Chinese New Year Thread

A street in Xishuangbanna

Richard heads for the airport in an hour, and from there on to Arizona for 9 days. Thank God for Eva Air’s relatively cheap Economy Deluxe class, a god-send for tall people like me.

Lisa and guest bloggers will be helping to keep things moving, and maybe I’ll have time to put something up next week. Until then, a heartfelt “Xin nian kuai le” to everyone who helps make this community what it is. That applies to everyone, even the lurkers (like my mother). Thanks.


Should Chen keep his trap shut on China?

The US certainly seems to think so.

Washington has delivered an exceptional rebuke to Taiwans’ President Chen Shui-bian after a speech in which he proposed abolishing a unification council with China, as well as other hardline policies.

The US State Department issued a statement on Monday evening defining US policy towards Taiwan and reminding Mr Chen that Washington “does “not support Taiwan’s independence and opposes unilateral changes to the status quo by either Taiwan or Beijing”.

“We certainly weren’t expecting [Mr Chen’s speech] and we weren’t consulted about it,” Adam Ereli, spokesman for the US State Department, told reporters at a regular briefing.

Mr Chen, who has been espousing a harder line towards China since an electoral defeat in December, proposed at the weekend abolishing the National Unification Council, a non-official advisory body whose responsibility is to co-ordinate unification with China.”What unification of China are we pursuing?” he asked.

Mr Chen also called for Taiwan to join the United Nations under the name “Taiwan” – instead of the country’s official title, the “Republic of China” – and for the drafting of a new constitution by the end of the year.

Mr Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party and many supporters of Taiwan’s independence view the “Republic of China” title, flag and constitution as relics of the Kuomintang, Taiwan’s once-authoritarian ruling party, now its main opposition.

“Most Taiwanese people want to see the country pursue national dignity and enhance its Taiwanese consciousness,” Mr Chen said.

After living there for nearly 6 months, I’d have to agree with Chen’s last statement. I have spoken to so many Taiwanese people about it, and have been surprised at how unified they all are on the topic of unification: they see the idea as patently absurd, idiotic and inconceivable. There were a couple of exceptions. One of my colleagues from Hong Kong is in favor of unification, strictly because he feels it will bring financial benefits to a shrinking Taiwan economy. But to say this is a minority opinion doesn’t say nearly enough.

With all Chen has said about this subject, I fail to see why the US should be so shocked at his statements above. They’re consistent with his worldview and with everything he’s said before. Whether it’s wise or smart of Chen to insist on pushing the envelope the way he does is a separate conversation. I’m just saying it shouldn’t surprise anyone anymore when he does it.


Bush, China and Pre-Emptive Force

George Bush and the CCP’s Doctrine of Pre-Emption

A Guest Post from Ivan

A CCP cadre once told me that the Party “believes in prevention rather than cure.” And I replied, “so does George Bush. Isn’t that what the doctrine of pre-emptive war means?”

Personally I believe ALL uses of pre-emptive force are immoral and impractical, because it is unscientific to presume that any mortal men enjoy any magical powers of predicting the distant future. However, George Bush and the CCP – who in my opinion are both superstitious entities in their respective ways – believe otherwise.

Regarding the Communist tradition of presuming the ability to forsee the distant future – and its correlative arrogation of the power to prevent any perceived “threats to stability” – consider just one example, just one of the millions of fraudulent show-trials which took place under the Communist regimes of Russia and its lesser partner, Mao’s China: the trial of Laszlo Rajk in Hungary in 1949, and then a cutting commentary by one of the witnesses.

Rajk was a Hungarian Communist, who assumed the office of Foreign Secretary after the Soviet Army conquered Hungary in 1945. However, Stalin tolerated no rivals – not even perceived rivals – even in his new imperial satellites in Eastern Europe. Therefore, Stalin appointed his own virtual viceroy, Rakosi, to rule the new Communist Hungary, and Rakosi proceeded – with the aid of the Russian secret police and their Hungarian servants – to arrest any and all PERCEIVED rivals for power in Hungary, including those who were lifelong Communists.

Consequently, Rajk was arrested and tortured in 1949, and at his show-trial he confessed to having been an agent of “hostile Western elements” and of Trotsky, and he was shot to death.

