Mao is Dead, Part Two

The headline of Joseph Kahn’s article in today’s NY Times on Chinese textbooks is, “A less ideological Chinese text puts Mao in his place.” Marxism is out, replaced with the New and Improved Communist Party’s “new history,” with emphasis on the global economy.

When high school students in Shanghai crack open their history textbooks this fall, they may be in for a surprise. The new standard world history text drops wars, dynasties and Communist revolutions in favor of colorful tutorials on economics, technology, social customs and globalization.

Discussion of socialism has been reduced to a single, short chapter in the senior high school history course. Chinese communism before economic reform in 1979 is covered in a sentence. The text mentions Mao Zedong only once, in a chapter on etiquette.

Nearly overnight, the country’s most prosperous schools have shelved the Marxist template that had dominated standard history texts since the 1950s. The changes passed high-level scrutiny, the authors say, and are part of a broader effort to promote a more stable, less violent view of Chinese history that serves current economic and political goals….

…Socialism is still referred to as having a “glorious future.” But the concept is reduced to one of 52 chapters in the senior high school text. Revolutionary socialism gets less emphasis than the industrial revolution and the information revolution.

Students now study Mao, still officially revered as the founding father of modern China but no longer regularly promoted as an influence on policy, only in junior high. In the senior high school text, he is mentioned just fleetingly as part of a lesson on the custom of lowering flags to half-staff at state funerals, like Mao’s in 1976.

A little eerie, to see how the Mao cult is perpetuated even as the powers that be quietly work overtime to erase him from China’s history.


Mao is Dead

Via Simon, from the unlinkable SCMP, proof that the Party has had it with the Great Helmsman and such antiquated notions as class struggle.

Leaders should eliminate the ideology of class struggle and not look on the masses as an enemy when dealing with the increasing number of conflicts between officials and citizens, a party school official said…In his article, Mr Wang said cadres dealing with mass gatherings should give up the ideology of “class struggle” – the friction between members or groups from different social classes. The concept was expanded by Mao Zedong , sparked off the Cultural Revolution, and was used as a powerful tool to eliminate those whose political views contradicted the government’s…

Liu Xutao , a political scientist with the National School of Administration in Beijing, said the article was aimed at persuading grass-roots officials in rural areas to abandon the ideological relics of the Cultural Revolution.

“In rural areas, some officials still believe they reign supreme and take on the villagers as class-struggle targets when conflicts break out,” Professor Liu said. “As building a harmonious society is the main theme of President Hu Jintao, it’s necessary to dispel this wrong thinking.”

Maybe it’s time to take down those ubiquitous statues of Mao and his Big Brother portrait that looms massive over Tiananmen Square…? Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that in every way Mao was a colossal fuck-up and his notions of class struggle and every other aspect of his “philosophy” were cheap tricks used to keep everyone’s thinking uniform, with the single end goal being unchallenged and perpetual power. It’s good to see these ideas being laid officially to rest, but why keep up the pretense that Mao was great and worthy of hero worship?


Paul Krugman: The Big Disconnect

Thgis is important. There’s a powerful right-wing meme building about how rosy the US economy is. Unfortunately for most of us, it simply isn’t the case.

The Big Disconnect

Published: September 1, 2006

There are still some pundits out there lecturing people about how great the economy is. But most analysts seem to finally realize that Americans have good reasons to be unhappy with the state of the economy: although G.D.P. growth has been pretty good for the last few years, most workers have seen their wages lag behind inflation and their benefits deteriorate.



Thomas Frank: Rendezvous with Oblivion

Rendezvous With Oblivion
Published: September 1, 2006

Over the last month I have tried to describe conservative power in Washington, but with a small change of emphasis I could just as well have been describing the failure of liberalism: the center-left’s inability to comprehend the current political situation or to draw upon what is most vital in its own history.



Time for some comic relief


It’s been so serious in here lately.


