Best three blogs on China are all blocked!

Bingfeng reports:

this is really crazy, china digital news, the peking duck and asia pundit are all blocked today. great job, now go to read china daily baby!

A sad day for us all. CDT and this blog both posted about Tai$hi yesterday. Not sure why Asia Pundit was suddenly blocked. Let’s hope it’s temporary.


Tai$hi: China’s Lidice?

No, China didn’t bulldoze Tai$hi and murder its men, women and children the way those irrepressible Nazis did to the Czech town of Lidice. But they have tried to create the same effect, i.e., causing Tai$hi to cease to exist, at least in the public consciousness. No record and no written history, and it’s as though it never happened. As this post at CDT reminds us, they shut down the message boards and delted the Internet posts about the ugly incident and, in all probability, Tai$hi inspired the recent blocking of Wikipedia in China. Call it historical bulldozing, or intellectual erasure.

In the same post, CDT provides a link to an essay in Chinese by Chinese sociologist Li Yinhe, and I’d like to repeat here the one portion CDT offers in translation:

People are equal; the rights of individuals as citizens cannot be divided by hierarchical levels. But in today’s China, because of historical and cultural reasons, it is a cruel reality that the rights of rural and urban residents, while equal under law, are, in reality, not equal. The rights of urban residents are basically protected, but in comparison the rights of villagers lack protection. It is not so easy for urban residents to be mistreated, but it is relatively easy for villagers. It is rare for urban residents to experience violent treatment in their lives, but it is relatively common for villagers. In their effort to impeach a very small official, Tai$hi residents suffered too much pain. Moreover, after villagers suffer violent treatment, the chances of them receiving justice is very small.

I wish I could read the whole thing. ESWN, is a translation pending?


A new thread

Have at it.


Chinese attitudes to sport, riddled with paradox?

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee was recently in Nanjing for the 10th Chinese National Games, a domestic event held every four years. Despite the fact that Nanjing won’t host another national games for a long time nor will the city play host to Olympic events, he was faced with Chinese grandeur on a truly massive scale: “a newly built, socking great Olympic park (flame, multi-storey media centre, eight-lane access highway, the lot) of such a breathtaking scale and futuristic beauty that Athens and Sydney look like amateurs. The swimming complex is possibly the most stunning in the world.”

Sport in China and the Olympics in particular are more about “fulfilling ideology and international vanity than a genuine appetite.”

For the Chinese, this is a matter of pride. For visitors of a more western mentality and only a smattering of knowledge of poverty levels in parts of this country, the words scandal and white elephant seem more appropriate.

A westerner may assume that, at the very least, the 70,000-seat stadium may be given over to community use, but amateur sport is a concept that barely exists in Chinese culture.

Indeed, Chinese attitudes to sport are riddled with paradox. It is true that the Chinese are not great partakers in sport, but they do not appear to be great fans of it either. The professional football league here, for instance, receives such miserable attendances that the clubs struggle for financial survival. The Chinese Open tennis event recently was a desert of empty seating.

Those 70,000 seats in the main athletics stadium here are a case in point. They were nearly filled on Thursday night for the men’s 110m hurdles final. This was because Liu Xiang was running and a combination of good looks and an Olympic gold medal make Liu a hot ticket. The Chinese crowd do the celebrity thing with great gusto: they shriek when he walks into the stadium, they shriek even more when he strips off his shirt. And when he has finished his race, they all get up and leave. Thus did the stadium suddenly return to where it had been before – less than a third full – and so it would remain.

The photogenic Liu Xiang


Japan’s proposed constitutional changes

Revision of the 1947 U.S.-drafted Japanese constitution was one of the founding principles of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). However, strong public opposition to any change has constrained LDP leaders for the last 50 years – until now. A recent poll suggested that 58% of Japanese people support certain non-controversial changes such as improving the Japanese language (it was translated directly from English) but 62% still oppose amendment of Article 9 (the pacifist clause).

Last Friday, Koizumi’s LDP put forward a final draft of a new proposed constitution. According to LDP spokesmen, the draft is meant to give Japan’s military a firm legal basis and better reflect the new realities of the modern world. It also states that Japan can have a military both to defend itself and to play a greater role in global security, although overseas deployments would be limited to international cooperation.

With regard to Article 9, the draft kept intact the paragraph which says “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes”. But it cut out the paragraph which states “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained”.