Now, the key point about all this, is that some time after Rajk’s trial, another (former) Hungarian Communist, G. Schoepflin, who witnessed it all, wrote:

To talk about Rajk’s conspiracy is ridiculous. The (Communist) leaders saw in Rajk, not a conspiracy, but a POTENTIAL leader of an EVENTUAL opposition in the future. Therefore he had to be annihilated.

Thus, in that light, I have several question, most especially for any of our CCP readers here:

1. What evidence is there, that ANY person or party has any ability to predict what other people will do in the distant future? I call this a superstition, but I’m open to being proven wrong.

2. IF you believe that some people are able to look into the distant future and predict potential harm, then is George Bush justified in his doctrine of “pre-emptive war?”

3. If George Bush is NOT justified in his doctrine of “pre-emptive war”, then is the CCP justified in arresting people who have done no actual harm, on the grounds of “preventing potential harm?”

3.a: And please keep this issue separate from the issue of domestic versus international affairs – because IF Saddam ever attacked America, it would have become an internal affair of America. My questions, rather, are about the presumed ability of any humans to look into the future, and then their arrogation of the power to take “preventive measures” against events which do not pose any immediate threat.


Make Lunar New Year a US Holiday – Why Not?

In keeping with the sweetness and light we are trying to maintain to honor the New Year, I offer the following post…

Last night, I went to a party in celebration of Chinese New Year. My friend Anna, originally from Jinan, is quite the cook, and with the help of her father and several cousins, prepared so many courses that I’m surprised the table held up under the weight. The four people attending born in the Dog year received stuffed dog toys, the kids got hong bao, and we all ate far too many dumplings in order to get one with a coin inside. Only one coin was swallowed, to my knowledge.

Here in Los Angeles, celebrations of the Lunar New Year are increasingly common, and not just among Asians and Asian Americans. I turned down a couple other invitations myself. Of course, Los Angeles isn’t necessarily like the rest of America, but we aren’t the only ones celebrating. Now there’s a movement afoot for official recognition of Lunar New Year:

Emily Yee-Mei Lee remembers that as a child in Taiwan, she longed for the next Chinese New Year, that fabulous day when she would receive neon-red envelopes with $100 bills and gorge on scrumptious pork dumplings.

But in the United States, Lee usually confronts the festival with angst and guilt: Instead of spending the whole day celebrating, she trudges to her job as a computer programmer and ships her 15-year-old son off to school.

“It makes me feel like it’s impossible to be a good Chinese and a good American,” said Lee, 47, of Ellicott City. “It’s just so hard to properly celebrate the holiday in this country.”

The Lunar New Year — which is celebrated today by more than a billion Asians around the world — presents a troubling annual dilemma for many of the country’s 12 million Asian Americans: honor your millennia-old traditions by taking the day off, or bow to the pressures of Western society by going about business as usual?

Asian Americans such as Lee say they shouldn’t have to make that choice. In a sign of their increasing political power, Asian American groups in the Washington region and across the nation are pushing measures that they hope will eventually result in a federal holiday, with public schools closing and employees staying home from work.

“This is about respect for our culture,” said Henry Lau, a co-founder of the Maryland Coalition for Recognition of the Asian Lunar New Year. “The New Year is the most important festival in our culture, and that needs to be acknowledged.”

The Howard County Council passed a measure this month to prohibit public meetings on the holiday. The Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill to officially recognize the day, and activists in Virginia are lobbying for a similar measure. Groups in the District are proposing to close school on the Lunar New Year.

The growing movement echoes efforts by earlier immigrant and minority groups that fought for recognition of holidays that honor them, Lau said.

“The Italian Americans have Columbus Day, the Irish have St. Patrick’s Day and African Americans have Martin Luther King Jr. Day,” said Lau, 60, a manager at the Environmental Protection Agency who lives in Columbia. “But the Asian American community has nothing. It’s like we’re not real Americans.”

The movement has had some success. In San Francisco, Lunar New Year is a school holiday; in New York, it’s an official “Day Of Commemoration,” along with other Jewish and Muslim festival days. The ultimate goal is to make Lunar New Year a Federal holiday, just like Christmas and Thanksgiving.

