Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Involuntary transit

From Wikipedia:

Feng Zhenghu 冯正虎 is a Chinese economist and scholar based in Shanghai. Citing Amnesty International, The Guardian said that Feng was "a prominent human rights defender" in China. In 2001 he was sent to prison for three years ostensibly for "illegal business activity". He was released in 2004, has since written critical pieces highlighting alleged malpractice by local governments and forced evictions.

Outside China, Feng is best known for having been refused re-entry into China eight times in 2009. His protest, of refusing to leave the immigration hall of Narita International Airport, Japan, since November 4, attracted concern from Asian activists, and received world-wide media attention.

In early 2009, Feng was inexplicably detained for 41 days; he left China for medical treatment in Japan soon afterwards — in April 2009. On attempting to return home in June, he was refused entry by the authorities. According to Feng's sister, airlines prevented him from boarding a China-bound flight four times; on the four occasions he succeeded in boarding a plane, Chinese authorities at Shanghai turned him away. A Japanese immigration official said Feng arrived from Shanghai on 4 November with a valid Chinese passport and a visa to enter Japan – but has refused to be admitted. He is spending his time on a couch near an immigration checkpoint in the south wing of Terminal 1 of Narita Airport, subsisting on snacks given to him by travelers and activists (including Hong Kong activist Christina Chan).

He has been likened to the Tom Hanks character in Steven Spielberg's 2004 film The Terminal. According to news reports, the airport authorities are embarrassed by Feng's presence, and would prefer that Feng enter Japan. Since Dec. 3rd, 2009, the airport authorities are issuing daily notices to Mr. Feng, requesting him to leave the arrival zone and be admitted into Japan.

Links to more background material:

Mr. Feng’s twitter feed:

Mr. Feng’s homepage:

Mr. Feng’s flickr page

The following are translations of the correspondence between Mr. Feng and a netizen.

Translated by Thomas de Groot and André Holthe.




Date: Sat, 2 Jan 2010 09:39:24 -0800

Subject: Speechless

Don’t you ever again bring shame to the Chinese people! ! !



Date: Sun, 3 Jan 2010 11:13:05 +0900

Subject: RE: Speechless

Thanks for the info.




Date: Sun, 3 Jan 2010 11:10:40 -0800

Subject: RE: Speechless

First of all, to be a Chinese citizen you should create a good image for China, this is the minimum requirement for being Chinese.

What you provide does not explain anything. If you continue like this your just going to make more Chinese feel disgusted. If I was you, I would first return to Japan, then let family and friends in China help you engage in a lawsuit. If you let more overseas media propagate on this it is going to be even harder for you to return home. Because as China becomes increasingly powerful, foreign countries are less and less going to interfere with China’s domestic politics.

Happy New Year!

Feng Zhenghu is not expecting foreign governments to protect the right of Chinese citizens to return home

Response to letter from speechless netizen

Speechless netizen:

Thank you for your letter.

You should advise the relevant authorities in Shanghai not to illegally forbid its citizens to return home and set a create a good image for China.

I do not wish to sleep in the open outside at the entrance of Japan, it's the Shanghai police who kidnapped me with force and put me here. Furthermore, I am not Japanese, I am Chinese, I've already been denied entrance to China 8 times now. As soon as they open the door, I will return home; well, who wants to sleep in the open at an airport in Japan? It's that simple, and you should get that.

If China really is that powerful, then why should we flee from calamity and go to Japan. If one should follow your advise and first return to Japan to drag out this shameful existence, you can't say that Chinese people will feel disgusted, it's going to be the Japanese who will despise the good-for-nothing Chinese; when our rights are violated, we don't dear to stand up and resist.

Perhaps you don't know, I've already entrusted our country's most famous lawyer, Mo Shaoping, to lodge a complaint against the Pudong police and customs in Shanghai, the court has already accepted the case, but the hearing will not be until February, and the case is set to last 7 days. It seems that you don't understand Chinese administration of justice, you're really naive. I know that I have to wait to return home before I can start a real lawsuit.

If China really is that powerful, it should be self-confident enough to welcome supervision by public opinion and not care about whether it's domestic or foreign media, as long as it's reporting that seek the truth from facts. The Chinese government should change what's wrong and make greater exertions. In my case, all the major foreign news outlets are reporting, but not a single domestic one. This is not normal, so it appears as if the overseas media are too many. If domestic media took initiative and took on the responsibility of supervision by public opinion, and dared to supervise the government, then society would have been normal; government officials wouldn't make absurd decisions and humiliate China.

