WaPo: Don’t give in to Wen Jiabao’s pleas on Taiwan

In an editorial today, the WaPo describes how much the “new” China is trying as hard as it can do divorce itself from the “old” China’s image as a prickly, paranoid, irrational and ideologically crazed nation.

And, the editorial says, it’s been doing a good job. Except when it comes to Taiwan, an issue that brings to life the old blustery, bellicose China we all know and love:

Beijing fears that constitutional changes could make Taiwan’s de facto separation from the mainland explicit, or that a referendum could be called on independence. Its apparent strategy is to frighten Mr. Chen into backing down — or more likely, push the United States into using its leverage on the Taiwanese president.

Such tactics demonstrate that China’s new leaders are not as pragmatic or enlightened as they seem. What Mr. Wen and Mr. Hu fail to perceive is that Mr. Chen is a typical democratic politician engaged in a tough reelection campaign. Though his party is pro-independence, he is unlikely to aggressively press that agenda even if he wins, if only because Taiwan’s economy is now deeply dependent on trade with the mainland and most Taiwanese people favor preserving the status quo.

Pointedly, the editorial cautions Bush not to give in to Wen’s demands that the US speak out against the referendum:

Mr. Bush should do no such thing. Instead, he should explain to Mr. Wen that his government’s approach to Taiwan needs some modernizing. Now that Taiwan is a democracy, threats of invasion will only strengthen its independence movement — just as the recent rhetoric only spurred the parliament into acting on the referendum law. The only way Beijing could achieve its goal of unification would be by winning over the Taiwanese public. That would take time and greater economic integration. It would also require China’s new leaders to deliver on Mr. Wen’s fluent rhetoric about democracy and rule of law.

Interesting. I read in a blog comment yesterday (don’t remember where) that Americans don’t realize that most Taiwanese want to reunify with the Mainland, but only after the Mainland has fixed up its act in regard to free elections, free trade, human rights, etc.

Would it be rude of me to suggest that this may prove a very, very long wait?


Hailey in Chinese

For those of you with the patience to have learned to read Chinese, Hailey Xie is now offering a Chinese-language blog that she says will show readers another side of her.


Random thoughts on our new Living in China aggregator

It seems that overnight we’ve become a community, certainly much more than we ever were before. All thanks to that rotating list of posts on that Living in China aggregator.

It’s really quite amazing. All of those asteroids flying off in different directions are now one sleek asteroid field soaring in unison; all those desert islands spread irrationally here and there are suddenly each part of a carefully architected archipelago; all of those….well, enough with the metaphors.

I just want to note how in just a few short weeks Living in China has changed my (and probably your) surfing habits. I now go to a lot more of the regional blogs than I used to, often selecting them based on the headline that appears in the aggregator. (Big lesson here — write good headlines if you want to boost site traffic.)

I also feel like I now know some of these bloggers on a much more intimate level. Many have been emailing me, and not just about the upcoming meeting in Beijing. I know that at least a portion of my improved site traffic is thanks to LiC. And my Comments have gone through a complete metamorphosis over the past few weeks, with a lot more inputs from a much broader spectrum of readers.

And now for the bad news. No, it’s not a criticism, just an observation I made the other day. Due to the aggregator, I’ve been making more and more visits to LiC, and fewer and fewer visits to the sites I always made a point of visiting daily. This was driven home to me two or three days ago when I went to either Adam’s or Conrad’s site (I forget which) and scrolled through and realized there were several posts I had missed — because I didn’t catch them on the aggregator, and I was no longer making my daily romp through their blog!

No system is perfect, so I guess we just have to be diligent and keep in mind that the aggregator can’t show everything all the time. We still need to visit each other’s blogs on a regular basis, or we will definitely lose out.

Meanwhile, if that’s the worst criticism I have of LiC, then I have to say it’s a damned good system. Thanks to those who took the time and the effort to make it happen.

One quick question: Do we have any data on site traffic for LiC? I think we’d all like to know how it’s growing, and which geographies are generating what proportion of the hits. Something like that would be really useful. Thanks again.


