Shrine Thread or Astronaut Thread?

Which should we call it? Either way, here’s a new thread.

The Discussion: 42 Comments

I’m back in Taipei, and I just spoke to my IT manager about the google ads and requested they be changed — too much! I’d like them in-between posts but not inside the text boxes where they get confused with the copy.

October 17, 2005 @ 2:27 am | Comment

re: the last thread.
“25 years old and inexperienced.”
you just described me! i wish i had a job with the guardian, at least it’d be interesting.

October 17, 2005 @ 2:58 am | Comment

What’s with the word taiko/cosmo/astro-naut?
Wikipedia tells me some of the story, but why would the Western media use a deliberately different word for Chinese astronauts, when even China’s official media uses “astronaut”.

It makes no sense.

October 17, 2005 @ 3:08 am | Comment

From the previous thread. Simon Says:

Why are they sending a 25 year old with seemingly little experience into one of the more dangerous and important reporting jobs in the world?

What makes you think that his job was either important or dangerous?

Dangerous? As numerous Chinese commentators have pointed out, Western journalists are fairly safe in China. Compare that to reporting in Iraq, Iran, West bank, large parts of Africa/South America/Asia …

Important? If he hadn’t witnessed the beating, what page of the Guardian do you think his report would have been on? My guess is page 23. Or maybe they’d have kept it back until they did a special ‘focus on China’ supplement.

You might think it’s important. I might think it’s important. But does the Guardian think it’s important? Not particularly is my guess …

October 17, 2005 @ 3:31 am | Comment

I’m with David on this one. In my experience, many (or most) Western journalists (I mean foreign correspondents) get off on exagerrating the importance and “dangers” of their jobs.

Well, guess what. Most of them don’t know shit about what’s really going on, and most of them have VERY safe jobs, including in otherwise dangerous countries.

I remember in Moscow in particular, how various Western correspondents virtually wanked themselves silly over their “contacts” with “dissidents” etc, and then came home to luxurious flats, escorted by their translators and other servants (and government monitors) who were (and are) VERY careful about ensuring the safety of Western reporters.

In contrast, my hat goes off to native journalists, such as the likes of Andrei Babitsky who was kidnapped by the FSB in 2000 and ended up lost and turned up again in the Caucasus. That’s HIS job, it’s HIS job to take risks for HIS own country as a journalist.

It is NOT the proper role of foreign journalists to play at “adventuring” in their host countries. And as this case demonstrates, when Western reporters go on “daring” missions, they tend to emerge unscathed while the native journalists are beaten up or worse.

Which is not to say that I like what happened to this Guardian reporter, or that I’m against a free press. But there IS a difference between the roles of foreign journalists and native ones – and I get a bit sick when I consider how many Western “journalists” enjoy playing at adventure……and then emerging unscathed……

…cf, NY Times reporter Schanberg in Cambodia, and his translator Dith Pran. Schanberg returned to his posh job in Manhattan and Dith Pran went to the Killing Fields.

October 17, 2005 @ 3:55 am | Comment

His job is important because he’s writing for a mass-circulation major newspaper. In part he determines the agenda when it comes to China. As for dangerous, perhaps I should have been clearer – the danger came about through his neiveite and the Guardian’s lack of supervision and/or control. Driving into Taishi is a reasonable thing for a reporter to do, but only so long as you know the likely consequences. The SCMP’s reporter did the same thing. In some senses they did it because they knew that would become the story. On that I’m with Ivan.

Reporters in China are safe so long as they follow “the rules”. It’s the same on any beat. But whereas in New York you get fired from the NYT and a book deal, in China you watch people get bashed.

October 17, 2005 @ 8:00 am | Comment


I’ll buy that, I mean your qualifier on why this guy’s job was “important.”
And I appreciate how you can see the distinction I’m making between that kind of importance, and the kind of self-aggrandising “importance” so many Western journalists arrogate to themselves.

By the way I was never a journalist – I mean I was not a correspondent during my years in Russia – but God DAMN it, oh, I knew some and they drove me mad. The main reason for my indignation against self-aggrandising Western correspondents, is because (at least in Russia) I knew that they didn’t have a clue. They didn’t know what the hell was really going on. Oh but they LOVED to wank and wank over their “contacts” and their “inside acquaintance” with “dissidents.”

