Chinese stoicism

It’s news to David Brooks. It’s okay for people to express their awe over things they experience for the first time, like Bush I and the bar code reader (a story that was much less newsworthy than made out to be). But Brooks seems to have literally no insight into what he’s writing about nor does he seem to have done any basic research. This piece has a”gee whiz” tone to it that I’d expect to read in a blog by someone visiting China for the first time, but not in a NYT column. At least he acknowledges that he’s completely ignorant.

Nevertheless, the story he tells and his interviews with Sichuan survivors are poignant, and I do tend to agree with his last sentence. The takeaway for me, aside from confirmation of my belief that Brooks should be demoted to beat reporter, is that even the Chinese who are vulnerable, even those with nothing, still look to the government with trusting eyes, knowing that their rulers are doing the right thing, wiling to sacrifice just about everything for what’s perceived as the common good. Thus, no bitterness over the lavish spending on Olympic pyrotechnics as they pick through the rubble of their demolished homes. These people see themselves as cogs in the vast machinery that keeps China functional. Lei Feng would be proud

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“Crooked teeth” – Chinese bloggers criticise the foreign media

Raj

Some interesting comments over the “crooked teeth” incident are available from or through ESWN. Roland himself seems to somewhat annoyed at the foreign media for some of their comments, claiming that they invented the term “crooked teeth” themselves.

But today, the world knows Yang as having “chubby/fat face” and “crooked/uneven/buck teeth” and Lin as having no singing talents. Well, who needs Politburo members when we have western media showering such ‘tender loving care’ on Chinese children?

I think that Roland is being somewhat petulant, given that most people think that Yang was cute enough to be at the opening ceremony and there is no noticeable ill-will towards Lin. Furthermore, he rather misses the point (or chooses to ignore it) over why this has been reported so widely. It isn’t so much because of what may have been said about her, more the fact that Yang was made to dub for a “more” photogenic girl. Whether the director said that she was less attractive or the other girl was more attractive, it is clear that a decision was taking over presentation. And presentation is a key party of the “story” of Beijing 2008. It’s why parts of the city have been demolished to “tidy” it up and domestic and foreign protesters have been blocked from holding demonstrations anywhere, let alone in a place where Chinese people can easily see them.

The “Fool’s Mountain” blog writes:

Lin Miaoke had no idea that the sound was being substituted and went onto the stage to perform in front an audience of billions flawlessly. Her composure under the pressure was something most grown-up could only dream of. She is the real deal!

First of all, if I was supposed to be singing something at an event and I then heard another guy’s voice come on the loud-speakers, I would either stop or look worried, ask the technicians what was happening, etc. Given that Lin didn’t seem to stop or falter it is quite possible that she had been told what would happen. But even if she was unaware or soldiered on, again most people are not angry at her for what happened. The general reaction was more one of surprise, and any ill-will was directed towards the organisers.

A comment from “Si Dai”, linked by Roland, was quite curious:

As for “fake singing” and “lip-synching,” they are better known as “dubbing” and “body doubles” in the terminology of movies…. Without the dubbing, those movie stars with pretty faces but are tone-deaf would have been embarrassed out of their careers.

Dubbing in movies has often been controversial, no less than Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, where fans who listened to recordings of her singing said it was actually quite good and that it was completely unnecessary to have Julie Andrews Marni Nixon dub her. But more importantly, this was not a movie and there was no need for Lin to be on the stage – no one knew who she was, so it wouldn’t have made a difference whether it was her or Peng in front of the cameras. The film comparisons are irrelevant because no one is objecting to dubbing in principle – it’s that it was used in this case.

As an example, for the 2012 Olympics, I doubt that any of the London organisers would have considered having one child sing and then another to act it out. The attitude would have been, “wow, a young singer – let’s listen to them and see if that’s what we need”. They would not have said “well, you’re a good singer, but so-and-so is more attractive than you so we’ll have them instead”. Maybe they would have been given some smart clothes, a nice haircut, or whatever.