Chinabounder goes mainstream

In my first post about this, I said the Shanghai Sex Blogger would probably end up with a lucrative book deal. He’s now entering, oh, I’d say the 4th or 5th minute of his 15 minutes of fame, and if he’s smart he’ll “leverage” (the most used and most useless word in all of public relations) his new-found faminess. The story’s pickup in the UK Guardian tells us he’s on the right track.

Chinese internet vigilantes have launched a hunt for a self-professed British bounder who has sparked outrage by blogging about his seduction of women in Shanghai. The campaign to uncover the identity of the blogger and have him kicked out of China is the latest in a series of online denunciations that have drawn comparisons with the humiliations inflicted by mobs during the cultural revolution.

Traffic on the Sex and Shanghai blog has surged from 500 hits to more than 17,000, thanks to a swarm of castration threats, anti-British rants and attacks on women who sleep with foreigners. The author, who calls himself Chinabounder, introduces himself as a wastrel, “lacking in moral fibre, but coping with the situation”. According to the posts, he is an English language teacher at a university….

Encouraging “netizens and patriots” to investigate the people and the places mentioned in the blog, he [Dr. Zhang] set a goal of expelling Chinabounder by October 1. More than 1,500 people are now visiting Prof Zhang’s site every hour.

“Trial by virtual lynching has become the norm in China’s cyberspace,” Raymond Zhou wrote in a comment article in China Daily after previous mass campaigns. He added: “Online ‘flaming’ wars exist everywhere, facilitated by anonymity. But in China they may have a self-propelling force that sweeps thousands, sometimes millions, into a frenzy. It is nearly impossible, even for the most respected scholars, to give voice to dissension.”

Chinabounder condemned the campaign against him, saying many expats and “a goodly number of local men” were no different to him.

Chinabounder’s last point is well taken, but he’s ignoring the obvious: most of his slut-brothers don’t broadcast the details of their conquest to the whole world. One key learning is that if expats can’t keep their dicks in their pants, they’d be better off not boasting about it on the Internet. Unless, of course, they’re looking for a book contract.

For me, the most interesting lesson out of this is just how volatile and malleable the Chinese masses of today can be, reminiscent, as the reporter says, of the Cultural Revolution. Of course, we saw this with the anti-Japanese riots last year, but that’s an issue that’s been smoldering for years. Here, at the touch of a key, you have a lynch mob that could well move from the virtual realm into the physical. And it all goes back to the same sources – a controlled media, an education system that doesn’t reward independent thinking, and a xenophobia that combines images of China as both the world’s greatest culture and the world’s greatest victim. Toss all the ingredients together, add a few drops of racism into the mix, stir rapidly and, voila, you’ve got yourself an old-fashioned populist lynching.

Update: Good post on this subject, with a great picture.


China’s plastic surgery market thrives

Pushed on by their parents and under pressue to do whatever it takes to get a job, more and more Chinese students are going under the knife to have their faces scultped, eyes made bigger (with the coveted “extra eyelid”) and lips more plump. With the job market so brutal, first impressions have never mattered more in China, and there’s a “whatever it takes” attitude that is creating a boon for the country’s plastic surgeons.

Like a growing number of students in China, Pan Ou will spend her university vacation going under the knife in a plastic surgery procedure she hopes will boost her chances of getting a good job after graduation.

“I want to be more beautiful, to perfect myself,” Pan, a student at one of China’s most prestigious law schools, told Reuters in the waiting room of EverCare Xingfu hospital.

“My face is too big and flat, like all Asians. I would also like to make my nose higher,” said the attractive 23-year-old.

The EverCare in Beijing is one of thousands of plastic surgery clinics mushrooming across China with promises to make patients more beautiful, more successful and more marriageable.

With media reports of this year’s graduates taking jobs as cleaners and domestic helpers for rich families, it’s no wonder students and their parents are seeking an edge in looks, said Yang Chun, a 32-year-old TV anchor.

“Many parents fully support their kids getting these procedures, particularly high school kids going to university,” she said. “They’ll say ‘It’s a new environment, no one will know you. Why not enter it with confidence and a fresh, new outlook,” she said, speaking after receiving a collagen injection for her lips.