Meanwhile I saw what happened, not just to the (putative) “dissidents”, but to lots of other ordinary Russians – all ignored by the Western “journalists.”

You see they don’t really give a shit about the sufferings of the common people of their host countries. No.
They just get off on “knowing dissidents.”

Meanwhile – I saw – the REAL scoop on what’s happening in Russia? The REAL stories? Accredited foreign journalists never get near them. And it’s partly because they don’t even bother. Because, well, it’s SO much more GLAMOUROUS, to be “close to a dissident”, rather than going to the hospital to see a 17 year old boy who just got knifed (mortally) because he got too close to the drug-running operated by the local officials.

Oh but it’s NOT JUST the tragic stories, which they miss all the time.
They also miss the good stories. Again I’m thinking of Russia – because I saw more of such things there than in China – but I believe it applies to China as well:

Well, it’s SO much easier, to write about the obvious in Beijing or Shanghai (or Moscow), about all the new architecture. New buildings are going up all over Beijing. (And Moscow, I can tell you, too.) Big deal. But that’s not where the real changes are:

Back in the 1990s, I remember all sorts of correspondents in Moscow would write about the changes….um, in Moscow. Which is pretty much like New York now. (And always was, believe it or not. Moscow has always been a great city.)

But you know where the REAL stories were?
In one provincial city, for example,
I knew an old stage/film actor (prominent in old Soviet movies)
who lived on a pension, but he created a local music theatre on a shoestring, for like a few hundred dollars a month – and he and his actors and his friends all cooperated to make their own costumes – and for some time, they performed a musical, consisting of old Edwardian era (c 1910) English and American songs, all done in period costume, and some of their singers and dancers were from the top academies in Russia….

….any Western journalists covering this? This revival of culture and of imagination and creativity, in the new Russia? No. Because it wasn’t in Moscow, and it didn’t involve any sexy “dissidents.”

But it would have been a great – and very revealing – story, if any of the Western correspondents had ever looked beyond their own navels.

And I suspect, that probably, there are just as many good stories in China today, being ignored by the Western journalists who are full of themselves.

October 17, 2005 @ 8:37 am | Comment

Where is Martyn? On holiday?

October 17, 2005 @ 9:44 am | Comment

Ivan, I think the good stories are on the blogs. Thanks for the one on the actor.

October 17, 2005 @ 10:09 am | Comment


Thank you for acknowledging my friend the old Soviet-Russian actor. (If you know anything about Russian movies, you have probably seen his face.)

Sorry to say, I must keep his name anonymous here. But it means a lot to me for ANYone to acknowledge his story – and the story of many of my other friends and relatives in Russia – even if remotely.

I actually sang with him, a number of times.

The last time I saw him, was a chance encounter on the street. He and I hugged each other and kissed each other (as Russians do), and then we sang and danced with each other for a while – in the middle of a city street.

(Any Westerners here, who think this sounds atypical of Russia? Think again. Russia has ALWAYS been like this. Even in Soviet times, singing and dancing in public, with good loyal friends, was the norm. And so again, I wonder how much of the REAL China is being missed, by the Western “journalists” in China….)

He is a brother to me. And no self-serving, ivory-tower Western “journalist” can ever understand what this means.

During all the time when I lived near him, whenever we would part, after a long night together in good company, he would always tell me:

“I’m sorry we didn’t fight.” Which means – in an Old Russian way, the way of the Old Russian aristocracy – that even if we had fought, we would still be friends.

The real stories are never witnessed by foreign correspondents.

You need to be friends or family of the local people, to know what’s really going on. Otherwise, (you Western correspondents), otherwise you’re just a wanker, building up your reputation on the sufferings of people far better than yourself.

October 17, 2005 @ 10:47 am | Comment

Are you ready for another Math post? I think I am. Originally posted at:

On the Question of “Who Am I?”

Before you enter politics, you must ask yourself a question, “Who am I?” This is usually a philosophical question, but in this post, this is a political question.

How do you answer this question? Well, this is simply asking “Whose side am I on?” Marx said once, “Humanity is the sum of all social relations”. So the “I” in politics is basically your relationship with politics.

