“Ask me what my t-shirt says in Chinese”


See what she wrote on the sheet of paper she’s holding. Tian, who sent me the link, tells me the characters on her shirt mean Motherf*cker. It’s nice to see hanzi in America being put to good use!


“To consume is glorious”

Read this excellent post for an eye-opening thesis: If the Chinese, in their ever-mounting prosperity, go on to mirror the US in terms of consumption of natural resources (especially oil) the result could be an earth sucked dry.

Don’t blame the Chinese; the US has always been first to gorge on the earth’s resources like there’s no tomorrow. Why shouldn’t China follow our glorious example?


Does China’s sunrise mean America’s sunset?

A reader was kind enough to send me a link to an interesting article on China and what its growth might mean to America in the not-so-distant future. It’s especially interesting considering it’s from the liberal American Prospect.

No imaginative leap is necessary to predict that China will eventually turn its wealth into military might and become a superpower greater than the Soviet Union ever was.

And when its sun has risen fully, China may no longer be content to play a quiet role in the world. In mid-March, the National People’s Congress in Beijing authorized the use of “nonpeaceful” means against Taiwan if the latter ever moves toward independence. No confrontation looms at the moment. But China may be only biding its time, waiting until its power is so overwhelming that it can demand Taiwan’s submission, confident that the United States will have no choice but to go along.

China is so integrated into the world economy that we hope its leaders would hesitate to resort to force. But the flip side of China’s integration is that the United States and other countries have become so dependent on China that we may hesitate to confront it. With America’s staggering trade and budget deficits — and with the Chinese purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds vital to the dollar’s stability — we have unnecessarily undermined our own position and put the dollar (and our economy) at risk. The long-term danger is that persistent taxophobia — and Republican political opportunism — could create a lethal fiscal crisis undermining our strength.

And that is not the only way in which America may undercut itself. During the past decade, as China’s economy expanded, the expectation was that companies in the United States and other Western nations would outsource manufacturing and other routine aspects of production, while retaining at home the higher-level “brainwork.” Now, however, companies are increasingly contracting out design and innovation, hoping to cut research-and-development costs by drawing on engineers and other low-paid technical workers in China, India, and elsewhere.

These are the very functions that were supposed to be the future of the American economy. They are also the basis of our advantage in technologies with critical military applications. By outsourcing innovation, we risk raising up our rivals to a position equal to our own.

That’s an interesting perspective — that our continued economic dependence on China and our outsourcing of innovation may make it impossible for us to stand up to them. I think the author perceives China to be more of a superpower than it actually is, and his grim scenario — at least the military part — should be the least of America’s worries at the moment. The risks to the dollar he cites, however, are very real and could hurt us soon. And that’s all Bush’s fault, not China’s.


China’s new crackdown on university Web sites

More bad news as the Great Cybernanny tightens her ugly grip on China’s Internet.

Universities across China are tightening controls on student-run Internet discussion forums as part of a Communist Party campaign to strengthen what it calls “ideological education” on campuses. The crackdown has caused widespread resentment among students and prompted at least two demonstrations in recent days.

The Web sites, which run on school computer networks, host some of China’s largest and liveliest online bulletin boards. They serve as virtual meeting places where millions of educated Chinese across the country gather for discussions about everything from pop culture to politics.

But in recent weeks, universities have started blocking off-campus users from participating, including alumni and students and faculty from other universities, according to students and college officials. They have also begun requiring students to register with their real names when going online, eliminating the anonymity that allowed participants to speak without fear of punishment by the authorities.

The new restrictions come during a general tightening of controls on the Chinese media by the party’s propaganda authorities, who have struggled to control debate on the Internet and have viewed university Web sites with particular concern because they allow students from across the country to easily communicate with one another.

