Extended leave

I am off to Kinmen for work this weekend, then down to SE Asia for a couple weeks of adventure (with my family). I doubt I’ll have a lot of time to be online, but will do what I can to put up a post or two, or maybe even a photo. I’ll be back in full force around October 17.

Update: I have enlisted some new help to keep the premises as toll-free as possible while I’m away. As some you know, yesterday saw a record number of attacks, all from Hangzhou.


William Stimson: The Future History of Taiwan

This is a guest post. Its views do not necessarily reflect my own. (That said, it’s a great piece.)
Taiwanese youth in the ‘Do Nothing Grass’ Tea Shop down in Taichung on a day when the red shirts were thronging the streets of Taipei. (Click to enlarge.)

The Future History of Taiwan
by William R. Stimson

Europe and America have their coffee shops. Taiwan, in the Chinese tradition, also has tea houses. Here the solitary poetic spirit repairs to the most old-fashioned of settings to conjure up a Chinese culture and a Chinese mind that is utterly new and has never been before, and yet at the same time is more like what has gone before than anything now existing. The poet — like the artist, the writer and the true scholar — knows culture is not some inviolable tradition, written in stone, but an ever-expanding dance of freedom, aliveness and innovation whose aim is to create the better man, the superior person, the truer life. It thrives on freedom from the tyranny of ideas, dogmas and power. It reinvents the present in a way that reconfigures not just the future, but the past as well. History cannot change; but our way of looking at it does. We come to see the past in a different way. We draw new conclusions.



Japan defiles China’s cultural treasure

With a friqqin’ video game very loosely based on an 18th-century book that I strongly suspect most of the incensed young men have never read, if they’ve even heard of it. No matter; eyeballs bulge, arteries pop and tempers flare as those magic ingredients come together: glorious Chinese culture + evil Japanese defilers.

A JAPANESE adult computer game based extremely loosely on a classic is getting a thorough pasting on Chinese bogs as being literary blasphemy.

According to ZD Net, “Slaves of the Red Mansion” is a fantasy game about girls sold into sexual slavery and has been branded a bawdy version of “Dream of the Red Chamber” penned by Qing dynasty (1644-1911) author Cao Xueqin.

The Chongqing Economic Times said that the main character, a young girl called Lin Daiyu, was closely modelled on the novel’s heroine. Chinese boggers say that turning “Dream of the Red Chamber” into a lewd game besmirches a treasure of Chinese literature, and desecrates Chinese culture.

There are calls for the game maker to halt production and to apologise to the Chinese people.

However, one has to wonder how much of this opposition is real and if it is anti-Japanese blogging engineered by China’s masters. China is always keen to remind Japan of its war crimes against the country. The Communist Youth League, which is sort of like the Young Conservatives of Beijing, have been involved in campaigns to educate youth of Japan’s pre-World War II invasion of China.

Same old same old. It’s just so interesting (read, disturbing) to see how the slightest spark – usually imagined, not real – can set the same old game into motion again. Same script, different players. And about the anti-Japanese bloggers perhaps being “engineered by China’s masters” – I strongly doubt it. Influenced by the masters, definitely, in that the young people are subject to the anti-Japanese rhetoric on a continual basis. But the masters don’t have to engineer reactions like this. They’ve already programmed the machinery. You drop the quarter in (with the latest trivial rumor of Japanese desecration of China), and the dancing chicken starts to strut around as always. These bloggers are full of blind rage, and they embrace any excuse to release it. It feels good, it keeps the nationalistic fires burning, and as long as it’s contained and doesn’t get too much outside attention it’s just fine with the masters. They can just sit back and smile.


Hit of the day

Word about public executions in the PRC must be going around the mainstream media – this post is getting far and away the most traffic. Two days in a row.

Just as an interesting factoid, the two posts that get the most hits year after year are this one and this one. (As for the latter, every year around June 4 it brings in a flood of googlers, or at least it has for the past three years.)


Thomas Friedman: Islam and the Pope

Islam and the Pope
Published: September 29, 2006

We need to stop insulting Islam. It’s enough already.

No, that doesn’t mean the pope should apologize. The pope was actually treating Islam with dignity. He was treating the faith and its community as adults who could be challenged and engaged. That is a sign of respect.

What is insulting is the politically correct, kid-gloves view of how to deal with Muslims that is taking root in the West today. It goes like this: ‘Hushhh! Don’t say anything about Islam! Don’t you understand? If you say anything critical or questioning about Muslims, they’ll burn down your house. Hushhh! Just let them be. Don’t rile them. They are not capable of a civil, rational dialogue about problems in their faith community.’



“The most important issue we face today”

This one’s a jawdropper. We have Americans and innocent civilians dying in the streets of Baghdad; we have a resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan; we are facing an overwhelming healthcare crisis; we are choking on our dependence on oil; our jobless recovery is shattering the hopes and dreams of millions of capable Americans; corruption in Bush’s America is approaching Teapot Dome levels; our president is a jackass who’s leading America straight down the toilet; and this – this – is what some in the GOP see as “the most important issue we face today.” Watch the video. Yes, she really says it.


Beijing Penis Emporium

No, I’m not making it up.

ox penis.jpg
Mmmmm, ox penis.

Via CDT.


