I’ll be traveling to LA for a few days and won’t be on line much. You can use this as an open thread.
October 27, 2009
October 25, 2009
October 22, 2009
The Tianjin Steel Plant in Hebei province.
Indescribably beautiful (if that’s the right word) photos by Lu Guang of the underbelly of China’s economic miracle, the part we all want to forget. Simply breathtaking in their eerie, terrible beauty.
If anything is to keep China from from becoming a true superpower, the smart money is on pollution.
October 18, 2009
No one told me about the Kingdom of Dwarves theme park when I was in Yunnan (and don’t miss that slideshow!). It’s on my list for the next trip. And for those looking for work, they’re recruiting – as long as you’re under 4’3″ tall.
Is there something wrong with exploiting people’s physical abnormalities (for want of a better word) to lure in the curious, similar to what a freak show does? These people don’t think so, and in fact seem quite delighted with their work.
To many around the world, the very idea of putting people on stage to perform simply because they don’t look like everyone else is cringe-inducing. But even though they must dress up in frilly princess and caped warrior costumes befitting small children and dance for tourists, performers at the bizarre theme park see this place as a haven from the overwhelming discrimination they face in China at large.
“Back home, strangers will stare at and they look down on us,” said Yang Lichun of Beijing, who moved across the country to work at the park this summer with her fiance. “If we can even find jobs at home, we have to work harder than everyone else to prove ourselves.”
….The workers simply see this as dagong — the modern Chinese notion of migrant work, leaving your hometown for a job elsewhere. Tens of millions do it for factory and construction work; these workers came here to put on a show for tourists who want to see little people.
Considering that all parties – the dwarf performers and the visitors who flock to see them – seem happy with the arrangement, I can’t see any reason to be critical. It’s not like we haven’t done anything similar.
October 16, 2009
Anita Dunn is the White House Communications Director, who’s been quoted everywhere for her on-target assertions that Fox News is a Republican channel, not a news channel. When I heard her say it a few days ago I was stunned (in a good way) that she was making this the official White House position. Sure, we’ve all known it for years, but it’s never been said by the Democrats on the record, and this was long overdue.
And now, just seconds ago, I watched Glenn Beck take Anita Dunn’s scalp, playing again and again a video clip of her telling an assembly of high school students, “My two favorite philosophers are Mao Tse-Tung and Mother Teresa.” He kept playing it, holding up a picture of Mao and reciting the usual litany, including the claim that Mao had killed more people than Hitler (70 million is the number he used). It was devastating. Beck is evil, but you have to give him credit for cunning and for dramatic effect. This made for very good theater. And you have to wonder, could Dunn actually have said this? How could she not see the danger?
I see Fox News as bad news (pun intended) and I see Glenn Beck as a bad man. But unless that clip was doctored and shown wildly out of context, Beck scored a coup today. I don’t think it was entirely fair, but when is politics fair? And you can’t really fault Beck, as much as I’d like to. If the Democrats had a similar clip of Rush, I think they’d trot it out, too.
Dunn clearly meant that she admired Mao’s determination to continue going after his goal – to overthrow the Nationalist government – despite being told it was an impossible dream. She was talking about persistence. And Beck, of course, twisted that to make it sound as if she were endorsing the cold-blooded murder of 70 million Chinese. However, there are many wonderful examples of people who persevered in the face of difficult odds. To single out Mao, of all the inspiring people throughout history to choose from, as her mentor in this regard is inexplicable, and she will pay a heavy price. Needless to say, it will give Beck and the wingnuttosphere more fuel for claiming it’s an administration of radical Marxists who are scheming to impose their own Cultural Revolution on America. It was painful to watch. She actually said Mao is one of the people she turns to most.
Yes, Mao was persistent, as most tyrants are. Unfortunately – and again, like most tyrants – he also left a stream of death and destruction in his wake that China is still reeling from. How could she not know this? My jaw dropped. Score one for Beck.
October 8, 2009
I remember reading how the Georgian peasants were convinced Stalin was unaware of their plight as they starved to death in the 1930s, and if there was only some way they could alert him…. But alas, millions and millions died. And Mao knew, and Stalin knew. No, I don’t believe Mao wanted the peasants to die and there’s evidence he was horrified when he learned what the peasants were eating to survive. (Stalin, on the other hand, ever the “man of steel,” showed no such concerns.) But Mao was too wrapped up in his own ideology to admit his Great Leap Forward was anything but. And the result is one of the tragedies so immense, so incomprehensible, like the Holocaust, that the more we read about it the less we can comprehend it. Xujin’s wonderful posts help us comprehend it, but they don’t make it any less of a crime against humanity.
Thirty percent bad – Deng was awfully kind.
October 7, 2009
Only, not quite.
Superb article that I can certainly relate to. Closing lines:
Last week Beijing saw a display of military and economic might that the Chinese government and a huge number of its people are rightly proud of. But China wants more for itself. The government is constantly calling for home-grown innovation in science, technology and culture, and for China to wield more “soft power” and have a greater cultural influence on the rest of the world. These aims will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to achieve as long as China’s bureaucrats retain their iron grip on culture and information.
