Posts tagged ‘ugliness’

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nobel Lecture in Literature: Mo Yan

Script in English »
Script in Chinese »

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blogging Break: Plus ca change, plus c’est Deng (or Franco)

If KT takes a break from blogging, why shouldn’t JR? I’m thinking of a duration of ten days or so – but if Jiang Zemin leaves this world, or Deng Xiaoping rises from the dead, or whatever kind of colossal thing occurs, JR will be here to make sense of it for you.

foggy day

foggy day

A look back on the CCP’s 18th national congress: Felix Lee, a correspondent for Germany’s green-leaning daily taz, runs a China blog at a German weekly, Die Zeit. He’s usually very positive about, as we like to say, “China” – certainly from my perspective, but such optimism might sometimes give way to Welsh rats. His latest blogpost refers to Zhang Dejiang and Liu Yunshan as the new pigheads in the politbureau (Die neuen Betonköpfe im Politbüro).

And expectations towards reformers like Wang Yang had been too high. After all, even Wen Jiabao never had his way with more inner-party democracy, during his ten-year tenure.

Well, in fact, Wen Jiabao had his way with very few things (and I’m not sure that I can remember any, now).

I don’t know where many China watchers took their optimism from. The party had documented its schedule very clearly, in fall 2011. Now, I’m not saying that I could have predicted the composition of the 18th politbureau – but whoever would have entered the standing committee, would have had to stick to the line. If Wang Yang had entered the standing committee, it would have meant that he isn’t that reformist after all, or that he’s prepared to become less so.

But of course, Felix Lee doesn’t consider China’s future hopeless. After all, society is changing bigtime, he writes. Three controversial industrial projects had been thwarted by citizens this year, he writes.

Then again, you can discuss industrial plants with anyone, anyway – even with Zhang Dejiang. To object to them is no principal contradiction (主要矛盾).

The party published their line, Hu Jintao re-iterated it a few weeks later, but most correspondents seemed to take that lightly, or as some funny little theater. As if the document had been written (and agreed to by outgoing and incoming dictators) for fun, or out of boredom.

Hint (and, granted, no imperative logical connection): a year earlier, in September 2010, Wen Jiabao had made his last serious foray on those pig-headed fortifications: he talked to journalists from Hong Kong and Macau, about the need for political reforms. That was in New York, apparently. People’s Daily disagreed. Wen insisted. Half a year, there was the cultural decision.

Same with other concepts, such as social management. There weren’t a few Zhou Yongkang‘s sitting around a table and picking that stuff out of their nose.

Either, too many correspondents in China have no sense for political trends, or they don’t report their real assessment, because they wouldn’t sell. Or maybe something else I can’t imagine right now.

Either way: “staff issues” within the CCP are, in my view, hopelessly overemphasized in our press. Yes, it’s a dictatorship. Yes, it’s a totalitarian system. But it’s a collective oligarchy leadership – pragmatic, maybe, but not unideological.

What interested me during the run-up to the 18th national congress was how the system tried to shape their citizens’ perception of their (local) realities. Some of the derivatives from the State Information Office’s publicity work prescriptions were – just my impression – written somewhat tongue-in-cheek by cheesed-off journalists who had to work with those guidelines. But that, too, shapes reality. It shows the small man who he is, and who they are. Dictators aren’t out with baseball bats to hit you every day. Quite obviously, harmony is cheaper.

bright day

bright day

That’s the year that was, I suppose, in terms of China and politics. The American fiscal cliff is moving to the fore, and so is the Euro crisis. Talking about baseball bats, democratic governments seem to know how to use them, too. Henryk M. Broder, not a great friend of demonstrators, I believe, but no great friend of the European project either, contrasted two European “events” on Thursday: Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for justice, basic rights and citizenship, celebrated “a historic day” for womens’ rights in listed companies: by 2020, 40 percent of board seats would have to be for women. Patrician daughters will be delighted to hear that, of course. But some of Ms Reding’s smaller sisters were protesting in Madrid, about very different worries.

