Rumors and Racism


I seriously hope this is just a hysterical rumor run amok…but then again I have seen people of color refused service at Beijing bars before while Chinese and caucasians continued to be served, so I guess anything is possible.  That said, I agree with The Shanghaiist: even by Beijing Olympic standards, any official who actually went around telling people this stuff would have to be mind-boggling, gobsmackingly stupid.

UPDATE: As suspected, this has the strong whiff of a rumor that went out of control.  Beijing nightlife guru Jim Boyce was on the case immediately and came up empty.  Closer to home, crusading journalist YJ was also calling around, talking to several owners including Huxley, and similarly came away empty.

I’m guessing that this is a “somebody said something to somebody else” game of telephone that ran amok.

It is an open secret that various levels of discrimination do exist at Beijing’s nightspots, we’re just glad that it hasn’t become official policy.


Bound feet

So, so sad.


Qingdao algae cleared – remaining Olympic doubts


The BBC reports that the algae that was causing considerable worry in regards to the Olympic sailing events.

The Chinese government has successfully cleared tonnes of algae that was blocking the Olympic sailing course in the eastern city of Qingdao. A special protection zone was set up using a boom and netting. But in other areas the thick bright green algae is still polluting the beaches.

My fear was that all the algae couldn’t be cleared – which may well still be the case when the sailing event starts next month. But because the sailing area has been successfully cordoned off that won’t be a problem for the athletes and their supporters. So may the best sailors win – if they can deal with the potential for light winds and (so I have been told) fog.

But I still have doubts about the Olympics. Not so much over the events at Qingdao or even the Beijing Olympics as a whole. There are concerns over many matters regarding 2008, such as air pollution and the increasing suppression of human rights in China – as opposed to the promise that they would improve (who actually believed the CCP would willingly co-operate on this?) – in order to promote the public image of a “harmonious society” to the world. No, it’s the IOC.

Whenever there’s a problem with the Olympics in terms of delivery of the Games, it is the host nation that gets the blame. Sure that is usually justified because they have years and years to plan and build facilities. But the IOC’s role in choosing the hosts in the first place is rarely focused on. Why is it that Beijing was selected given its pollution problem even back when selection took place? This was only going to get worse given China’s growing economy even under the most optimistic projections. Similarly selecting Los Angeles in 1984 was questionable. Back to China, an argument advanced was that awarding the Games would encourage China to improve its human rights. Why? The CCP has repeatedly demonstrated that it sees power in China as a right, not a privilege. Indeed it believes it is the organisation making the “sacrifice” because without it the country would fall apart because no one else can rule. Well, sure, if you suppress a free media and other political organisations that would make it difficult to find alternatives to govern a nation.

Really I do not think that there should be any more competitions to award the Games. The idea of it being rotated around the world is essentially a way for the IOC to exploit international competition in getting cities (and essentially nations) to promise to offer more than their rivals. In London the IOC demanded a fleet of limousines and dedicated car lanes, as it wasn’t enough to have special buses and coaches laid on (only the little people use buses, they would say). As a result IOC members get an endless supply of freebies and are treated like royalty wherever they go. There is probably still a certain about of bribery going on as well.

This could all be stopped by having the Olympics happen at fixed locations. If the Olympics used to be held at Olympia, why not have a complex built and maintained there or somewhere else suitable in Greece? Or indeed re-use facilities at the location of a previous Olympics – maybe rotate between a few cities at most. It would save an absolute fortune. But the problem is the IOC only cares about the amount of money that it can generate from the Olympics and little else.

We already have the site of the 2012 Olympics agreed upon, and it is highly likely that 2016 and 2020 will be finalised through open competitions. Will we ever live to see the Olympics become an event focused on sport and mutual respect rather than money-spinning and petty nationalism? Maybe not, but one can only hope.


The Weeks Ahead

They say you can tell a blog is about to die when its owner keeps putting up posts about the blog itself – why they can’t post, how busy they are, etc. I’ve put up a lot of those this year, and here (obviously) is yet another.

I don’t think the blog is going to die, at least not anytime soon. But the home stretch has arrived, and from now through September I will have to all but ignore this hobby of mine. This weekend will probably be the last one I have to myself. Maybe one final blog-burst, and then several weeks of retirement.

If I come out of this summer’s fun in one piece, I should have a lot to blog about once it’s over. (I’m already collecting stories, and I actually think I might have enough material for a book.) Which is my long-winded, pretentious way of saying, please be patient, forgive the lack of posts, and trust me, I know how feeble some of my recent offerings have been. It’ll all turn around in September. (I’m trying to convince myself.)


New Youth Study Group

In an earlier post I referenced an article from 2004 that I found one of the most disturbing ever, but unfortunately it had vanished from the Internet. Some of you asked how you could find the article, and I’m happy to say the link is now restored, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough. We sometimes need reminders of what’s going on outside our line of vision.

(The original article showed the faces of the dangerous criminals. They are gone now, but you can see their photos over here.)

The author of that article, Philip Pan, has also recently put out a new book, Out of Mao’s Shadow, reviewed in today’s NY Times. I already have a copy and plan on doing my own review sometime soon, though that may have to wait until September. Meanwhile, read the old article and the new book review.


Chinabounder’s Book

The “Shanghai Sex Blogger” is back in the news thanks to a press release pimpingtouting his new book. (No, it’s not about his sexploits in Shanghai; it’s about why China “will never be great.”) In that same link, Danwei puts the pieces together and reveals the blogger’s probable identity. If, at this point, anyone still cares.