This is a must-read article by one of the best correspondents in China, Philip Pan (Pomfret’s successor), who has been closely following China’s repression of student dissent. Some of it is painful to read:

“There’s no hope at all. The bulletin board era is over,” said one student who resigned as a Web site manager and spoke on condition of anonymity. “Student leaders opposed the policy, but college officials said they were following orders from above and asked, ‘Would you be happier if the site was shut down completely?'”

Many students used the Internet to express their anger at the Chinese leadership. “By locking up young students, separating them and monitoring them, they will lose the people’s hearts,” wrote one student at Tsinghua.

“I just can’t figure it out,” wrote another student at Beijing University. “Why do policymakers use the most indiscreet and stupid methods, which does nothing to help them and instead sets the young elite against them?”

Now that is an excellent question. You’d think they would have learned at least a little bit from that “incident” of 15 years ago.

There’s a common belief that the Internet simply has to prevail in the end, that there is simply no way the CCP can contain it. Maybe. In the meantime, you have to give them high marks for trying.


How to Make “One China” Work: A Modest Proposal

This is a contribution from a guest blogger in Taiwan. Such posts do not necessarily reflect my own thinking. But come to think about it, in this case it does.

“O.K. — Then Let’s Have One China”
by William R. Stimson

“We should be particularly careful of Taiwan authorities trying to use so-called constitutional or legal means through referendum or constitutional re-engineering to back up their secessionist attempt with so-called legality,” reads the draft text of China’s new anti-secession law. In other words, China doesn’t think the elected officials of Taiwan should use their positions to carry out the will of the Taiwanese people.

What a telling statement this is, coming from a government that filters out any information it doesn’t want its people to know about and does everything else it can to control their thoughts. The passage hints at what the world can expect from China in years to come. To an increasing extent, even those of us who live outside China’s historic borders — in America, Europe, Taiwan and elsewhere — are going to have to begin to let the way we think, even about democracy and legality, be defined by unelected leaders of China who operate largely outside the law.

Except for Taiwan — which has a vibrant and contentious democracy, a prospering free enterprise economy and a president who expresses the sentiments of the people — the governments of the world are cravenly kowtowing to China so as not to risk their chance at the Chinese market. Even the few tiny island nations of the Caribbean and banana republics of Central America that in the past have recognized Taiwan
are now turning instead to China and its One China dictate. It would seem One China has won the day. The alternative for Taiwan is to be invaded. Let’s not here dissect the fiction of the One China idea, show it up to be the lie that it obviously is. Rather let us entertain the notion and see if Taiwan can find a way to live with it, if this is what must be.

The only way I can see that this can be done is if we reframe the tenet in a way that’s truthful to the situation between the two nations today. If the people of Taiwan are to be coerced by the world into letting China define the terms of their thinking, then let’s at least not deprive the situation entirely of logic. Clearly, if there is to be one China, it should be ruled by the democratic government in Taipei, not the totalitarian one in Beijing. If there is to be one system it should be the advanced one based on law, constitutionality and sound business, banking and copyright practice — the one currently prospering in Taipei, not the archaic and lawless hodgepodge of “thugs” and “warlords” reigning and conniving behind the scenes in Beijing, whose main interest is in making themselves rich, no matter the cost to the working classes, the farmers, or the nation as a whole. Of course those guys want to extend their playing field by making a grab for Taiwan.

O.K. — maybe we can unite Taiwan with the mainland, if the world insists on letting China force this scenario. But reason has it — this new entity, the “One China,” should be governed from Taipei, not Beijing. So let them lay down their arms then on the mainland, dismantle the missiles, and dismiss their dictator and corrupt party functionaries. The Taiwanese can move in, organize things in a fair way, give the farmers back their land, and the workers their jobs, set up schools for the poor as well as the rich, the girls as well as the boys, democratize locally and nationally, schedule real and fair elections, and let the many peoples of the many Chinas, including Tibet, and other forcibly-assimilated nations, for the first time in their history, have the right of self-determination. One China like this, yes, we can go for that — a One China that is democratic and has legality, constitutionality, legitimacy, equal opportunity for the poor as well as the rich — and freedom for all.