Clubbing is so much fun, isn’t it? Maybe Deng is already back from the dead. And if you see Francisco Franco dining and sniffing snow in some hip Madrid institution, don’t be too surprised. Chances are that he’s always been with us.

Friday, July 27, 2012

London Olympics: the, umm, correct flag …

If there is something remarkable about the Taiwanese / Republic of China flag in Regent Street, and the way it was removed, it’s that all kinds of stakeholders were discussing it – except those who, allegedly, reportedly, took offense, i. e. the Chinese embassy in London. According to AFP, the Chinese embassy did not respond to repeated requests to comment.

It’s probably a wise move that the Taiwanese president – if at all – wants the issue to be raised with China, rather than with Britain. Let the Chinese antagonize at least some in the European public, and don’t antagonize the European public against Taiwan – by calling us out on our servile efforts to please Beijing, for example. That would make us very angry, wouldn’t it?

But as Europeans, and among ourselves, we should look at the incident, feel ashamed, and try to improve.

What strikes me about as much our embarrassment to see a free country’s flag in a highstreet is an apparent online trend to react to symbolic incidents, rather than to real trends. I mean, this blog had only seen modest traffic since early summer. It’s the same every year; once summer has arrived on the northern half of the globe, clicks go down.

But once I had posted about the flag removal on Regent Street on Tuesday, traffic skyrocketed.

Not entirely surprisingly though – after all, there wasn’t much coverage during the first one or two days, except by the BBC‘s Mandarin service. But the way the internet public gets excited – or bored – also suggests that the global village isn’t really interested in politics, not even where it ostensibly talks politics most of the time.

Among a European public, the story doesn’t sell. Stories like these tell us more about our moral weaknesses than we want to hear.

A guy called Mitt Romney” who apparently managed to hurt the feelings of some, many, or no Londoners seemed to matter much more.

The BBC‘s English website does mention the Chinese “intervention”, however, even if only as a footnote here:

London 2012 organisers said the business association behind the display decided to put up the “correct flag… the one used for Olympic Games”.

But they could have decided to keep the actual flag up there, too.

Or couldn’t they? Maybe the answer to the question follows one paragraph further down:

A global investment conference in London kicked off a series of business summits intended to showcase the UK …

That’s where the symbolism ends, and real life begins. If you believe that the Olympic Games are about sports, think again.



» The Sporting Spirit,, accessed July 27, 2012


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ROC Flag removed from Regent Street

Originally among the world’s national flags hanging above Regent Street, the Republic of China’s flag (i. e. Taiwan’s flag) has been removed, the BBC’s Mandarin website reports. The BBC’s Chinese department contacted the Regent Street Association to ask for the reason, but were asked to contact the London Olympic organizers instead.

The BBC Mandarin website was then told by a press officer at the  London organizing committee that this issue was outside the London Olympics’ jurisdiction.

Taiwan takes part in a number of international events, including the Olympic Games, under the name of “Chinese Taipei” (中华台北 or chunghua taipei), a carefully crafted label to appease Beijing.

The London Olympic Games are scheduled to begin on Friday.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Xi Jinping’s History Lesson: “The Irrefutable Truth”

The extraordinary development of Tibet over the past 60 years points to an irrefutable truth: without the CPC, there would have been no new China, and no new Tibet.

Xi Jinping (习近平), speaking in Lhasa on July 19

The CCP kept lavishing praise onto its rule over Tibet during the past week. After an “inspection tour” by vice chairman Xi Jinping, with a speech delivered in front of the Potala Palace on Tuesday, People’s Daily reports today that Xi’s speech “has won  netizens’ strong support”. All major websites had carried live coverage of the 60th anniversary of Tibet’s “peaceful liberation” ceremony as headline positions, clicks to the coverage (aparently livestream) had exceeded two million, more than 5,000 comments were left, they highly appreciated the historical significance of the “peaceful liberation” (高度评价西藏和平解放的历史意义) praised the great success Tibet had achieved under the correct leadership of the CCP, success which had caught the eyes of the world (盛赞西藏在党的正确领导下取得举世瞩目的伟大成就), and, from the bottom of their hearts, wished Tibet an even better future, with even greater progress (深情祝福西藏明天更美好,期待西藏迎来跨越性发展和更大的进步).