I think this is a holiday most Americans could get behind – why not? Get together with family, celebrate, eat, wish each other luck and prosperity for the year ahead. And maybe set off a few firecrackers. You know we Americans do like our fireworks.

Thanks to Michael Turton for the tip.


Mon dieu – the French launch protest at Chinese dog killing

dog china.jpg

Compassion or hypocrisy?

France’s Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) appealed to Chinese President Hu Jintao to put an end to the cruel slaughter of dogs, which it blasted as an affront.

“The SPA does not set itself up as a judge of a country and its culture, but is asking for animals to be killed in a dignified way,” the SPA said.

“Millions of dogs (in China) are hanged, beaten with sticks and butchered while they are still alive,” it said in a press release.

The organisation added that it had tried to get French media to accept an advertisement as part of its campaign against dog butchering, but the picture — of an animal being cut to pieces in a pool of blood — was so graphic that it had been rejected by every newspaper.

The upcoming Chinese New Year on Sunday ushers in the Year of the Dog. Up to 10 million dogs are slaughtered every year in China, many killed slowly and cruelly to supposedly enhance the meat’s flavour, according to animal rights groups.

I have mixed feelings about this. It makes us feel good to protest against killing and eating those animals we love, like dogs and cats, but aren’t we all turning a blind eye to the fact that all kinds of animals suffer so that we might eat? That’s not to give dog-killing the thumbs-up; I’m against it. But do we ask other countries to give up aspects of their culture so that we can feel a little more comfortable, as we dig into a juicy veal chop?

I can see protesting to demand the dogs be treated more humanely. But as long as most of our own entrees come from the slaughterhouse, we really don’t have much of an argument.


China waking up to the threat of rural unrest (again)

Another decree, another promise to roll out new reforms, and another sign that rural rage has the CCP scared out of their wits.

Faced with steadily increasing peasant unrest, the Communist Party has decreed extensive changes to improve the lot of farmers and stop rapid economic development from encroaching on their land.

The party declared rural reform a major goal of its new five-year economic program, which began this month. The government has also announced the abolition of an agricultural tax that is thousands of years old, free public school education for peasant children and new rural insurance to subsidize medical care for those among the country’s 800 million farmers who cannot afford to see doctors.

The swift sequence of decisions reflected the depth of concern in the party and government as farmers outraged by land grabs and pollution increasingly rise up in violent protests that senior officials have said pose a threat to stability and continued economic growth. The Public Security Ministry estimated the number of riots and demonstrations at 87,000 during 2005, up more than 6 percent from 2004 and quadruple what it was a decade ago….

Premier Wen Jiabao last month warned senior rural bureaucrats against making “a historical mistake” by failing to protect farmers and their lands, which he predicted would lead to more violence. In particular, he cautioned, towns should not violate the law in seizing land nor sell confiscated fields to businesses as a way to raise public funds.

“This is a key issue that affects the stability of the countryside and the society, and it must be clearly recognized by all levels of government and party committees,” he said, according to a text of his speech published last week by the party’s official People’s Daily.

President Hu Jintao drove home the message Friday in an address to the Politburo, urging resolution of the “major contradictions and problems we are faced with” in the countryside. “If we cannot succeed in developing agriculture and rural areas while helping farmers improve their lives markedly, we will fail to reach the goal of building a comparatively prosperous society,” he said, according to the official New China News Agency.

He’s certainly right about that. I hope to God they are serious this time. We’re talking about the bulk of China’s population here, the ones who traditionally create the revolutions. They can’t be treated like untouchables forever. Unfortunately, I remember getting my hopes up for reform with the publication in 2004 of the Zhongguo Nongmin Diaocha, which was then banned and the owners fined. So I take each new announcement of “sweeping reforms” with a hefty grain of sea-salt, and hope that maybe, just maybe, this one time they may really go ahead and do what they promise.

Read the rest of the article to see how so far all the pretentious talk about cracking down on officials who take away peasant’s land illegally have come to nothing. Absolutely nothing. Maybe this time it’ll all be different. Maybe.


CCP follows the Mormons…

…and bans the movie Brokeback Mountain in China.

Gay cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain has been banned in mainland China after outraging censors there.