Selling digital cameras, Oil of Olay and Ikea in China

That’s the title of a new post I just put up over at Living in China on the unique mindset of the new middle-class Chinese consumer, and how marketing to them is anything but business as usual for the Western marketer and public relations practitioner. I hope you can check it out.


Wrapping it up

There’s an interesting summary of this week’s little uproar over talking with Mainlanders about sensitive political issues like Taiwan. Very perceptive.


Bush’s brother Neil chases the China dream

This is an interesting story:

Neil Bush, younger brother of President Bush, detailed lucrative business deals and admitted to engaging in sex romps with women in Asia in a deposition taken in March as part of his divorce from now ex-wife Sharon Bush.

According to legal documents disclosed today, Sharon Bush’s lawyers questioned Neil Bush closely about the deals, especially a contract with Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp., a firm backed by Jiang Mianheng, the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, that would pay him $2 million in stock over five years.

Marshall Davis Brown, lawyer for Sharon Bush, expressed bewilderment at why Grace would want Bush and at such a high price since he knew little about the semiconductor business.

The link comes via Atrios, who wonders aloud what kind of a media storm this would have precipitated had it been about Roger Clinton and not Neil Bush.


An email from my best friend in Beijing

This won’t be of interest to everyone, and maybe not to anyone, and I guess I want to put it down more to save the memory than anything else. I take that back. It is a beautiful letter that will add depth and quality to the life of anyone who reads it.

My dearest friend from Beijing, Ben, wrote me the most beautiful email two days ago, and I asked him if I could post it to my site. It makes me so excited to see his enthusiasm for life, his need to always strive for something better, his youthful ambition that doesn’t know any boundaries.

Maybe I’m so touched because I remember how I was once the same way, and I wish I had known at that age exactly what I wanted my life to be, the way Ben does. He asked me to edit the grammar, but I think the way he writes it, just as it is, is part of what makes it so endearing. (He mentions some names and some institutions that I’ve either changed or deleted to avoid any problems.) He also talks about how he could have joined my favorite political party, the CCP, and why he didn’t. I never knew these things before.

As I said, it’s more for myself, but I’m hoping maybe someone somewhere will see the beauty of Ben’s innocence and total goodness which even now makes me long for China’s success. There must be so many people like Ben in China, and they deserve to have great lives. I’ll leave it at that. Here’s what he wrote:

Richard, one of my old classmates (we shared same dormitory in university) who worked at Ji Nang(Shangdong province) came to Beijing today. We had a lunch together, then went to visit our previous tutor, Ms Li, a warm-hearted and kind person.

Ms Li gave me a lot of help during my college time, especially when I just came into Beijing. She learned my family financial status and made all her efforts to help me, she recommendated me to that charity agency to get aid of RMB1500 per year. It is very helpful at that time. Ms Li was very happy to met us, because both her husband and her had retired, and they always want to meet their students.

She mentioned one of her students, Mr. W whom she took pride in and often talked about during my college times. He was former president of [names of companies], he was promoted by former premier, Zhu Rongyi. Richard, you know how pride I felt because this excellent alumni, he also had promising political future at that time.

But unfortunately, he met “serious political issue” in 2001 and forced to resigned, at the same time, was expelled from CCP’s qualification. The problem was happened when he acted as president at [company name], and raised after he was president of [company name]. According relevant report, his problem laid in his corruptive life, someone muckraked he owned a luxury house in New York. Relatively, our other alummi who acted as vice president of [name of government agency] and had even been promoted by Mr. W., also had forced to resign.

This matter already passed for 2 years, and I was aware of the media report before. But Ms Li told us with a little pity, she said Mr. W was not so starring during his college life, but he studied and worked very hard. Mr. W was also kind and friendly, not so bureaucratic. Even when he acted as president of [company], he always answered every detail questions from my tutor with big patience. “How silly and venturous he was, why he would bought so luxury house in obvious New York”, Ms Li said with plaint.

