Did you know….

…that half of China’s population cannot speak Mandarin? I knew it was a large number, but fifty percent?!

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An essay on Taiwan and China

I’ve been corresponding a bit with a writer in Taiwan, William Stimson, who has a very interesting site – not a blog, but more a collection of writings that’s well worth a look.

He also sent me an essay on one of our favorite topics, the smoldering Taiwan-China conflict [PDF file], written by a friend of his, Jerome Keating. So here it is; it, too, is worth a read. If you’re of the school that Taiwan rightfully belongs to China, your blood pressure may increase several notches by the time you’ve finished the piece.

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The Chinese Peasant Survey trial

Thanks to a commenter for pointing me to a great articlce by Philip Pan on the libel trial against the authors of Zhongguo Nongmin Diaocha. It reads like a courtroom drama, though it’s about much more than this case — it’s about the changing face of justice in China and a peasantry that’s mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore.

While it is a great sign that this trial is happening at all, any joy you might feel will be greatly tempered by the descriptions of the peasant’s misery at the hands of corrupt officials.

Please read this article. You will not be disappointed.

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Death toll rises to 52,000

What can one say about the tsunami that swallowed so many lives in Asia the morning after Christmas? The death toll seems to double every few hours. It’s as incomprehensible as September 11, with 20 times more bodies.

I spent my 2001 Chinese New Year holiday in Phuket and had one of the happiest weeks of my stay in Asia, snorkeling at Phi Phi Island and taking boat rides and lounging on the gorgeous beach. I look at the pictures now and can’t fathom it. Cars and boats piled on top of one another a mile away from the beach. Perhaps 1,000 tourists drowned.

This morning CNN showed video footage shot by an Australian tourist from his hotel rooftop at the exact moment the wave came. I’ve never seen anything like it, the water just pouring into the streets and carrying away anything and everything in its path.

We think we’re so safe, and we’re just ants, waiting to be squished. Just like 911, it puts things in perspective, and the tragedy makes us look at our own lives and conclude that maybe they’re not so bad after all….

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Promotion

Well, it’s official — my company today promoted me from Senior Copywriter to Manager of Public Relations, a big step up the ladder and the job I’ve been hoping for since I got here.

It’s an incredible opportunity and it will certainly change my life dramatically. I’ve never been a manager with a big, publicly traded company before. While it’s a little daunting, I feel up to it; I can do PR in my sleep (one of the few things in life I’m completely confident about). And I have a real vision for putting this company on the map.

Hopefully this will be the psychological boost that gets me blogging again, as opposed to the pseudo-blogging I’ve been doing the past few weeks. In my stupor, site traffic has dropped literally 50 percent in the past month. Hopefully now I’ll bounce back.

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Gentle Amish folk who perform rape and incest

This is, quite simply, one of the most shocking stories I have ever read. Many of us have criticized the all-too-common practice in the Middle East of rape and incest, but to read about it happening here by the people we’ve been led to believe are so gentle and lovable…. You simply won’t believe it. The worst part is how our prosecutors and judges give the criminals a wink and a nod, while the victims’ lives are ruined.

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McDonalds’ China Web site hacked

Because McDonalds dares to list Taiwan as a separate country, a Chinese hacker got into the fast-food titan’s computer system and altered its homepage.

The Chinese-language Web site of fast food giant McDonald’s Corp. was broken into twice on Christmas by a hacker protesting against its listing of Taiwan as a separate country, the Beijing Youth Daily said Monday…

McDonald’s English-language home page features a sign saying “I’m going to McDonald’s” pointing at a drop-down menu listing China and Taiwan as separate “country/market” identities…

On Christmas night, the McDonald’s Chinese home page was turned into a black-and-white picture of a skull bearing the words “protest McDonald’s official Web site listing Taiwan as a country,” the newspaper said.

On top of the skull were the English words “Chinese hacker.”

Kind of goofy, don’t you think? I mean, most multinational sites list Taiwan as a separate country. This hacker is going to find himself very busy if he tries to protest them all.

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John Pomfret (yes, again) on China, the great economic juggernaut

Pomfret spoke on National Public Radio today about China’s economy and whether it poses a threat to the US. Nope, they are not a threat, he concludes, but a partner whose boom is good for the US in most ways. Listen to the whole thing.

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Kim Jong Il on the way out?

It sure sounds like a distinct possibility.

European policymakers have been advised to prepare for “sudden change” in North Korea amid growing speculation among diplomats and observers that Kim Jong-il is losing his grip on power.

An EU delegation to Pyongyang recommended a review of the union’s policy towards the peninsula, including proposals for closer engagement with North Korea and contingency plans for a possible collapse of the reclusive state, the Guardian has learned….

In the past month, however, the North Korean rumour mill has been working overtime. While no one is ever quite sure what is going on in one of the world’s most closed countries, diplomats, intelligence agents, academics and defectors across the political spectrum and from several different countries are reporting signs of potentially destabilising change.

North Korea without Kim? Inconceivable.

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Founder of USA Today urges end to Iraq War

Wow.

In a column noting the high number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq who will be far from home on Christmas, USA Today founder Al Neuharth declared today that if he were eligible to serve in Iraq, “I would do all I could to avoid it.” He also wrote in his weekly column for the paper that America’s New Year’s resolution should be to bring the troops home “sooner rather than later.”

Neuharth, 80, a World War II vet, said he would happily volunteer for that kind of “highly moral duty again.” But he would avoid serving in Iraq, likening it to the Vietnam war, which “many of the polticially connected” managed to escape.

He concluded that “support our troops” is a wonderful slogan but “the best way to support our troops thrust by unwise commanders- in-chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year’s resolution.”

Neuharth served in the infantry in World War II in France, Germany and the Philippines. He noted that he and his colleagues in that war were “properly armed and equipped.”

Three more marines were just killed in Fallujah. Patience is really wearing thin.

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