The film shocked China’s broadcast regulator the State Administration of Radio, Film & Television, as the nation still considers homosexuality a taboo subject.

Director Ang Lee last week hailed Asia for having a more open-minded stance on sexuality – so the ban will be a blow to the Taiwanese film maker.

Meanwhile, sexual content in Memoirs of a Geisha, which stars Chinese stars Gong Li and Ziyi Zhang, also caused a stir, but distributor Columbia TriStar insists the movie will eventually be screened in China.

Of course, Chinese people who want to see the movie have already bought the pirated DVD, which probably appeared on the street within 48 hours of the film’s premier in the US. Still, it’s a shame that that’s the only way it’ll be available.


Thread 101


This is a very tall building in Taipei. Impressive, if not quite beautiful in the classical sense. Photo came to me from Jerome Keating.



Note: I don’t read Chinese well enough to know what this means (yet), but it was sent to me from a blogger whom I trust who asked me to post it. Anyone who wishes to leave an English synopsis in the comments is welcome.


2006 年1月24日,星期二,是《冰点》周刊的发稿日,《冰点》在京编采如往日一样,齐集编辑部,认真校对将于1月25日出版的新的一期周刊。下午4点多,版样全部出齐,送总编辑审阅付印。然而反常的是,迟迟没有回音。我们听到,报社领导层被全部召到团中央开紧急会议,没有人看大样了。这意味着将有不同寻常的事情要发生。





自然,这场谈话在前述种种背景之下,已经成了一场滑稽剧。很明显,这是”上面”少数人在背后操纵,团中央在前台扮演丑角。我据理向社长、总编辑痛斥这份” 决定” 和中宣部《新闻阅评》的荒唐,并向他们宣告:我将正式向党中央纪律检查委员会控告这次非法行为。


” 上面”少数人对《冰点》周刊的扼杀,蓄谋已久。2005年6月1日,在反法西斯战争胜利60周年纪念日前夕,《冰点》刊发了《平型关战役与平型关大捷》一文,真实记录了面对民族危亡,国共两党两军密切合作、相互配合、浴血奋战的真实历史场景。与传统宣传不同的是,《冰点》首次在主流媒体上客观真实地报道了国民党将士在这场战斗中牺牲数万人的战斗历程。




2005 年12月7日,《冰点》刊发胡启立同志的长篇回忆文章《我心中的耀邦》,引起强烈反响,海内外中文媒体纷纷转载,无数网友发帖说被文章感动得热泪盈眶。对这样一篇起到极好社会反响的文章,中宣部竟打电话到报社来问罪,称报社违反了”没有自选动作”的规定!在这些人那里,哪有一点对胡耀邦同志的真感情、真悼念啊!







中国青年报《冰点》周刊主编 李大同


Google pulls “We don’t censor” statement

Heh. Click to enlarge the screen capture.

Google’s support centre has pulled an answer to the topical question “Does Google censor search results?” Since the answer clearly stated the company “does not censor results for any search term”, and given the company’s recent foray into the lucrative Chinese search engine market, it seems fair that the internet monolith would probably want to review that particular stance and relegate the offending item to cache.


Yup, democracy is not a word you want to be flashing about when you’ve just opened a big fat Yuan bank account.

For the record, Google’s justification for agreeing to censorship of search results on Google China is, as Sergey Brin put it: “We ultimately made a difficult decision, but we felt that by participating there, and making our services more available, even if not to the 100 percent that we ideally would like, it will be better for Chinese Web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it.”

Chinese news website Xinhua kicks off its “China welcomes running dog lackey imperialist search engine” piece with: “By creating a unique address for China, Google hopes to make its search engine more widely available and easier to use in the world’s most populous country.”

It does, however, quickly move on to a refreshingly frank analysis of Google’s real motivation: “China already has more than 100 million web surfers and the audience is expected to swell substantially — an alluring prospect for Google as it tries to boost its already rapidly rising profits.”

Don’t be evil? Don’t make us laugh.

Talk about a PR nightmare. This is one for the books. My guess is that it’s just starting; the more I see about it, the worse I like it. My initial observation that this was good for the Chinese people is under review. And I now believe it was definitely bad for Google.