Undercover news report on China’s organ-harvesting trade

What a bombshell. You have all got to see the video clip. The Chinese “organ agent” cheerfully admits the organs are coming from executed Chinese prisoners. Go watch it. And discover for yourself why, if you’re looking for a liver, next week will be an ideal time to find one on the mainland. Mooncake and livers will be in abundance.

And don’t miss the bit about the public execution, and how they strip out the organs. Reminded me of this old post (go there at your own risk – it isn’t pretty).


A decent right-wing blogger

This is now the second or third time I write to praise a blogger from across the aisle, Rich Moran of the unfortunately named Right Wing Nut House. Today he rightly condemns an utterly bizarre and inexcusable article in Murdoch’s NY Post that mocks liberal cable TV pundit Keith Olbermann for being victim of an anthrax scare. It is really too vile for words. Moran throws the article’s malevolence right back in the reporter’s face.

In what, in my opinion, is one the most disgraceful and shocking exhibitions of callous disregard for journalistic standards not to mention human decency, the New York Post gossipy Page Six ran a story describing MSNBC host Keith Olbermann’s terrifying experience with a threatening letter that contained a ‘white powder.’

Here’s the piece:

September 27, 2006-MSNBC loudmouth Keith Olbermann flipped out when he opened his home mail yesterday. The acerbic host of ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ was terrified when he opened a suspicious-looking letter with a California postmark and a batch of white powder poured out. A note inside warned Olbermann, who’s a frequent critic of President Bush’s policies, that it was payback for some of his on-air shtick. The caustic commentator panicked and frantically called 911 at about 12:30 a.m., sources told The Post’s Philip Messing. An NYPD HazMat unit rushed to Olbermann’s pad on Central Park South, but preliminary tests indicated the substance was harmless soap powder. However, that wasn’t enough to satisfy Olbermann, who insisted on a checkup. He asked to be taken to St. Luke’s Hospital, where doctors looked him over and sent him home. Whether they gave him a lollipop on the way out isn’t known. Olbermann had no comment.

The fact that the story is not considered ‘straight news’ is absolutely no excuse. The columnist, Paula Froelich, should be fired immediately.

The tone of the piece is not only insulting but attempts to make light of what must have been a horrifying experience for Mr. Olbermann. And, as Dave Neiwert points out, sending the letter is considered an act of terrorism – hardly something to yuck it up about with references to ‘lollipops’ not to mention the attempt to portray Olbermann as something less than courageous.

Moran admits to savaging Olbermann just the day before, but makes it clear that there’s a huige difference between going after a pundit on your blog and mocking them for being the victim of a very scary threat that should be wished upon no one.


On a harmonious society in China

China Daily watch has done it again, blasting a new China Daily article about our favorite topic, building a harmonious society. It’s so good I’m including a juicy excerpt.

“Building a harmonious society’ means different things to different people. To ordinary, poor Chinese, it means ‘stick with us, look how good your lives are going to be.’ To wealthy Chinese, it means ‘don’t rock the boat, and your wealth won’t spill.’ To grass-roots cadres, it means ‘stop screwing around.’ To high-level officials, it means ‘this is the way we our doing things, this is our ambition, and this will be our legacy.”

So vague are the ambitions for the building of social harmony (‘progress’ ‘development’ ‘co-existence’) that on one level it is impossible for the CPC to fail. Inevitably, the economy is going to keep improving, and people’s lives are going to get better. However, there are degrees of progress, and this is where the social harmony movement will be judged to have succeeded or failed.

If the momentum of wealth creation and spread slows, it will fail. If China’s rivers remain polluted, it will fail. If people continue to be wrongfully convicted of crimes at sham courts, it will fail. If people try to have their opinions heard and they continue to be silenced, it will fail.

Why will it fail? It will fail because people will become angry, and when people are angry, harmony cannot result.

My questions to President Hu Jintao is this: If it should come to push versus shove, interests of the People versus interests of the Party, are you man enough to do the right thing?

As to that last question, I think the answer is all too obvious. The CCP tends to do what every organism does, i.e., ensure its own survival. The interests of the party always have and always will over-ride the interests of the people. This is inherent to any one-party system, whether it’s the Qin emperor or Chiang Kai Shek or Mao. I applaud many of the party’s reforms and achievements. But as long as it answers to no one, with no checks, balances or political competition, it will destroy anything that gets in its way, as do all dictatorships. It is a physical, reflexive reaction, like when you shine a flashlight under a rock and all the bugs run out. It’s what the party simply has to do, and posing a question like this to Mr. Hu, while impresive in its rhetoric, is a doomed exercise.

There’s lots more to Charlie’s post, so check it out on his site.

Update: I also enjoyed the same blogger’s earlier post, which I somehow missed, in which he lovingly refers to the CCP as “rotten to the core.”

If you’d begun to think China could sort out its corruption problem, if you’d begun to think there was some separation of politics and administration, if you’d begun to think these leaders cared for the people above the fatness of their wallets and bounds of their power, then think again.

The Communist Party of China is rotten to the core, and I polish their propaganda. In my less selfish moments, it does make me feel uncomfortable. Most of the time I can justify it with the argument that change will first come from within: however, when I see stories like this, I know what wishful thinking that is.