China protesters block rail lines

BBC reports

Hundreds of demonstrators blocked key railway lines in eastern China in protest at threats to their benefits, state media has reported. More than 200 protesters, and several hundred onlookers, descended on two lines near Guixi in Jiangxi province. They were protesting at planned zoning changes in Guixi which could impact on income and benefits, the reports said.

This is quite a curious protest to me because there weren’t quite so many people as are often reported taking action, but they targeted the transport network – something I haven’t heard about in recent years. Is this relatively uncommon or has it happened several times before?

UPDATE (from Jeremiah): Also check out this podcast by Council on Foreign Relations fellow Carl Minzer (former senior counsel at the Congressional-Executive Commission on China) on the recent social unrest in China. (hat tip: Ben Landy at China Redux.)


China’s New Basketball Hero: Not Yao…Kobe.

The tallies are in, and the latest figures on NBA jersey sales in China show Yao slipping from the third spot all the way down to number six. In fact, based on sales data released last week, Yao’s #11 isn’t even the best-seller on the Houston Rockets, that honor goes to Tracy McGrady, #3 on the list who himself lost the top spot in the rankings to Kobe. Alan Iverson (a huge fan-favorite among Chinese hoopsters), Dwayne Wade, and LeBron round out the top 5.

Yao was having a career season this winter until he missed 32 games with a broken bone under his right knee. Nevertheless, the big man is average 24.7 points, 9.5 boards, and 2 blocks a game.

Personally, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Lakers jersey, but that’s just me.


China: “Give us your tired and poor pop stars, your cooled off celebs, yearning to have a hit…anywhere.”

In the movie Singles, the character played by Matt Dillon (who is, thanks to Entourage, quickly becoming known as the less famous Dillon brother…how’s that for irony?) justifies his music career by telling all and sundry that his band is “like huge…in Belgium.” It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Cheap Trick made a career out of “playing the Budokan” and nobody needs to be reminded of The Hoffmeister’s hypnotic magic when he busts out the German.

Avril Lavigne, the quirky and spunky producer-created pop sensation, has reached a mid-career crisis at the tender age of 22. Her ‘tweener fans have grown up and started seeing other people and Avril is just bummed as all get out. What’s a Canadian to do? Why…follow the trail of bad music across the Pacific. When I first came to China several years ago, I was shocked by the number of people who asked me if I liked the Carpenters. I was even more shocked when people kept asking me if they would be releasing new music. (Ummmmm, no….)

From Andrew Leonard’s fabulous How the World Works blog at, comes news that Avril has recorded a version of her song “Girlfriend” that interpolates a Mandarin chorus with English verses. It’s obviously a Canadian singing (and the computer ‘enhancement’ of Avril’s voice is distracting) but the choruses in Chinese are fairly clear and no less inane than the English verses.

Avril has done this before in other languages. Why the big news? Because Avril is like, omigod, huge in Asia. Andrew Leonard quotes her manager, Terry McBride as saying the punk-pop-poser princess is more popular in China than anywhere else. “Her consumption is greater in Asia than what it is in all of the Western Hemisphere combined. And some of those cities outweigh some of the biggest countries as far as the demand of consumption.”

The Carpenters. Kenny G. 1,542 versions of “Country Roads.” And now…Avril Lavigne.

Tan Dun is on line 1, and he is NOT happy.


God-fu*cking dammit

The motherfu*kers have blocked blogspot sites again. May the censors die a slow and painful death.


Chinese dean gets fired for blog posting

Come on. You’re the dean at a prestigious college. Hasn’t anyone ever told you about maintaining harmony at any cost?

A prestigious Chinese university has fired one of its deans days after he complained about being sidelined for bold remarks on academic freedom and berated the country’s higher education woes on the Internet.

Zhang Ming, dean of political sciences at Renmin University of China, posted articles detailing a row with his superior and attacking the “bureaucratization of Chinese colleges” on his well-read blog last week.

Zhang was formally stripped of his post on Friday, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Monday.

“They told me that I should be punished for … breaking the ‘hidden rules’,” the 50-year-old was quoted as saying.

Hidden rules – right. They may be hidden but everybody knows about them. Hidden rules are the price you pay for a harmonious society. When harmony has to be ensured at any price, it means those doing the ensuring can go to whatever lengths necessary to achieve their goal. Every authoritarian system therefore has its hidden rules that sustain the status quo and keep the entrenched bureaucracy in power. It’s a tiny price to pay for all this prosperity, and it’s mind-boggling that a college dean could fail to realize this.


Hong Kong march for democracy – Roland clueless (again)

ESWN’s Roland appears to be confused once more. This time it is about HK democracy.