Now some people may say “I’m an independent, I form my opinions based on my conscience.” Well, very good. But I’m sorry to tell you that you are too politically immature. In the realm of politics, there’s no such thing as an independent. People who claim to be independents simply have no entered the doors of politics. In politics, you are bound to belong to a certain group, a certain interest. To put it very bluntly, politics is just the continuous struggle and scheming between different groups and interests. The only way you can particpate in politics is to find a group to be in. There are those who are already in a group, yet they don’t know it. That is very dangerous, that leads to the kind of people who make political mistakes and end up like Gorbachev.

To the question of “Who Am I?”, my answer is very clear, because I have very high political awareness. I belong to the Chinese worker/farmer class, of course that does not mean I have to be a worker or a farmer, but my allegiance belongs to that class. Therefore my political view is that I want to maximize the interests of Chinese workers and farmers.

The reason I support the Chinese Communist Party so far is that this Party’s view is the same as mine, both of us are here to defend the interests of the workers and farmers.

Now you may say “Math! Are you blind? The workers and farmers have greatly suffered under the Chinese Communist Party!” Please listen to me.

Workers and farmers are laborers, laborers are born to take in hardships. Workers and farmers are at the bottom rung of the society, and the bottom rung of any society is not that comfortable. If you do a “parallel comparison”, workers and farmers always live harsher lives than other classes in a society. In America, workers and farmers live the harshest lives as well. This is a basic fact of human society, and even the Chinese Communist Party cannot change that fact. Yes, I agree that the biggest beneficiaries of China’s economic reforms are not the workers and farmers, yet that is not a reason to deny that the Chinese Communist Party stands politically on the same side as workers and farmers. One, workers and farmers also benefited from the reform (please do not disagree with me on this basic point). Two, the reforms are the quickest ways to raise the livelihood of workers and farmers. Now you say “How can you say you represent their interests when they are so poor!”. Well, when a party represent the interests of workers and farmers, it does not mean it wants to make all workers and farmers millinaires. When American Democratic Party claims it represents the interests of minorities, does it aim to ultimately make blacks more powerful than whites, of course not. In other words, can you say that the democratic party is a worse party than the republican party becaues the democratic party’s constituencies are statistically much poorer than the republican party’s constituencies? If this is the case, then whoever represents the interests of the Oil Tycoons will always be judged as a good party, while whoever represents the interests of the homeless will always be judged as a bad party. Can you say “Look! You represent the homeless’ interests, but the homeless’s are so poor! So clearly you are doing a bad job!”

I stand by the Chinese Communist Party and I like their slogan of “Stability overrides everything”, because this is the necessary ingredient for China to continue to grow and develop. It may not be the necessary condition for another nation, but for China, I’m sorry, it is. If one day the Chinese Communist Party betrays the workers and the farmers, then I’ll find another group to stand by with.

Ok, now I have answered my question of “Who Am I”. Do you dare to answer yours? Please tell me, which group do you stand by with? Also, please consider carefully before answering, and make sure that the things coming out of your mouth are sensible words and not feces, which many of you tend to do.

October 17, 2005 @ 10:52 am | Comment

“Math’s Fan”:

Jesus H f—ing Christ. As you can see from my last comment in another thread below, I’m half drunk now and was just ready to go to bed, and then I saw your idiotic shit.

Math, before I go to bed, just one reply to just one thing you said:

“If one day the Communist Party betrays the farmers and the workers…”

They already did. You can start with the Famine of 1958-1961.

“Math’s Fan”, as the Man said, “You are more in need of a blow job than anyone in history.”

JEsus CHRIST! Do ANY male Chinese Communists EVER have ANY sex at ALL? Other than fucking over the workers and the farmers and trolling and wanking on blogs like this one?

October 17, 2005 @ 11:21 am | Comment

Why are they sending a 25 year old with seemingly little experience into one of the more dangerous and important reporting jobs in the world?

Because at 25 you got the balls to do it.

October 17, 2005 @ 12:39 pm | Comment

Can we not run a poll asking if Math, is fan, his peasant fiancee he bought for 1300 RMB or anyone closely related to him submits CCP spam, we immediately delete him?
I’m ashamed ofyou Ivan, even replying to him. This guy is a fool who doesn’t know what he’s talking about and is in no position to reply to any point you make. He’s simply going to spout off on another offensive tangent.
Dosn’t he have his own website to tend to? Guess no one’s tuning in to it so he has to play somewhere else.