A common complain from Chinese people, whether living in the PRC or outside of it, is that foreigners “do not understand China or Chinese people”. Yet with the sorts of reactions I have read on ESWN and through its links, I do not believe that these Chinese bloggers understand foreigners or their reactions here, because if they did they would understand why many people were so surprised by this. Or, in some cases, they may well be trying to deflect their strong embarrassment over what has happened by blaming foreigners instead.

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Report: British journalist detained by police in Beijing

As reported by Jon Watts and Tania Branigan in The Guardian:

Police in Beijing have detained a British journalist after he covered a Free Tibet protest close to the city’s main Olympic zone. John Ray of ITV News was pushed into a police van by officers and driven away from the scene.

Around a dozen activists from Students for a Free Tibet had gathered outside Ethnic Minorities Park. Police also forcibly removed the protesters after driving away the journalist.

Speaking by telephone from the back of the police van as he was driven away, Ray said: “I have been roughed up. They dragged me, pulled me and knocked me to the ground. Now they are filming me.”

He could then be heard asking the officers with him: “Why are you filming? I am a British journalist. I have all the Olympic accreditation I need.” Police officers could then be heard asking: “What’s your opinion on Tibet?” Ray replied: “I have no opinion on Tibet. I am a journalist.”

A police officer could then be heard telling him he was not allowed to use his telephone. The line went dead.

Police were also filming and taking pictures of other journalists at the scene.

UPDATE 9:19 p.m.

An official from the PSB claims John Ray was detained “by mistake” and that officers had thought Ray was a part of the protest and were unaware that he was an accredited journalist:

Ray, 44, said he was stopped by an officer and a small struggle ensued before things got more violent when more police arrived.

“They bundled me out of the park. They forced me to the floor, dragged me, manhandled me into a restaurant next door,” said Ray, who said he repeatedly told police he was a journalist but was not displaying his official Olympics media accreditation.

Later dragged to the back of a nearby van, a woman asked in English what his views were on Tibet and he repeated that he was a journalist, he said.

“Only at this stage am I able to reach in my pocket and show them my Olympic credential,” Ray said. “The van door opened and I just got out and walked.”

An official from the spokesman’s office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau said officers mistook him for an activist.

“At the time, he was among the protesters,” said the official, who gave only his surname, Zhang. “The police did not understand his identity. So they took him away to check his identity. After that, they let him go.”

No word on whether or not an official apology has been issued.

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Uneven teeth

Unbelievable. But alas, all too believable.

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David Brooks’ China Wisdom

One of my favorite writers reveals just how shallow Brooks’ “analysis” of China is. Go there now.

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Empty Seats

I was on the Olympic Green all day today and was amazed at what I saw, or rather at what I didn’t see, namely crowds of people. There were none. The Green was a relative ghost town (compared to past Games). It took no time at all to get there, and only seconds to get through security. Nearly all the faces were Chinese; Westerners were in very short supply, for whatever reasons.

The low numbers is due in large part to a new and especially neurotic BOCOG policy forbidding anyone but ticket holders and staff from entering the Green. (Usually visitors can get a day pass and stroll around at their leisure.) So the place is kind of depressing. Watching some of the Games isn’t too uplifting either, seeing all those empty seats. Well, they did bring it on themselves, but I also feel sorry to see it.

Sorry, but that’s all I’ve got time for blogging today.

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Olympic round-up

Raj

The Olympics have only recently kicked off, but there is already a lot to talk about. For example, Michael Phelps is bidding to win an unprecedented eight gold medals in the swimming, something that he could quite possibly do – one down, seven to go. But regardless of whether he can reach this target or not, all Americans should feel proud of him anyway – even with a “mediocre” haul this year he would still be one of the most impressive athletes ever to contest the Games.

But perhaps some of the more interesting news deals with events surrounding the Olympics. The start was tainted by the sad murder of an American tourist, Todd Bachman, by some psychopathic Chinese man, who then himself committed suicide. But what I found even more horrifying were allegations that the Chinese authorities have been trying to sweep this under the carpet.