The Unanswered Question about Hong Kong numbers

Yet, when the call went out for the people of Hong Kong to march for universal suffrage, not more than 5,000 people showed up. There is an obvious problem here, but nobody seems to want to confront it honestly…

So maybe these comments will generate the usual criticisms that I hate democracy and freedom. But what is your explanation as to why 5,000 people showed up for the march when public opinion polls showed that 60% of the population are for universal suffrage? If you can solve that puzzle, then you will get 60% of 7 million people = 4.2 million people to march for universal suffrage. How can that sort of people power be stopped?

It seems like quite an easy answer to me. Hong Kong people have indicated – quite consistently through polls – that they want universal suffrage. However they probably do not believe that protesting about it will make much of a difference. It’s all very well that saying getting 4+ million people on the streets “cannot be stopped”, but then again when did Hong Kong ever get 4+ million people on the streets? The UK managed much less than that in protests against the war in Iraq (Police said 750,000 – organisers said 2 million), despite the fact we have a population of over 60 million and there was generally a lot of opposition to the war.

Let’s take a figure of 1.5 million (quite generous) for the number that marched. That would be 2.5% of the population. So according to Roland’s logic, why did only 2.5% protest if so many opposed it?

The answer is that people can feel very strongly on an issue yet not believe their time is best spent protesting about something. Governments regularly ignore such protests even when they have to face the public at the ballot boxes. Neither Hong Kong’s government nor the Beijing administration have to worry about being voted out of office, so why would they take notice of what was going on? Past pro-democracy marches in Hong Kong have been far larger, yet they have not changed anything. So why waste your time when such a march will still not achieve anything?

So, Roland, the answer is that you will have millions of people joining the pro-democracy march when they believe it will actually result in universal suffrage. However they know all too well that at the moment, Beijing and the HK business mandarins will block any change regardless of what they do on the streets. That doesn’t mean they are satisfied with the status-quo in any way. Also, and I’m surprised Roland didn’t pick up on this, the general support for Donald Tsang means that there is not the ground-swell of opposition to him that led to increased numbers of people marching while Tung Chee-Hua was in charge.

Tell you what, Roland, why not focus on the translating and leave the commentary to us?

Oh, one more thing.

So maybe these comments will generate the usual criticisms that I hate democracy and freedom.

Roland, did you ever consider that your thinly-veiled hostility towards democracy in HK and constant attempts to undermine it is the source of such comments? If you do actually believe in HK democracy (i.e. the end of the functional constituencies, 1 vote per person and only direct elections) maybe you could actually show that – just for once.

It’s an idea, anyway.


Taiwan by the Numbers

I’m using a well-known phrase to address some poll results from Taiwan!

(UPDATE: Roland actually beat me to it, and I completely missed it! Many apologies, though I hope this is still an interesting article.)

New survey dismantles some old stereotypes

This is how Taiwanese society in general views the political map: Southerners support the pan-green camp and Taiwanese independence, while northerners support the pan-blue camp and unification with China; people of Chinese origin are for unification, while Hoklo Taiwanese are pro-independence; DPP and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) supporters are for independence, while New Party supporters are the strongest supporters of unification, followed by People First Party (PFP) supporters; and KMT adherents can be found somewhere between the New Party and the DPP.

Although some of these stereotypes are correct, another recent survey by the same think tank surprisingly shows that most of them are wrong.

Defining a pro-Taiwanese independence stance as the belief that the Republic of China’s (ROC) sovereignty belongs to the 23 million people of Taiwan rather than China’s 1.4 billion people brings some surprising results.

76.1% – The sovereignty of the ROC lies with Taiwan’s population
15% – The sovereignty of the ROC lies with Taiwan and China’s population
85% – 20 to 30-year-olds favouring independence
80% – People with a university degree or higher education favouring independence
24.7% – People of Chinese origin favouring unification
70% – People of Chinese origin who believe that the sovereignty of the ROC lies with Taiwan’s population
27% – Aborigines favouring unification (the highest percentage of any ethnic group)
45.7% – Aboriginies who want an independent Taiwan (the lowest of any ethnic group)

Those are some interesting results. So why do so many people say Taiwan is heavily divided down ethnic lines, if they seem to generally agree over concepts like only Taiwan can decide its future and that unification is not the best way forward for Taiwan?

The figures for young people are especially important, as this may show that support for independence is increasing over time. Then again it could be that younger people are a little more idealistic. Personally I think it is a sign of the former, as Taiwan is continuing to diverge politically and socially from China. When confronted with such large differences as autocracy versus democracy, it is not surprising that generations growing up and starting families will fail to identify with China. At the very least it would mean China will need to offer an extremely generous package to convince these people to vote for “unification”, to the point where it may just be a face-saving exercise for Beijing and the status-quo (that Taiwan is for all realistic purposes independent) is formalised.


The Chinese Stem Cell Blog

This is actually quite amazing. (Requires clicking through an ad.) People from the US and around the world are going to China to take advantage of the country’s relatively liberalized and simplified procedure for receiving stem cell treatment for an array of afflictions. And they aren’t just going to China for the treatment, they are blogging about it, often in a very touching manner.