Later, our topic went further and talked about dark side of politics in China. Richard, as an ambitious student majored in public administration, you know my dream had been to be president and great stateman. But I made drastic change when I was a junior college student, I found my character and thoughts could not fit in with China’s political condition, and I did not want to change myself from heart to fit it just in order to get my political objective. I love freedom and do not want to be controlled by dark human relationships. Actually, I had opportunity to become a CCP member when I was in my high school, but I did not take CCP’s lesson and gave up actively, even it also meaned I would lose lot’s benefits. The reason was simple, I felt boring about it.

As Roosevelt’s saying said, “To be president, otherwise advertising man”. I gave up my political future at so early age and decided to devote advertising and communications world. Maybe at this industry, I could find the thing which will make me feel excited for ever, otherwise, I will go on finding………..-:)


China’s Love Affair with UFOs

This is a pretty amazing story from this past Sunday. Unfortunately, it’s from “the unlinkable South China Morning Post,” so I can’t link to it (duh). Therefore, I’m offering the entire thing…. It’s long; whatever you do, don’t miss that next-to-last paragraph.

Aliens invade China!


A shimmering blue and white object hovered past the cockpit window of the Xiamen Airlines plane as it started its decent into Nanjing. It drifted across the path of the passenger jet, the pilot later told officials, then accelerated sharply and disappeared at lightning speed into a bank of cloud.

His story might have been dismissed as a delusion had it not been for the fact that two other pilots in different planes hundreds of kilometres apart independently radioed similar reports to air-traffic controllers within minutes of each other. One was flying a Shandong Airlines plane 120 kilometres north, also over Jiangsu Province. The second was flying 300 kilometres south over Tonglu, Zhejiang Province.

All three pilots flying on that November morning last year described the UFO as a blue and white oval-shaped spacecraft that moved noiselessly across the sky then sped away at a velocity sufficient to render it visible, within a brief period, from three aircraft hundreds of kilometres apart.

There are more UFO sightings over China than anywhere else in the world, with one in every five “flying saucers” reportedly seen over the mainland. It has the world’s biggest network of clubs, the China UFO Research Organisation, and a monthly UFO magazine that sells 400,000 copies. It has some of the most spectacular sightings and some of the most bizarre tales of encounters; estimates by the UFO Research Organisation suggest more than half of China’s 1.2 billion population believes in flying saucers. Sightings are reported widely by state media and pilots talk openly about close encounters, without the fear their counterparts have in the West of being dismissed as dangerous cranks.

In 1998, a Chinese jet fighter reportedly played a game of cat and mouse with a UFO picked up by four radar stations as it flew over a military training base near Changzhou. More than 100 people watched from the ground as the two-seat Jianjiao armed interceptor chased the UFO, which was described as a mushroom-shaped dome with rotating bright lights underneath it. The pilot said it looked “like the UFOs in foreign sci-fi movies”. With the air force jet about 4,000 metres away, the UFO shot upwards, leaving it trailing in its wake. A request from the pilot to fire on the UFO was refused by ground control, official media reported.

Wendelle Stevens, an 80-year-old former US fighter pilot and one of the world’s top UFO investigators, says the emergence of China as the epicentre of UFO activity is all the more remarkable considering there were no officially recorded sightings until less than 25 years ago. “UFOs seem to be taking a very close interest in China,” Stevens said from his home in Tucson, Arizona. “From 1949 until 1979 the bamboo curtain was in place and no information about what was happening was coming in or out – but that’s all changed now.”

Even though UFOs were reportedly sighted across China as long ago as the Sino-Japanese War in the 1930s and 40s, there was an official reluctance in the post-war years to recognise the phenomenon because of a widely held belief that they were American spy planes, according to Stevens. The Russians convinced the Chinese government that UFOs were a United States trick,” he says. “They persuaded the Chinese to give them all the information they had. During those years the only cases anyone heard about were the spectacular ones.”

That changed one day in 1979 when two dish-shaped objects reportedly flew backwards and forwards over Beijing at a height of about 150 metres. There were thousands of witnesses, and the first official reports of flying saucers in China’s state media meant the newspapers were full of the incident the following day.

Stevens, co-author of UFOs Over Modern China, which documents 400 sightings, said: “When those newspaper stories appeared, people who had had experiences thought the lid was off so they began writing letters to newspapers describing what they had seen – thousands and thousands of letters.”