October 17, 2005 @ 6:50 pm | Comment

Keir, are you saying Math is whasisname? I thought he was a whole new freak.

October 17, 2005 @ 7:35 pm | Comment

I am trying to be very sensitive about banning people and deleting them. I’m always damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

However, I think we can all agree that when someone posts a tirade like the one above by Math’s Fan (who I strongly doubt is whatshisname), he is asking for it, especially when he closes it with a pearl of wisdom and benevolence like this:

make sure that the things coming out of your mouth are sensible words and not feces, which many of you tend to do.

I’ll leave it there, but Math, consider yourself warned.

Someone above asked where Martyn is, and i regret to say I don’t know. Martyn, did we offend you in any way? Hope you come back soon.

October 17, 2005 @ 8:01 pm | Comment


Keir beat me to the punch, but I will mention it anyway: Russians are great at math, so I trust you will understand this equation:

troll + attention = increased trolling

That is the only “Math” you need to know. ๐Ÿ™‚

October 17, 2005 @ 8:56 pm | Comment

Just received an email from Mark Anthony Jones (unlike certain others, I have always included my real email address under my comments).
Although I haven’t mentioned him by name and wrote in response to Math’s nonsense, he took exception that I claimed Math (and thus by implication him) only paid 1300 RMB for his fiancee, when in fact the price was considerably more.
He claims he is not in fact Math, but then with his use of fake addresses and aliases and same style of commentary how anyone could or should make a difference is questionable.
Let me then address MAJ directly: You are not welcome here which has been made clear to you repatedly. You yourself have sworn never to visit this site or post another comment, publically insulting Richard and labelling his readers racist while insisting on forcing your fascist apologia upon us. I remember your last email to me tyhreatening Richard for deleting your comments while at this very time unapologetically doing the same on your site. You are therefore a free target and have for all intents and purposes declared open season.
Best Regards,
Laird Keir Winston Mitchell Heath of Gencairn (and Candy).

October 17, 2005 @ 9:56 pm | Comment

Laird Keir Winston Mitchell Heath

Damn, why can’t I have a cool name like that?

Remember, Keir, ignoring him is the best policy. For someone who calls my blog “a hate site” and has vowed multiple times never to visit it again, he sure seems up to date on who’s saying what in the comments! Remarkable, isn’t it?

October 17, 2005 @ 10:02 pm | Comment

Oh no: is this going to reignite the China-Japan conflict?

Japanese cuisine is now the most popular Asian food in New York, surpassing Chinese, according to the annual Zagat survey, which was published on Monday.

While five of the top 10 restaurants were French, led by Le Bernadin, five of the top 20 were Japanese, including Masa which boasts a sushi menu that starts at $350 per person. Tim Zagat said 22 Japanese restaurants rated higher than the previously top-ranked Chinese. “Japanese food has been going up like a rocket, while Chinese has stalled,” he said.

Sounds like grounds for major protests to me.

October 17, 2005 @ 10:55 pm | Comment

Oy! See what happens when I don’t read TPD for a few days? Who the hell is “Math’s Friend”? I only vaguely recall Math…oh well…

October 18, 2005 @ 1:24 am | Comment

A few days ago Kevin wrote an exceptionally eloquent post that I hope everbody gets a chance to read. Really well said, and I’m sorry I came to it a few days late.

October 18, 2005 @ 3:46 am | Comment

Halloween must be coming. I see the dead have been speaking again at

October 18, 2005 @ 6:23 am | Comment

I saw it too. Thought it was another parody from all those photos of peasant girl by moonlight, peasant girl on Great Wall, peasant girl through an opaque lens while reading Le Recherche des Temps Perdu, etc. Nope.

October 18, 2005 @ 7:28 am | Comment

Has anyone read the Chinese gov’t recent white paper on democracy?

October 18, 2005 @ 9:54 pm | Comment

In today’s Independent:
The China Crisis
Western politicians queue up to sing its praises. Economists regard it with awe and delight. Other countries are desperate to imitate it. Yet there is another side to China’s exploding, double-digit-growth miracle economy – it is turning into one of the greatest environmental threats the earth has faced
Another headline reads: Beijingers will need their masks. There are no more ‘clean air’ days.