Chinese residents who lived and worked close to the scene of the crime appeared to be under orders not to discuss the incident. ‘Why are you paying so much attention to this? Murders happen all the time. You should pay attention to the two gold medals that China won today,’ said a middle-aged woman in a flower-patterned shirt.

Yes, so long as China tops the medal table who cares if visitors to Beijing are murdered?

We can hope that the report is wrong, but what this woman said seems like a typical result of Chinese propaganda enforcement. When people are told to ignore bad news and focus on the good, comments like these slip out. The other explanation, that this was a genuine view, would be even more terrible if it reflected a wider attitude and would indicate that Chinese nationalism being whipped up by the CCP over the Olympics is now leading many Chinese people to abandon common-sense.

Then we had the eruption of conflict in Georgia, with Russian troops responding to an attempt by Tbilisi to bring the rebel region of South Ossetia under its control – thousands may have died already. There have also been reports of gun-fights and attempted bombings in Xinjiang.

In regards to overly optimistic hopes that the Olympics would lead to greater openness/freedom in China, AP reports that human rights activist Zeng Jinyan has “disappeared”.

A Chinese human rights activist whose husband was jailed earlier this year has disappeared and may have been taken by police to prevent her from speaking to journalists during the Beijing Olympics, an overseas-based human rights group said Friday.

The group, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, said Zeng Jinyan disappeared on Thursday and has not been heard from. Zeng is married to activist Hu Jia, who was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison in April.

I’m sure the Chinese authorities will claim that she has wandered off on his own accord and have no idea where he is. That’s CCP regional monitoring at its best – its defence to detention of people who give a damn about something other than their own interests is that it has no idea what the local authorities are doing. If that’s the supposedly “efficient” Communist autocracy that we’re repeatedly told is China’s only future, God forbid that we see chaos and incompetance from the CCP.

Furthermore it appears that anyone asking for a protest permit is being turned down – what a surprise! Indeed, it’s an even better wheeze for the Chinese authorities, as they can use the lure of Olympic protest to flush out protestors and detain/arrest them. Not unlike the way Mao used the Hundred Flowers Campaign to identify and then silence his critics and potential opponents.

A housing activist who applied for permission to hold a demonstration in Beijing’s specially designated Olympic protest zones has been detained by police. The detention of Zhang Wei, whose home was demolished two years ago to make way for an upmarket development in Beijing’s Qianmen district, highlights the Chinese government’s crackdown on dissent ahead of the opening of the games on Friday.

Police detained Ms Zhang on Wednesday for allegedly “disturbing social order”, a member of her family said on Thursday. She was told Ms Zhang would be transferred to a detention centre in south Beijing, family members said.

Yes, “distburbing social order”. Otherwise known as “highlighting the not-so-heroic actions of the Chinese ruling party” and spoiling their attempts to trick the Chinese people into think that they are practically-perfect-in-every-way. This theme is continued by the laughable assertions of Wang Wei, who said that blocking websites is “good” for Chinese people.

“That’s an assessment made by the authorities of which sites are good and which are not good for our youth. It’s like what any other country does.”

Perhaps Wang would like to tell us what websites critical of the ruling Labour Party and its policies are blocked in the UK? Conservatives.com? libdems.org.uk?

The feeble rebuttals of Jacques Rogge, IOC chief puppet, to examples of China violating its Olympic promises continue.

“But there will be a review of what happened when we come to audit the Games when they are over.”

Yes, after the Olympics are over and the CCP has already have extracted maximum propaganda effect from it, the IOC can come down hard for the 2012 Olympics to ensure that us Brits don’t block websites for criticising the UK – which we already doesn’t do…..

Does the IOC have any shame? Guess not – the flood of dollars and yuan make up for that.

Finally we have the damning comments of a former top Party official, Bao Tong, on the way China trains its athletes.

