnan province, creating favorable conditions for the allied forces, to open the battleground for the counter-attack on Japan.

撤回昆明之后,杨岑峰所在的部队被安排守卫昆明机场,配合大名鼎鼎的“飞虎队”作战。最终,完成了缅北反攻,重新打通了国际交通线,保障了国际援华物资源源不断地运入中国,并把日军赶出了中国西南大门,钳制和重创了缅北、滇西日军,为盟军收复全缅甸创造了有利条件,揭开了正面战场对日反攻的序幕。

In remarks at the end of the article, the Enorth reporter describes Yang Cenfeng as looking younger than his age (92 or 93), as saying that the party and the state were showing great concern and care for him, and that he was very satisfied. His hobbies are also mentioned, as shown in the pictures within the article. But he would never forget his painful war experiences, the brothers in arms he lost, and he would always utterly detest the atrocities committed by the Japanese invaders.

He says that his survival was luck. He therefore cherishes the era of peace, and he can’t forgive people who distort history.

他说,自己能侥幸活下来,是幸运的,因此,他也更珍惜和平年代的生活,对于歪曲历史的人绝对不能原谅。

As a veteran of the war of resistance against Japan, he feels encouraged by the establishment of a national day of commemoration and warns coming generations that history must not be forgotten, to be vigilant about the stirring between the dry bones of Japanese militarism, to use history as a guide, to strengthen our motherland, and to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

作为抗日老兵,他很欣慰国家从今年开始设立了公祭日,他告诫后人们,绝对不能忘记历史,警惕日本军国主义死灰复燃,以史为鉴、强大我们的祖国,实现中华民族的伟大复兴。

____________

Related

» Wartime childhood, Sept 7, 2009

____________

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Buying Airtime: Will you take this content in Swahili?

» The BBC has warned that China poses a “direct threat” to its global reach by paying incentives to local broadcast companies to prioritise its state-funded CCTV service over other international networks.

The Independent, Nov 10, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sunday/Monday Links: Taiwan’s foreign Trade, Scotland’s Referendum, Ilham Tohti on trial, and Taiwan’s President losing it

Off into another week (a week actually starts on a Sunday)

Off into another week (a week actually starts on a Sunday)

1. Taiwan

William T. Wilson, a researcher with the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, and a regular advocate of “free trade”, warns that bilateral or multilateral international trade agreements tend to lock Taiwan out, and increase Taiwan’s economic dependence on China. Wilson recommends that America should launch formal discussions of a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Taiwan as soon as possible.

Obviously, Wilson has his eyes firmly set on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a project often described as an impeccable motor of future global economic growth, but also frequently criticised for levering out democratic principles, not least as TPP prescribes a right for foreign companies in member countries to sue national governments under international law (which would make domestic legislation count very little).

2. The usual Suspects

Chinese internet administration has shut nearly 1.8 million user accounts in what is called a pornography crackdown, reports Reuters.

3. Scottish Referendum

Foarp breathes a sigh of relief as the United Kingdom stays united, after days of unease.

The Financial Times had celebrated the referendum as a very civilized struggle (in English on September 12) or as a civilized struggle between unity and independence (in Chinese on September 16). The author was Mure Dickie. That was too much for Beijing – the referendum was, of course, deemed an internal UK matter by official China, but Dickie got a (semi-official – my take of it) reply from Zhi Zhenfeng (支振锋) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Yes, it was surprising that the UK was willing to let eight percent of the population and about a third of the territory go peacefully, and the consultative, democratic and peaceful procedure deserved praise. In 19th-century America, a referendum had been replied to by war, and the Crimea referendum in March had been carried out under very different circumstances. All that made the British tolerance displayed in the referendum a precious thing.

However, that didn’t make the referendum a great example for the rest of the world. It did reflect particular Western values, which had brought Europe huge technological and economic progress (besides religious wars and separatist chaos), but even in Europe, the referendum was a contested approach, and even within the West, not every referendum and its results had been accepted peacefully. All too often, people in the West had been unable to foresee the long-term effects of their purportedly rational choices.