A group of scientists at Wuhan University, led by former diplomat Professor Sun Shili, was given permission to start researching the phenomenon. A network of UFO enthusiasts’ clubs was formed under the umbrella of the Chinese UFO Research Organisation. Stevens recalls his first meeting with Sun, in Mexico City in the early 1980s.

“My opening words were, ‘Do the Chinese have crashed UFOs in their possession?’ He answered: ‘Of course.’ Although Sun did not elaborate on the whereabouts of these aircraft, he said China was taking a different approach to the US with its research. “Sun said the Chinese were researching crashed UFOs to produce airliners that could rise and descend vertically, and unlocking the secret of unlimited supplies of energy. The US was using the technology from crashed UFOs to build bigger and better weapons.

“The Chinese are quite far along in that field [aeronautics]. They have experimental vehicles that rise and descend vertically. They haven’t got them in production but when they do – and it might take 10 years – the economic balance of the world could shift. They are going into space using the knowledge they have got from the examination of crashed vehicles,” Stevens says.

Sun, meanwhile, revels in academic freedom: an estimated 30 per cent of the Research Organisation’s core members are Communist Party officials. Most are engineers and scientists, and members must have a degree and have published research before they can be admitted to its inner sanctum. The group receives government funding, its research papers are covered by state media and military officials attend its meetings. As long as it steers clear of politics, respect is assured.

Now 66 and retired, Sun worked in the diplomatic service and was once a translator for Mao Zedong. His only encounter with a UFO came in 1971 when he was working in a rice paddy after being sent to a labour camp in Jiangxi Province during the Cultural Revolution. “I thought it was a Soviet spy plane,” he says. It was only years later when he read Western books on the subject that he realised it might have been a flying saucer.

Sun is on record as saying he has a “gut feeling” that there are “aliens living among us, masquerading as humans”. One is reminded of the film Men In Black.

Moon Fong has an air of disappointment that hovers over her like a UFO that won’t go home. She is 43, single, lives with her mother in Sha Tin, and eight years after seeing her only spaceship still hasn’t been abducted by aliens.

“I want to go up in a flying saucer,” she says wistfully over lunch. “I want to go up and see an alien planet – badly. I wish I was a contactee – I really wish I was.”

Moon (not her real name) set up the Hong Kong UFO Club after seeing a UFO in Mexico. At the time she was staying with a cult-like group led by a mystic and didn’t regard her experience as unusual, she says. “Everyone around me had seen a UFO, been to another planet, been abducted by an alien. It was only when I came back to Hong Kong that I began to think maybe the encounter was meant for me to bring the message back.” In the early days it was a mission. “I was energy-high. Whenever I met UFO people it was like an instant merging, an instant hugging.”

Now she feels that energy and sense of mission are ebbing and says she thinks “they” – the aliens – want her to slow down, sort out her life and play more of a background role in the UFO movement. She clearly isn’t about to be whisked off her feet to another planet, however much she’d like to be.

The Hong Kong UFO Club has more than 300 members, including academics, company executives and a number of well-known movie industry figures. Moon says “at least 100” have seen UFOs or dreamed about them “in an abnormal way or frequently”. She claims “dozens” have been awake during their extraterrestrial encounters.

Despite its proximity to the mainland, Hong Kong is not the best place to be if you want to be abducted by an alien, it seems. “They don’t stop,” Moon says. “They pass over, flying north to south and south to north. It looks like they are going back and forth to China from the ocean. No one has seen any landing. A lot of people have seen them from the Wah Fu Estate, southern Hong Kong Island, and over Tolo Harbour, skimming across the sky.

“It’s too crowded and polluted in Hong Kong for UFOs to land. China on the other hand is a big place. Often they show up where there is military activity. That’s why the Roswell incident [the alleged UFO crash of 1947 in New Mexico, after which the US government supposedly captured aliens] happened, and why there are so many sightings in Mongolia, where there are a lot of military installations from the Cold War era.” The Roswell incident has an eerie parallel in China in the reported discovery of alien skeletons in the remote mountains of Bayan-Kara-Ula, Qinghai Province, in 1937. Archaeologists apparently found a group of skeletons with abnormally large heads and small bodies in a cave tomb. The skeletons were reportedly surrounded by granite discs with strange hieroglyphics that, according to one translation, tell of a UFO crash 12,000 years ago.