China’s shame – backing Mugabe


Despite my hope that China might just do something principled for a change on the international stage, it vetoed sanctions against Zimbabwe. If China has a policy of “non-intervention”, it should never use its vote on the United Nations Security Council. If it uses its vote, it is intervening. If that’s the best excuse they can come up with, I honestly wonder whether the Chinese leadership live in the real world or live in delusion, believing their own propaganda.

China’s foreign policy is heavily slanted to improving trade with other countries. This is all very well, but it only lasts while the economy is good. In lean times politicians often default to protectionism, as we see from the Democrats in the US, when foreign trading states become the enemy and not an ally, unless there are deeper ties. Yet China seems to think that money is all that matters. This is short-sighted. Whilst China is a useful trading partner and a help with international affairs, it will be surrounded by eager nations. But when the chips are down, when China needs help from others on a key matter, will all those “friends” make sacrifices to help it out? I doubt it.

China does not seem to understand why countries want sanctions on Zimbabwe. For several years it has had the opportunity to improve relations at the core level, by connecting with other countries, showing that it understands their concerns regarding the world and indicating that it respects and will support those countries in dealing with their problems. But each time it has squandered that opportunity, usually down to prejudice and arrogance. Even over North Korea, years of foot-dragging by Beijing helped Pyongyang obtain its nuclear arsenal, such that there is even the strong suspicion that China did this deliberately to put it in a position where it could be of use to the US and obtain concessions of its own, such as over Taiwan.

More-and-more China is being seen as a threat to the hopes and plans of democracies around the world. Chinese politicians are viewed as attempting to spread the theory of economic success through a strong and autocratic central state, which could convince the leaders of poor states without strong rule of law to reverse fragile democratic laws and cement their rule with the excuse that it would make their economies better. This is probably not true, but whether China likes it or not every time it blocks or waters down sanctions against an aggressive or oppressive state that is exactly the impression it gives.

Sadly, China’s leaders do not realise this (or maybe refuse to accept it) and will probably continue to blunder on until they are faced with a true crisis where they will need international support. By then it will be far too late to undo the damage that they have caused to their image.



A heart wrencher.

[Update: This one, too, is well worth a read.]

I originally wrote a long post with long excerpts and then just deleted it all. The story speaks for itself and I can’t add anything of value. If you make it to the end, you’ll see the reporter closes the story with a strong implication that there is involvement from the central government here, not just local officials.


The Peking Duck Tragedy + Open Thread

A friend of mine told me he went to three separate duck restaurants on Sunday and all three had run out of duck. Now we know why. A sad day here at TPD.

Open thread, if you’d like.


The Last Hero of Tiananmen

Philip Pan, for years my favorite correspondent in Beijing (he left a few months ago), has written a devastating article about a letter written by a doctor who saw with his own eyes the victims of the massacre on the streets of Beijing n June 4, 1989 and described in detail the carnage he witnessed in the emergency room that night. [Correction – this is not actually an article but an excerpt of Pan’s new book Out of Mao’s Shadow that I’ve been trying to buy.]

On page after page, over a period of months, Jiang poured his heart into the letter. Every spring, as the anniversary of the massacre approached, the party became nervous and mobilized to prevent any attempt to memorialize the victims. But people had not forgotten, Jiang wrote. They had been bullied into silence, but, with each passing year, their anger and frustration grew. Jiang urged the new leaders to take a new approach. They should admit the party was wrong to send troops into the square and order them to fire on unarmed civilians. They should address the pain of those who lost their loved ones in the massacre and acknowledge, at long last, that the protesters were not “thugs” or “counter-revolutionaries” but patriots calling for a better and more honest government..

As Pan explains, this is no ordinary whistleblower, but one with unique credibility – none other than Jiang Yanyong, the very same doctor who wrote the letter to Time magazine in 2003 blowing the lid off the SARS cover-up. Needless to say, for his efforts to save lives he was “eased into retirement,” and later harassed and detained.

“Haunting” was the word that kept coming to mind as I read the final paragraphs of this beautiful story.

The government never charged Jiang with a crime, and he was finally released from house arrest in March 2005. Afterward, though, he disappeared from public view. When I last visited him, he turned up the volume on his television set because he believed his apartment might be bugged, and he whispered that he was trying to avoid provoking the government. He said he still wanted to visit his daughter and grandson in California, and he believed that, if he behaved, the authorities would give him permission to go. As I listened to him speak, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of disappointment. The state had been unable to break Jiang, but it had succeeded in silencing him.

After I left his apartment, though, I decided it was unfair to expect the elderly doctor to continue standing up to the party. He had already achieved more than most and paid a price for it. I doubted the government would ever let him visit his daughter and grandson, but how could anyone expect him to give up that hope? There was only so much one man could do, and only so much a nation could ask of him.

There’s much more to this story; I never realized how difficult a life the SARS whistleblower had endured, and how he retained his integrity even through the horrors of the Mao years, and remained dedicated to his country (not the party) to the point of endangering his own safety. It is inspiring, and ultimately very sad. Please read the article, bookmark it and pass it to your friends.

When I read articles like this, I realize how important it is that traditional media don’t die out. There is nothing like great reporting, something Pan has consistently delivered, shocking us with the truths he uncovers and telling them in a dispassionate tone that nevertheless haunts us even years after reading them. The way this story haunts me even today.

John Pomfret set the bar high for Pan, his replacement, and I can’t imagine how the Post will ever find anyone who can fill Pan’s shoes. As good as they come.