4. Ilham Tohti on Trial

Ilham Tohti, an Uighur economics professor, is reportedly on trial now, according to China Change, who published excerpts of an account written by Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer and a friend of Ilham Tohti. Tohti had been arrested in Beijing in January this year, and his whereabouts had been unknown afterwards.

5. Ma Ying-jeou’s 19th-Plenary-Session speech on September 14

And as this collection of links starts with Taiwan, let’s take a look at what Taiwan Explorer, usually not a terribly “political” blog, has to say about Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president who has moved into the third year of his second term in office this year.

Ma is president on the KMT ticket, and his party, if his comments during the KMT’s 19th Plenary Session are anything to go by, is quite afraid of the oppositional DPP. But electoral behavior in Taiwan looks somewhat mysterious, at least to me as an outsider. Only four months after having voted Ma into office for a second term, the president’s support and satisfaction rates dropped to numbers between 15 to 22 per cent, and it seems they never really recovered since. Indeed, Ma appears to be completely unable to understand his country’s public.

Nanfang Shuo (aka Wang Hsing-ching / 王杏慶), predicted in summer 2011 that word-games were no solution for the problems that lying ahead if Ma would win a second term as president. Ma’s speech a week ago seems to suggest that he won’t abandon the word games during his remaining time in office – but by now, they appear to have become offensive.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fourth “China Tibet Development Forum”: Come Sigh with Us

When this snow-covered highland which underwent so many changes is so frequently misrepresented or misunderstood, be it intentionally or unintentionally, more people should be helped to understand the real Tibet,

发生在这片雪域高原的沧桑巨变,一直承受着有意无意的曲解或误解,需要让更多人了解真实的西藏

People’s Daily suggested on Friday.

Having brought together nearly one-hundred guests from thirty countries and territories, the “2014 China Tibet Development Forum” reached a “Lhasa Consensus” that is rich in content and fruitful in its results. Admiring New Tibet’s economic and social development, the improvements in its people’s livelihood, cultural protection, ecological construction and other great achievements, the foreign guests, walking a bit of the snow-covered highland’s irreversible modern cultural development themselves, were all praise.

汇聚世界30多个国家和地区近百位嘉宾的 “2014·中国西藏发展论坛”,达成了内容丰富、成果丰硕的“拉萨共识”。赞赏新西藏在经济社会发展、民生改善、文化保护、生态建设等方面所取得的巨大 成就,赞叹雪域高原走上一条不可逆转的现代文明发展进步之路,是与会中外嘉宾的共同心声。

Myths about the old slave society and alarmist stories harbored and produced by some people meant that besides accelerating Tibet’s scientific development further, opening Tibet up to let more people know “the real Tibet” was necessary, People’s Daily wrote.

But there was a problem. News articles like People’s Daily’s seemed to suggest that every participant had shared the consensus – an impression that at least one participant rejected. Talking to the BBC through his mobile phone, Sir Bob Parker, a former mayor of Christchurch in New Zealand, said that he hadn’t endorsed the statement. While knowing that such a statement had been made, he hadn’t signed up. “I think a number of people who were there were a little surprised to hear about that statement.”

Another attendee, Lord Davidson of Glen Clova, a member of the House of Lords, was reportedly not available for an interview with the BBC.

According to Xinhua, the conference, the first “Tibet Development Forum” held in Tibet itself, was sponsored by the Information Office of China’s State Council and the regional government of Tibet. It was reportedly held on August 12 and 13.

The previous three forums had been held in Vienna in 2007, in Rome in 2009, and in Athens in 2011, according to Tibet Express, a Dharamsala-based website.

Let the world gasp in admiration, Xinhua suggested three years ago, itself all sighs of emotion.

It’s nice when you don’t need to do all the sighing alone – but apparently, some people still stubbornly refuse to join.

____________

Related

» Appeasing China, May 1, 2014
» Keep Calm, Feb 23, 2014
» Voice of Tibet, Feb 1, 2014
» Science in Action, Dec 26, 2010
» Thanking Sandrup’s lawyers, June 26, 2010
» Zap zap jé, Oct 16, 2009

____________

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 47 other followers