» Xi Jinping’s speech in full, CNTV (English), July 19, 2011
» The CCP Sighs with Emotion, July 17, 2011
» “Legal Education”, Arrests and Sentences, July 14, 2011
» Too Many Lies, March 7, 2010
» “Serf Emancipation Day”, March 28, 2009
» Deng Xiaoping and a FEW Words about History, December 18, 2008


Updates / Related

» The Stories of Chengde, High Peaks, July 19, 2011


Friday, May 6, 2011

Global Times: This is Unfair!

[Bin Laden] “defied the most unconquerable country and military with his thin and weak body, continuously embarrassed and defeated them, played a drama that was the most magnificent and respectable in human history.”

The – unverified – Chinese version, from


If Hou Ning (侯宁) really wrote that, he should stand by it, or offer a new version, after spending some thought on it. One could say, for example, that bin-Laden stood out among the lot of “holy warriors”, after all – there was only one 9-11 (and not every mujaheddin inherited millions of dollars at an early age).  As I wrote on Wednesday, bin-Laden’s fan club went somewhat beyond the Islamist quarter, as his fan club seemed to include some rather secular do-gooders, too.

Do-gooders like Hou, who is no affiliate of a political party, but a patriot (爱国人士). The words he is quoted with can’t be found on his blog, and maybe only the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) or Hou himself could shed more light into the issue. Either way, the Global Times (GT) suggests that Hou had in fact  used some unfortunate words. They had, however, been meant as a perhaps mistimed joke, writes the columnist, and:

It’s unfair to associate a whole country with sympathy for terrorism because of a few sporadic online posts.

I don’t doubt that Hou is indeed against terrorism, as the GT quotes him. He only admired bin-Laden – that doesn’t mean that he would have wanted to watch the man’s magnificient workings from one of the WTC twin towers on 9-11, not at all. And of course, the WSJ reporter who had contacted him concerning his bin-Laden obituary was not very good Putonghua. Just another one of those bad guys who don’t understand China.

But the Global Times understands the world:

With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq not yet over, and a new war in Libya, many Muslims still see the US as an essentially hostile force. Commentators generally agreed that the death of Bin Laden won’t mean the easy demise of terrorist movements.

Chinese people treasure a peaceful and secure environment, and they are alert against factors that may jeopardize this.

The US should mull on the fundamental reasons behind radical Islamist terror movements.

If the war in Afghanistan is the issue here, let’s expand the discussion to Xinjiang, just to make sure that it all becomes even more nebulous.

But 说真话的中国才是有希望的中国 (only a China that speaks the truth is a China of hope) it is not.


» The Reporter in the Rye, March 25, 2011
» Wu Sike corrects biased Views, Aug 17, 2009

Monday, February 28, 2011

Science and Education: Scheiß auf Guttenberg

An attack on our Hero's False Feathers is an Attack on the People!

An attack on our Hero's False Feathers is an Attack on the People!

German defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was caught plagiarizing material for his doctoral thesis. Germany’s main tabloid, the Bild-Zeitung, defends  the minister – in the words of its chief columnist, Franz-Josef Wagner, earlier this month:

I have no idea about a doctoral thesis. I failed in my school-leaving exams and I have never seen a university from inside. From outside, I can only say: don’t destroy a good man. Fuck that doctoral title (Scheiß auf den Doktor).

“From outside” was, of course, the biggest joke within those paragraphs. The Bild-Zeitung is inside German politics, and it doesn’t do German politics much good.