Interesting, how the reporter refers to the Pan Ou matter-of-factly as “attractive,” while she sees herself as something far different. To what extent is beauty really in the eye of the beholder?

I won’t make any judgments as to whether the frenzied rush for a new face is a good thing or a bad thing. All I know is that it’s a sad story on several levels, fueled by desperation and the sad fact that looks are everything.


All we have to fear is fear itself

And it looks like fear will be the only message coming from the collective mouths of the Republican Party.

President Bush and his surrogates are launching a new campaign intended to rebuild support for the war in Iraq by accusing the opposition of aiming to appease terrorists and cut off funding for troops on the battlefield, charges that many Democrats say distort their stated positions.

With an appearance before the American Legion in Salt Lake City today, Bush will begin a series of speeches over 20 days centered on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But he and his top lieutenants have foreshadowed in recent days the thrust of the effort to put Democrats on the defensive with rhetoric that has further inflamed an already emotional debate.

It worked the last time. Remember the TV ad with the wolves ready to descend and kill us all if we elected John Kerry? The only question now is whether Americans can possibly be so stupid as to let it work again. It was a year ago today in New Orleans that we all saw with our own eyes just how splendidly this administration can protect its citizens from harm. They did a heckuva job, demonstrating all they’d learned from 911 when it comes to managing a crisis. It’s good to know we’re in safe hands, unsullied by patronage and cronyism.

As we all know by now, fear is the only weapon they have left, and unfortunately Karl Rove knows well how to apply it. Although a majority of Americans are now against the war in Iraq, prepare to hear the Democrats who agree denounced as quitters, Neville Chamberlains, cut and runners, cowards, and friends to terrorists. Once again, the Republicans have thought out their talking points with meticulous calculation, and as the election fast approaches you’ll see the Wurlitzer pumping these messages out tirelessly, with Drudge, Limbaugh and Michelle controlling the levers.

What about the Democrats? What are their messages and talking points? As the cliche goes, the only thing that can keep the Republicans in power is the Democrats. If I don’t see signs that they (Dems) can coordinate their messages and thwart the kind of brainwashing we saw Rove perform in 2004, then I will not be at all surprised if the upcoming election is a major disappointment. The voters want to know what the candidates stand for. What the Republicans are saying they stand for is complete and utter crap, but at least they give the voters an image, a picture, a theme. With the Dems, even now, all we see is disorganization and in-fighting. Can’t we all get along and create a unified front, at least for a couple of months, so we can boot the GOP out of Congress? That’s all that matters. After the election, resume your feuding. But for now, we need to stand together to fight off the tidal wave of Republican propaganda heading straight in our direction.They know exactly where your weak spots are and they will expoit them with zero mercy. Time for us to do the same to them, and God knows today’s GOP has weak spots aplenty.


Shocking: translation from Dr. Zhang Jiehai’s blog

Our Shanghai sex blogger scandal is bringing out the worst in this Chinese academic, and from what I hear it’s being echoed by his readers in his blog comments. Sonagi has done a great service with her translation, which is sure to get your blood pressure rising. With this post by Zhang, the whole episode ascends to a new level of bizareness, and everyone involved is looking ugly. There are no heroes in this story, no one to admire or learn from. My guess is the whole mess will end up a major source of embarrassment for China on an international scale.

See this post for lots of links and comments about this odd story.

UPDATE: Yet more original translations from the good doctor’s blog. Is this guy angry or what?


Maureen Dowd: Begat, Bothered and Bewildered

Begat, Bothered, Bewildered
Published: August 30, 2006

Doing his stations of the Katrina cross, President Bush went for breakfast with Mayor Ray Nagin at Betsy’s Pancake House.

As Mr. Bush tried to squeeze past some tightly placed tables, a waitress, Joyce Labruzzo, teased him, saying, ‘Mr. President, are you going to turn your back on me?’’

‘No ma’am,’ he replied, with a laugh and a pause for effect. ‘Not again.’