Instead, the new draft says: “In order to secure peace and the independence of our country as well as the security of the state and the people, military forces for self-defence shall be maintained with the prime minister of the cabinet as the supreme commander and may engage in activities conducted in international cooperation to secure peace and security of the international community.”

However, in order to get the new constitution approved, the draft needs to be approved by two-thirds of the lawmakers in both houses of parliament, and then by a simple majority of voters in a national referendum.


Caption Contest


The possibilities are nearly limitless.


Philip Pan on China’s defense of its bird flu antiviral policy

Pan’s a great China hand and one needn’t be a Rhodes scholar to detect the underlying cynisim and skepticism of his new article on how China is responding to critics who claim China is helping to make birds resistant to anti-flu drug.

The Chinese government said Friday that very few samples of bird flu virus collected here over the past two years showed resistance to a key influenza drug, contradicting complaints by international researchers that Chinese veterinary practices had rendered the drug useless if the virus were to spread to people.

Jia Youling, a senior Agriculture Ministry official who serves as the country’s chief veterinary officer, acknowledged that Chinese farmers have used the drug, amantadine, which is meant for people, on chickens and other poultry. But he said the practice was banned last year and denied that it had resulted in the bird flu virus developing a resistance to the drug….

“Some people have said that because China once used amantadine, disastrous effects have now been brought about on the global prevention of avian flu,” he said at a government news conference. “However, I think that statement is quite unfair.”

Jia suggested instead that veterinary practices in Southeast Asia were to blame for strains of bird flu becoming resistant to the drug.
The Chinese government did not immediately provide data on the number of cases tested and the number that showed resistance.

Jia’s assertions contradict international researchers, including experts at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, one of the premier private influenza research institutions in the world. Experts there reported last month that bird flu strains in East Asia, particularly in China, had become more resistant to amantadine during recent years. They also said the mutations in China did not appear to be random, adding they could be the result of treating chickens with the drug to prevent bird flu.

Animal health experts have also said the use of amantadine to treat livestock was not common in Southeast Asia because of the drug’s limited availability and the high cost of importing it to countries there.

Since January 2004, more than 60 people have died of bird flu in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. And the virus has spread to Europe’s eastern border. China reported three new outbreaks in poultry in the past week, but it has not reported any infections in people.

Shorter Philip Pan: Serious research shows China’s use of the antibioticviral is creating a very risky situation. And it’s simply amazing that China’s next-door neighbors are experiencing bird flu infection in humans while China reports zero cases. Viruses tend to be oblivious of national borders, so something here is fishy.

Via CDT.


Corrupt officials: nowhere to run, nowhere to hide

In a move that will hopefully make hundreds of corrupt Chinese officials who fled overseas with their ill-gotten gains extremely nervous, China ratified the U.N. Convention Against Corruption on October 27. The treaty will come into effect on December 14 and is expected to pave the way for increased international cooperation for the extradition back to China of those officials who embezzled public money and fled abroad.

Chinese police authorities have said that, as of the end of 2004, more than 500 Chinese suspects of economic crimes, mostly corrupt officials or executives of state-owned companies, were at large in foreign countries. They took with them a total of 70 billion yuan (US$8.4 billion) of public funds, and only a fraction have been extradited to China.

The U.N. convention contains a variety of measures on international corruption including prevention, the criminalization of specific acts, international cooperation, assets recovery and implementation mechanisms.

Since 1998, only about 70 officials, out of a total of hundreds have been sent back through legal cooperation with other countries. China currently has extradition treaties with a motley collection of only 22 countries. Even the HK SAR Government has failed to agree on such a treaty with the Mainland.

However, there was a positive breakthrough in April when the U.S. arrested the three notorious Bank of China, Kaiping Branch managers and their families on immigration fraud charges. Their arrests followed examination of criminal evidence received from the Chinese police. One of the trio, Yu Zhendong, was escorted to Beijing by U.S. law enforcement officers. In order to secure his extradition, China agreed not to torture or execute him and Yu Zhendong agreed to a a maximum 12-year jail sentence.

The U.S. has long been thought of as a safe haven for Chinese criminals as they have traditionally refused to extradite criminals because of the danger of them being executed. China has always accused the U.S. of hypocracy as many U.S. states practice the death penalty. However, in the case of the three Bank of China Kaiping mangers, China has showed a willingness to guarantee that criminals will not face execution and the U.S. has reponded positively.