This probably would be no problem for us here in Taiwan.



lijiang black dragon pond.jpg
Lijiang’s Black Dragon Pond

Personally, I found Lijiang and its surrounding area more of a Shangri-la than Zhongdian. Every time I stepped out of the hotel and saw the huge snow-capped mountain that hovers behind the city, I felt a thrill, a longing to hold onto the moment because it was simply so spectacularly beautiful. Old Lijiang, like much of Dali, has been over-commercialized, with every square inch devoted to tourist shops of one kind or another. But still it managed to enchant with beautiful sites like the pond pictured above.

Lijiang is also the cleanest and neatest Chinese city I’ve visited, though I don’t know why.


America’s muddled policy toward C hina

It’s been interesting watching the Bush administration blowing in the wind when it comes to China. Its attempts to encourage trade while at the same time regarding China as a military threat along the lines of the old Soviet Union has created a confused and confusing approach to China from the Bush administration, or so says the Financial Times:

Far from increasing the pressure on Beijing to democratise, the US has just decided not to back a resolution against China at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, with US officials arguing lamely that the early release of a single Uighur dissident ahead of Ms Rice’s visit was a Chinese step in the right direction.

US officials insist such compromises are part of a careful policy of engagement with Beijing. If so, there is cause for muted celebration, for engagement is the only sensible way of dealing with a rising China. Let there be engagement, and let it be robust and honest.

Unfortunately, it looks as though Mr Bush and his confidants, including Ms Rice, are still wary of engagement and favour the idea of containing China militarily. The same is true for much of the US Congress….

But China today is nothing like the Soviet Union of the 1960s, and the Chinese are understandably furious about any attempts to limit their international influence. The Chinese economy is wide open to trade and investment – unlike those of US allies Japan and South Korea at the same stage of their development, let alone the countries of the Soviet bloc.

Chinese officials know that the long-term survival of their regime depends as much on the spread of prosperity as on repression. Globalisation, not Maoist or Soviet-style isolation, is the order of the day. The US should engage wholeheartedly with Beijing to encourage such thoughts. A mistake in dealing with the rise of China would dwarf the errors made in the Middle East.

I want to know why the author ends the piece with such a draconian statement. It would need to be a mighty big mistake to “dwarf” our tragedy in Iraq. What does the writer have in mind? Is he saying we might bait China into a war? That’s the implication I get.


Chinese communications

In the NY Times Travel section, a traveleractress Carrie Fisher and her son recount the communications challenges they encountered during their trip to Guilin, especially with Chinese signs translated into English.

Harper goes to the front desk and says, ”Checking in.” The man behind the desk looks at him blankly. Oh, man. If ”checking in” is an exotic term at the front desk, we’re in really big trouble. But somehow something is communicated when his credit card is seen.

Following our porter to our rooms, we pass the health center, which offers massage, sauna and ear cleaning. ”How dirty do your ears get here?” Harper asks.

In the rooms, there is a little sign telling us of further services that the hotel offers. I frown. ”What is nurese hair?”

”Now what?” he asks me, tipping the porter.

”Well, it says you can get ‘nurese’ hair, unless they mean nurse hair — which is a strange idea. I mean, though I frequently think people in the medical profession keep themselves well groomed, I still can’t imagine wanting ‘nurse hair.”’

The next day, we visit some nearby caves. Our guide, who speaks English, tells us that the caves were discovered by a famous cowboy. ”His name is no longer remembered, only his flute.” I consider asking a question that might further explain what he just told us, but then decide not to. It’s better as it is. His name is no longer remembered, only his flute. I love this place.

It gets funnier, especially the part about a hotel guest going for a massage and being presented with 14 prostitutes to choose from.


Xishuangbanna scenery


What more can I say?




Men play checkers on the street.