The Hong Kong club has contacts with mainland UFO groups but Moon gives the impression the relationship isn’t an easy one. “A lot of them are weird,” she says. “We are suspicious about whether some of them are sane. They all want to have contact with us because we are the ones with the money and power to get things done. A lot of them want to live here. When you ask them for photographs they ask you for money. They want money for anything they can offer you because they are so poor.”

Moon acknowledges, however, that mainland UFO clubs operate in difficult political circumstances. “They can’t do anything that is not scientific otherwise they will be treated like the Falun Gong. If they did anything seen as remotely religious or political they’d be banned.”

What if all the stories are true? What if flying saucers really are shooting over Hong Kong and China? And why? Why don’t they come down in peace or invade us and demand to be taken to our leaders?

It is a question Stevens has spent much of the past half century pondering and one for which he has a plausible answer. “It appears to me they are simply observing and reporting back to their own societies,” he says. “They are far ahead of us technologically. They have no need of anything here. They are simply observing us at a stage when we are birds about to leave the nest. They have already left the nest and live in space in huge planetoids and have produced a utopian society. There are thousands of mother ships big enough to hold half a million people and travel forever. They are watching us approach the stage where we try our first flight.”

Sun believes China is seeing a surge in UFO activity now for the same reason the US was attracted it in the 1950s: it is emerging as the world’s leading power and extraterrestrials are almost as interested in China as foreign investors appear to be. “In the past, there were more flying saucers over developed countries like the US,” he says. “Now China is developing, and this is what has aroused the interest of beings from other worlds.”

Moon believes the aliens have a more esoteric motive and are trying to show at least some of us the way to a better life. “People who have seen UFOs say everything is so warm, so heavenly. It is like an inner knowing that there is something better. There are much better worlds everywhere. This is really negative, this world. It’s just that most people are very good at pretending.” There is a faraway look in her eyes as she declares: “There is something better out there. I know there is.”


Beijing Blogger Bash — Update and Last Call

[UPDATE: Here’s the plan. We will meet in the lobby of the Novotel Hotel in Wangfujing (easy walk from the subway) at 12:30 p.m., Dec. 6. Then we can head off to the restaurant together in two or three taxis. If possible, please confirm via comment or email to me.]

When I first put out the word on this I expected three, maybe four attendees. So far we now have 10 bloggers who’ve asked to participate. Now we just need to all agree on the time and the place to meet.

Adam M. tells me we’ll meet at a kaoya restaurant (how appropriate) near Wangfujing. Can someone please post a comment with the exact address? Would 1 PM next Saturday (December 6) work for everyone?

Based on emails and comments, these are the participants as of today (and sorry, I don’t have urls for all of them):

Brendan (bokane.org)
Emile Kroeger
Li Tong of Sophie’s World
Adam (robots.org)
Josh Krieger
Alan Murphy
B Raffa, Soapbox Jams
Adam Morris
Jeremy of Danwei
Richard (me)

If I left anyone off, please let me know. If we want to increase the attendance, feel free to put up a notice on your own site. Thanks to everyone for helping to make this happen.

(Oh, and if anyone can convince Hailey to change her plans and be available, we’d all love to meet her.)


If you think China’s tough on cyber-dissidents, check out Vietnam

A shocking report from Amnesty Intenational makes China’s control of the Internet seem downright tame.

In Viet Nam, clicking on the ‘send’ button carries the risk of being sent to prison and having your friends and family put under 24 hour surveillance.

While the internet has given those critical of the government a place to express their opinions, the Vietnamese authorities have become very sophisticated in tracing their electronic footsteps and arresting and imprisoning them.

The report says Vietnam has already sentenced “at least 10 people to long prison terms for criticising the government online and emailing overseas Vietnamese groups.”

Also worth nothing: Amnesty International is setting up a new Web site dedicated to human rights abuses in the Asia Pacific.