Let’s hope that every single Chinese official currently living a life of luxury abroad will be sent back to China to face the lengthy jail terms that they so richly deserve.


“Saving Face”

(cross-posted at the paper tiger)…

No, I’m not referring to the Bush Administration’s fall-back strategy for coping with the indictment of Scooter Libby and all the suddenly pointing fingers at the lies and deceptions underlying the hollow rationale for the invasion of Iraq. Lots of other blogs out there doing a brilliant job of that (and might I recommend Booman Tribune and firedoglake as places to go for your latest installments of “Scooter Goes to Jail”? Part Two: “Turdblossom’s Fitzmas Present”).

I’m referring to last year’s indy film by first-time director Alice Wu. Now, I work in the film industry and am well-aware of the dynamics that control what films get made and why – one of the reasons that I’d rather read and write novels, to be honest. But occasionally, exceptions come along, and in the case of this one, I can only shake my head in admiration and wonderment.

“Saving Face” is, first, a film about Chinese Americans. With no white people. Well, that’s a big no-no. Second, it’s a film about Chinese American lesbians, which, even given the popularity of girl on girl sex in certain lad-ish circles is still a bit of a commercial stretch. Third, half the film is in Mandarin! Lovely, proper Mandarin, in the case of Joan Chen, always a boon to us aspiring Chinese students. But you gotta figure that market is also somewhat limited. And did I mention the part where this was the director’s first script and first film? That Wu’s previous job was as a software geek at Microsoft? That she quit her job and gave herself five years to get her film made? And along the way, encountered attitudes like these?

”They had me meet with a lot of people in Hollywood, mostly Asian-American studio executives, which I hadn’t honestly known existed,” Ms. Wu said. She also hadn’t anticipated just how often she would be asked to consider changes that struck at the very heart of the script everyone seemed to like so much: Couldn’t Ms. Wu make her characters white, so maybe the young doctor could be played by, say, Reese Witherspoon, and Ellen Burstyn could be cast as her mother? How about making the love affair heterosexual? Did she have to direct as well as write it? It was advice Ms. Wu declined to take.

(from an unlinkable May 29, 2005 NYT article)

The only part of this I have any sympathy for is the caution about giving a complete novice director the helm. God knows there have been far too many inexperienced directors who’ve cost studios tons of money because they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. That applies to some pretty well-known directors as well (*cough* let’s just say he’s not “money” *cough*).

Anyway, “Saving Face” is a charming dramatic comedy that’s been compared to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Bend It Like Beckham.” I haven’t seen the latter film but can say that it’s a much better movie than the first, even with what I feel is one dramatic misstep (which since I don’t want to drop a spoiler, I’ll decline to go into here). The film is about a young doctor in NYC who does not know how tell her very traditional family that she’s gay (and in love with a ballerina, no less). Add to that her widowed mother’s mysterious pregnancy (she declines to identify the father). Kicked out of her Flushing-based parents’ house, Mom moves in with daughter, redecorates the apartment in proper Chinese fashion and holes up watching bad Chinese soap operas (are there any other kind?). Will mother and daughter remain enslaved to tradition and misery? Or will they risk opening themselves up to real love?

Now available on DVD. I urge you all to rent and watch, if for no other reason than to support a tenacious filmmaker who stayed true to her vision and somehow got it done, and in fine style. But I think you’ll enjoy the film too.


Better reserve your hotel for the Beijing Olympics right now

Because in 2008, there simply aren’t going to be enough beds, unless you want to sleep in a hostel or flophouse dormitory. Or a park bench.

Beijing is not planning to construct new hotels for the 2008 Olympics, even though a quarter million foreign visitors are expected for the world’s largest sports event.

Officials are not losing any sleep over where all the foreigners are going to stay, since there are nearly 490,000 beds throughout the city, the Xinhua news agency reported.

That impressive number is arrived at by counting absolutely everything the city’s hospitality sector has to offer, including one-star hotels and hostels of varying quality, according to the agency.

Even so, there may not be enough beds to go around, as domestic visitors plus the normal tourist inflow will boost demand in 2008 to 550,000, Xinhua said.

Somehow, I can’t imagine the type of tourists who can afford to travel to Beijing for the Olympics being delighted with staying in a 1-start Chinese hotel. (I’ve seen a 2-star hotel in China, and don’t even want to think about what a 1-star would be like. Shudder.)