Think about that. China is reaching for the stars, its ambitions are boundless and it’s gone so far. But by censoring, by jamming its airwaves, by trying to control its people’s brain-waves, China chokes its own creativity and imposes limits on itself. And of course, it’s just plain irrational. I can at least understand the logic behind banning Epoch Times and Taipei Times. But Danwei?? (Not to mention The Peking Duck.) Dumb, counter-productive and an indication of an infantile insecurity and raging inferiority complex. Try to imagine a China that was confident enough in its own achievements, its own greatness that it wouldn’t have to always be in reactive mode, cowering even in the face of the most questionable threats. Imagine how much greater China would be then. Imagine how much more respect it would command, instead of being snickered at for being so obviously terrified, a cowering child.
October 2, 2009
Got this email from a friend and thought it was good enough to share. He has lived in China for about 10 years and never wants to live anywhere else. You can love China and be critical at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in fact I’d argue they go hand in glove. His email:
Subject : The Party Here In Beijing Today
“….Hey what a party, hey what a show…..” Miss Saigon =>
‘Thought I would share what happened today here in Beijing, it was a 1st for me & you won’t get this side of it from the news in Europe and the Americas.
This morning in Tiananmen Square there was a colossal military parade followed by a “normal” / civilian parade – Chinese style, which means big and over-the-top (100,000 performers.) Watch the news reports, I doubt in the US or Europe it will get more than 60 seconds of replay, certainly not the 2 1/2 hours we watched live here on TV.
Yes, me and absolutely everyone I know in Beijing, and everyone who knows anyone else living in Beijing could only watch it on TV. My office is right next to Tiananmen, perfect viewing location – except that every building within viewing sight of this was evacuated yesterday and searched with sniffing dogs. No one knows anyone who got the special invitation to watch it live. You will notice / see on the broadcast news there are no people lining the Chang An Boulevard parade route, and the VIP spectators were specially picked (and I assume trained) for this event. At most a few hundred people, you can see them all boxed in front of the Forbidden City. None of the foreign journalists I know here were even allowed to attend and cover this event. Which is a bit strange for China these days, and for an event of this magnitude.
The preparations for this have gone on for 1 year. Cost? No one will ever know. They completely re-did the entire square, boulevard and surrounding roads, neighborhood facades, etc. which were already (and alway have been) the best in the city, and which were just all redone for the Olympics last year. Going to the office each day I kept thinking, “Why don’t you use this money to build 100 hospitals or schools in the poor areas of this nation?” I said exactly that yesterday having lunch with my Chinese friends who are from Beijing, they said, “Agree, but we can’t say that.”
Now this is funny/interesting; there was a pre-parade talk show (local TV) I watched this morning during which 2 top military generals were interviewed and commented that this miltary parade was “planned in a frugal and environmentally friendly manner.” I don’t recall Gen. Swartzkof saying anything like that when I was in DC for the military parade to welcome home the US troupes from the Gulf War. I certainly didn’t see that when I was in Paris for the 200th anniversary of the F rench revolution – I think les Francais are a little more “green” concious than us Americans and certainly more than here – I know that to be true. The point is, it seems public opinion does play into the rhetoric of this administration. Their comment was definitely not ad hoc.
What struck me as absolutely the most bizarre was the president’s speech referring to the success of ….(get this) Marxism. Who’s Hu’s speech writer? If you could see behind him reviewing the troupes standing up through the roof of his (hong qi = red flag brand) limo, that’s Oriental Plaza – a luxury shopping center. Street level (hidden by the tanks) are Burberry, Gucci, Tiffany, and all the other top foreign (non-Marxist) luxury brand shops you have ever heard of. (NB: Each have at least 5 locations just in this one city! And, numerous others all around China.) Who’s Marx again??? Is he referring to Groucho? Barbara Marx (Frank Sinatra’s last wife?) I was just losing it to connect the dots at that point.
There was a heavy emphasis on the important role of the Chinese minorities and women in this society. The supersonic jets were flown by women training in their space program, their was reference to a Chinese woman being the 1st lady to walk on the moon. Great, admirable, totally support that. None of the officials are from the local minorities or are women. The most important woman formerly in the leadership, Madame Wu Yi, I could not see on the dais. (NB: Her old boss, Pres. Jiang was there – with brown hair, go figure? He’s from Shanghai, that explains everything.) I heard she refused to participate – FYI, she brought China into the WTO. At least in the US, we can say we have come beyond that. We Americans have women & minorities in power now, and they seem quite widely respected. When will La France have a Mssr. Mohamed, Le President?
It was a fascinating build-up during several weeks of SWAT police in tanks on Tiananmen Square going to work each day. Tiananmen Square with tanks doesn’t exactly excite me. Yes, you know why.
To put things globally in perspective, we had a very expensive innauguration for President Obama during which we (the people) are told is the “worst financial crisis in US history.” But, I heard…”the people” showed up unabated in masses to be there….
I do love living / working here in Beijing, when life here is normal. Nothing about this day (or time leadin up to this) was normal. The Olympics were a breeze compared to this. What’s next for Beijing???