So far, China hasn’t actually invested that much money in stem cell research, although plans are said to be under way for a significant expansion. China’s advantage over the West lies in its relative absence of bureaucratic hoops to jump through, and, possibly, though this is disputed, a vastly different cultural conception of abortion and the meaning of an embryo. It’s not inconceivable that the combination of these two factors could, in the future, result in China becoming a world leader in stem cell therapies that have been proven effective.

In the meantime, the bloggers will share their stories and encourage each other on. It is impossible not to root for them. Even now, a Silicon Valley resident named Richard, who suffers from ataxia, is on his way to Shenzhen, hopeful that Nanshan’s stem cell treatments will result in some minor improvements in his ability to walk and maintain balance. On March 15, he blogged about his farewell dinner.

Lily is reminded of the tale of a songbird that came down with a sore throat one day. His concerned friends dropped by the bird’s nest all throughout the day, offering their sympathy and homemade remedies. That night, the bird took every pill, drank every tonic, applied every ointment and wore every talisman given to him by his friends and the next morning, he was well again. Was it all the firepower of the medications that cured the bird? We’d like to think that the healing magic came instead from all the love that was imbued in the medicines. Thank you everyone, we couldn’t have done it without you!

Really very moving. You see, not all stories about China are negative. Far from it.

UPDATE: Please see this post for a different perspective.


I’m not even going to speculate…

Though I’ve seen plenty of pirate DVDs of Fox’s Prison Break in Beijing and Shanghai, I had no idea how popular the show was in China until I read this:

A television station in eastern China which flouted a national ban on U.S. drama “Prison Break,” said it aired the popular serial on its children’s channel for “English training” purposes, state media reported on Friday.

Like other shows with crime-related content, “Prison Break,” a drama about fugitives’ on the run after escaping jail, is banned in China, as part of a 2004 order “to protect the living environment of non-adults,” the Beijing Youth Daily said…

…An editor at Jinan TV, a station in China’s eastern Shandong province, said excerpts of “Prison Break” had aired on its children’s channel as part of a regular program called “Watch Movies, Learn English,” the paper reported.

“The program would show some scenes, then the host would explain the meaning of some of the words used and how they would apply in real life,” the paper quoted the editor surnamed Zhang as saying.

Okay, so I’m a really lame entertainment industry bureaucrat…I, um, haven’t ever seen this show. Anyone care to explain why it’s so popular in China? And whether it’s an appropriate “English Language Learning Tool” for children?


Video sharing, mineral mining – what’s the difference?

I know they do some things differently in China than elsewhere. But i have to ask, wouldn’t most Chinese themselves find this story literally beyond comprehension and too absurdly funny for words? I sure hope so.

Perhaps only in China can investors find companies engaged in online video sharing also doing brisk business in mining of minerals. A recent press release issued by China YouTV (CYTV.OB) is yet another reason why I only choose to write about China’s tech world, and keep my money far away from the Middle Kingdom and its many dubious listed technology companies.

On March 5, 2007, Admax Resources changed its name to China YouTV Corporation. I’m not joking when I relay the following from the company’s release: “The company intends to participate in the fast growing video sharing web site market in China, and at the same time, to continue its exploration of mineral properties in British Columbia, Canada.”

Is somebody at China YouTV sniffing sulfur deposits?! Gao Zhenyong is the president of the company, but where’s the board of directors to ensure the company stays on task? I guess in a poetic sense the two businesses are synonymous: mining of video data with bots and scripts on the one hand, and extraction of precious minerals on the other.

No, sorry, it still doesn’t make sense.

Here’s my favorite part of their press release, and it should be printed and pasted to the walls of all would-be Chinapreneurs, China consultants, trade associations, and investors:

If the Company finds mineralized material and it is economically feasible to remove the mineralized material, it will attempt to raise additional money through a subsequent private placement, public offering or through loans. If the Company needs additional cash and can’t raise it, it will either have to suspend activities until it is able to raise the cash, or cease activities entirely. If the Company can’t find any mineralized material or it is not economically feasible to remove the mineralized material, it will have to cease activities and focus on the new market: the video sharing industry in China.

The minerals mining sector and the video sharing sector are so different that I think it’s rather beautiful that this wayward company is honestly relaying to potential investors and (ouch!) current investors their ridiculous intentions.

I really do want everyone to reflect on this for a moment. I know, in the world of creative thinking there are “no wrong ideas” and thinking outside the proverbial box means letting go of our pre-set notions. Even after doing that and opening our minds to new levels of tolerance, is it possible not to find it unbelievably nutty that a financial document states that if a company fails at mineral mining it will then move on to video sharing? Would you want to invest in this outfit? Just wondering….