The German public loved the defense minister, and still does. That had become clear to me right on the first early morning of the scandal, when the sales lady at the bakery where I stop by regularly told me that it was “just a big fuss”. (I hadn’t commented, just studied the Bild-Zeitung’s headline, while waiting for my coffee.) When, a few early mornings later, she made pejorative remarks about Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, I had my revenge: “What’s the difference between Guttenberg and Berlusconi?”, I asked. She gasped, and looked at me as if I had just dropped my pants in front of her eyes.

“The difference is obvious”, she protested. “Can’t see that,” I replied. “They are both slick, and they both cheat.”

It was a cheap revenge, I know. But sweet revenge, too, on a shameless contempt for education, and on the efforts education requires. I left the bakery lost in thought, with a coffee to go, and with a big smile on my face.

What Ulrich Schmid of the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) wrote yesterday   looks reasonable to me. The love of the German public for the defense minister

has hardly anything to do with his political performance. Sure, Guttenberg has his merits. The reform of the Bundeswehr (German military forces) earned him accolades even from political opponents, he tackles tasks, and his analyses are in high demand. But he has little else to his name. Westerwelle achieved nothing less than Guttenberg. But Westerwelle is Guttenberg’s antipode: someone who, whatever he does, will always get bad report cards. It’s the same mentality manifesting here: the overzealous classification into good and evil, and a lack of composure. One is loved as irrationally, as the other is hated.

Just as with Thilo Sarrazin during that affair, the public sticks with Guttenberg as it suspects that the “elites” want to get rid of their champion. But the free ride for Guttenberg, the way he can renounce any moral, is extreme, believes Schmid, even if Guttenberg himself is still a democratic politician.

I wouldn’t go as far as Schmid, who believes that the Guttenberg case shows how politically seducible the German people still are. I’m also suspecting that he is more angry at people for hating Guido Westerwelle, than for loving Guttenberg.

But the way public judgment is currently giving way to public resentment does hurt democracy.

I don’t really care if Guttenberg resigns as defense minister, or if he stays. It’s for the people to draw their conclusions. That’s what the ballot paper was made for. If corrupted government is what they want, so be it. That’s democracy, too. But as far as I’m concerned,

Scheiß auf Guttenberg. I wouldn’t vote for his party (or his party’s sister party) anyway.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blog Review: Jasmine Revolution brews in South Korea

Rainy Weekend, why so Angry?

Rainy Weekend, why so Angry?

Dalai Lama says, there are feelings we should voice, because speaking out makes us feel better, and there are other feelings we should not voice, because it won’t make us feel better at all, and only lead to feelings spiralling down further.

Which is probably true. But then, where would such a policy leave us bloggers?

MKL’s East Asian network has identified a rising Jasmine revolutionary tide  in South Korea which is set to kick all those English teachers out. Well, not all the English teachers, and not all the English teachers, but all those English teachers. English teachers who are native speakers of English, that is. Not the old ladies who teach in South Korean grammar schools. Maybe not even every native speaker.

If you are familiar with the sometimes ambivalent image of English teachers in China, you’ll know what I mean.

Anyway – some foreigners in South Korea with particularly high moral standards felt offended by the fact that you can find passed-out, i. e. comatose people in the streets who had a few glasses or bottles of alcoholic beverages too many. The foreigners felt so offended that they took pictures of the wine corpses and put them on the internet. They say that they believe that they can educate their host country that way.

By the Dalai Lama standards, they probably should have remained silent about their feelings.

The same seems to be true for the feelings of a South Korean blogger, who has the nerves to compare the pictures taken by the foreign moralists with those taken by American troops in Abu Ghraib.

Both blogs – blackoutkorea and englishteachersout –  are crappy – the content is crappy, and so is the design.

When it comes to MKL’s blog, only the design is crappy. I’d read there much more often if I was allowed to right-click links, to scroll by direction keys, and read the sourcecode. Reading his blog is a bit like walking around a big tank, or to climb it, to read all the messages pasted on it, which is unnecessarily inconvenient on a medium like the internet.

Happy weekend:


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