October 18, 2005 @ 10:12 pm | Comment

They may need their masks in Beijing but at least they’ll have democracy… under the leadship of the CCP of course.

October 18, 2005 @ 10:59 pm | Comment

I read a People’s Daily report on it, but haven’t read the document itself. According to People’s Daily, it rocks! I tend to have my reservations.

October 19, 2005 @ 12:27 am | Comment

For those interested in the white paper, here are some great excerpts from SCMP (i wonder if the report itself comes with a barf bag, like the ones supplied to every seat on an airplane):

โ€œChinaโ€™s democracy is a peopleโ€™s democracy under the leadership of the CPC. The leadership of the CPC is a fundamental guarantee for the Chinese people to be masters in managing the affairs of their own country.โ€

โ€œThe CPCโ€™s leadership and rule is needed for uniting hundreds of millions of people to work in concerted efforts in building a beautiful future.”

โ€œWithout social stability, smooth economic development cannot be expected.”

It described Chinaโ€™s political system as โ€œthe peopleโ€™s democratic dictatorship.โ€

โ€œCriminal activities, such as sabotage of the socialist system, endangering state security and public security … are penalised according to law.”

โ€œBecause situations differ from one country to another, the paths the people of different countries take to win and develop democracy are different.”

โ€œChinaโ€™s democratic system has been continuously improved, and the forms of democracy are becoming more varied. The people are exercising fully their rights to be masters of the state.โ€

October 19, 2005 @ 1:35 am | Comment

I remember having a good laugh over that “white paper.” It’s like reading those North korean newspaper ads that describe the country as a “utopia,” where everyone’s happy and everyone has a say.

October 19, 2005 @ 1:52 am | Comment

Yeah, I kind of wish I could find a job translating this stuff. I could be totally drunk, and no matter how I translated it, it would probably make more sense than it did in the original Chinese.

October 19, 2005 @ 1:55 am | Comment

“Chinaโ€™s democracy is a peopleโ€™s democracy under the leadership of the CPC”

All my students were adamant that at the age of 18 they get the right to vote in elections that are held regularly. Turns out that they firmly believe themselves to live in a democracy.

I can’t read Chinese, but wouldn’t the phrase โ€œthe peopleโ€™s democratic dictatorshipโ€ normally be translated as ‘the dictatorship of the people’? Otherwise it sounds really strange, which is not beyond them of course.

ps. We’re getting Broadband in a couple of weeks, so I’ll be around more to chuck in my one centimo’s worth. At the moment I’m restricted to posting once in a blue mooncake…

October 19, 2005 @ 2:15 am | Comment

“Broadband” in China is unlike broadband anywhere else. Just so you’re prepared….

October 19, 2005 @ 2:38 am | Comment

That’s fine, I’m in Madrid! Broadband in China certainly seems to suck though.

October 19, 2005 @ 4:59 am | Comment

In most corrupt nation report China comes in a #16, Burma #2

October 19, 2005 @ 10:14 am | Comment

Guardian journalist abducted in Baghdad

October 19, 2005 @ 4:55 pm | Comment

Ivan, reference journalists, you might like “Under Fire”, an old Nick Nolte film with a great supporting cast, which starts off in Africa but moves to Nicaragua. It was filmed in Chiapas, so the feel is fairly Central American.

October 19, 2005 @ 6:29 pm | Comment

The most interesting parts of the white paper on democracy are chapters eight and nine. To me they look like the work of Hu’s men (Yu Keping – who I have met – & Xia Yong for instance).

October 19, 2005 @ 8:22 pm | Comment

There was a short news item in China Daily yesterday about a NPC? White Paper on dem3cracy in China. Is this some kind of progress or just frosting to string along everyone to avoid a big blow-up of anger and frustration?

October 19, 2005 @ 8:33 pm | Comment

Hmm, I couldn’t reach wikipedia since yesterday, from two different computers …

Did they do it again ? o.O

“Knowledge by the people, for the people …. that’s too subversive !”

October 19, 2005 @ 8:52 pm | Comment

It seems like Wikipedia is blocked here in Shenzhen. I did a trace on it and it seemed to stall on the firewall.

October 19, 2005 @ 9:40 pm | Comment

Okay, new thread started.

October 20, 2005 @ 5:10 am | Comment

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