It is very naive to take the number of gold medals won as an indicator of the rise of China. That sort of patriotism…has nothing to do with the Olympic spirit…

China has sponsored a top-down professionalized system, a totally segregated approach to athletic training… It has its roots in the Chinese Communist Party’s experience of the 1927-37 Chinese civil war, when peasants who relied on the land for their existence took up arms as their revolutionary duty to fight for a share of it. In the process, they were torn away from their families, from the rest of society, and from normal economic activities…

China’s athletes are chosen as young children…and taken away from their families, from their schools, and totally cut off from normal social activities. The door is closed, and they give up their entire youth and part of their childhoods for the sole aim of entering and winning competitions, an aim for which they are totally re-molded by the system.

The whole article should be read, but I thought these comments especially good:

China’s array of medals and prizes was produced out of the sweat, tears, and lives of generations of athletes and paralympians…You can’t use the achievements of our young people to cover up or to dilute the mistakes of the country’s leaders.

That the CCP tries to do that shows its real nature. To it, any Chinese person is a “natural resource” that can be exploited in any way, at any time, to prolong its rule.

There is one clear barometer of how good a political system is. It’s no good listening to what people say; mouths are very unreliable. You have to look at what the feet are doing. A good system will attract people. People in China may be living quite happily, and foreigners may make light of traveling a thousand miles to visit. But would they want to emigrate here? When they have seen the Olympics, seen the show, and had a chance to understand Chinese people a bit better, and to compare China to their own country, then what? I am certain that while they will say a lot of nice things about China, they are not going to start flooding in to live here. Whereas Chinese people would be leaving in their tens of thousands if the opportunity was there.

Quite true.

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Live-blogging the Opening Ceremony

Go here and keep scrolling. UPDATE: this one is definitely worth a look as well.

I’ve only been able to watch bits and pieces. It’s way cheesier than I had hoped.

UPDATE: I have to say, I was wrong when I called it cheesy. I was only able to watch about 2 hours of the Opening Ceremony and I learned yesterday that by chance I caught the very worst part – the interminable walking around the track by athletes waving flags -and some children dancing. Since then I saw some extended clips of what I missed, and I spoke with many people who were actually there. The clips I saw were amazing. Absolutely beautiful. And everyone I know who was there said it was truly beyond belief despite the oppressive heat. They loved it. (They all agreed about the flag-waving athletes.)

So I retract my earlier comment. I should have said some sections were cheesier than I expected.

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08/08/08: Watch your step…

This has been making the rounds these past few weeks, but with the day finally here, it’s too hysterical not to post.

“We can be sure it is a trap. They’ve been preparing for this for thousands of years. According to the satellite images we are getting from Beijing, they are digging large holes which they claim are for Olympic venues, but we know full well they are going to cover them up with branches and leaves and the athletes from America are going to fall right into them.  Nah, they’re going to wait until it gets dark and then they are going to bring out their dragons…”

Perhaps the funniest/saddest part is the comments section on You Tube where not a few idiot fenqing completely missing the satirical quality of the video–not that irony and satire are common currency in the fenqing mindset–and go right into robotic whining mode about how some vaguely defined “West” hates China.

Enjoy.

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Beijing Taxi Talk

Careful what you say. The cabs have ears.

Tens of thousands of taxi drivers in Beijing have a tool that could become part of China’s all-out security campaign for the Olympic Games. Their vehicles have microphones installed ostensibly for driver safety that can be used to listen to passengers remotely.

The tiny listening devices, which are connected to a global positioning system able to track a cab’s location by satellite, have been installed in almost all of the city’s 70,000 taxis over the past three years, taxi drivers and industry officials say.

As with digital cameras used in cities such as London, Sydney or New York, the stated purpose of the microphones is to protect the driver. But whereas the devices in other countries can only record images, those devices in Beijing taxis can be remotely activated without the driver’s knowledge to eavesdrop on passengers, according to drivers and Yaxon Networks Co., a Chinese company that makes some of the systems used in Beijing. The machines can even remotely shut off engines.

And people I know hold confidential meetings in taxis on their mobile phones all the time. I mean, like every day. Maybe ask the driver to increase the volume on that cantopop he’s listening to?

Via this excellent blog.

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