I have more faith in the Chinese government then you have, they look down on anticommunism, underground anti-Chinese media, and in particular a few Chinese tabloids, but they can't ignore the world's major news outlets, not even the all powerful American government dare to ignore them, because the world's major news outlets represent the will of the people. Even though domestic news outlets are silent, they will in the end have to do something. And, you can't seal off the internet, and the masses are spreading my story. I am convinced that the leaders of the Chinese government will sober up.

Furthermore, I want to tell you that the facts that I've been able to live here for 62 days is not thanks to the Chinese or the Japanese government, but thanks to the support of Chinese citizens. People from Beijing, Shanghai and other places as well as overseas Chinese from Hong Kong, Taiwan and America who have brought me food and funds. I've received several thousand letters of support, a majority of them from Chinese people. Every day tens of thousands of travelers pass by me, most of them Chinese people, and they see my unfavorable situation. None of them feel disgusted, they all sympathize with me and support me. Of course, everybody who hear me story are shocked and feel humiliated. This powerful China shouldn't cause scandals where its citizen are not allowed to return home. They feel disgusted and detest these government officials. In many Chinese people's eyes, I am a person who truly loves his country. I know that this is a fact.

I don't know what kind of Chinese people you are talking about. I think it's only the government officials who made this mistake that are disgusted and anxious about being held responsible. All government officials who doesn't have a stake in this will urge the Chinese government to let me return home and end this national humiliation. If you wish to help out, you should let your friends read the article "Feng Zhenghu from Shanghai have been sleeping at the Tokyo airport for 62 days - Not letting Feng Zhenghu return home is a Chinese national humiliation" and see if they feel disgusted? You can also tell your mother about this story and she will definitely say: "There's not reason not to let a child to come home. If the child's been naughty, just give it a beating and that's all".

Some Chinese people are arrogant and think that China is powerful now. Chinese party officials think they can do as they please; not even America can criticize us now. As a matter of fact, this the inferiority complex of villains. Fortunately, the mind of China's leaders is wide-awake: China is not really a powerful country in the world, it's just that our population is bigger, our market demands a bit higher, and that's all. Western politicians are flattering you, cheating you, giving you face; what they want is your lining, the money in your pocket. In fact, the never cared about your domestic affairs in the first place, they don't need the votes of the Chinese people. So, it's not that China is powerful and that people less and less interfere with China's internal affairs. It's just that a few Chinese people think they are so clever.

I really don't expect foreign government to protect my right to return home, I expect the Chinese people to let me return home. A Chinese fleeing China to seek political asylum in a foreign country would require the help of a foreign government, this is just fair and reasonable. A Chinese returning home who needs the help of a foreign government is just ridiculous. There's not a single Western country who would help foreign nationals to return home. Interfering with the other country's internal affairs in a case like this, at most they would declare where they stand and that's it. Actually this foreign national just have to work on his own in order to ultimately return home. If the Japanese government finally can't take it anymore and protest against the Chinese government, demanding that the Chinese government take responsibility and let me return home, they are concerned about my human rights, but about the sovereignty of their own country; it's China who interferes with their internal affairs, by kidnapping me with force and putting me here, throw me away and giving a damn, handing me over to the Japanese people.

You say that what I provide does not explain anything. I don't know, I can't explain why I don't have the right to return home or why I don't have the power to return home? Communicating over the internet I do not know your cultural level, but from your style of writing I can see that you in the end will understand the reasons behind all this. Maybe you already know it. Attached is "Feng Zhenghu from Shanghai have been sleeping at the Tokyo airport for 62 days - Not letting Feng Zhenghu return home is a Chinese national humiliation", "Feng Zhenghu's letter to Hu Jintao, the president of China (01.09.2009)" and "Defend Chinese citizens right to return home - a legal proposal". You can give it to your friends, maybe they see things more clear than you.

This legal proposal is based on Chinese law, I don't know if you are familiar with Chinese law? The spokesman of China's Foreign Ministry told reporters that China's relevant authorities are handling my case according to Chinese law. According to Chinese law, China's relevant authorities are violating the law by prohibiting its citizens to return home.

In order to let more Chinese people know about my thoughts, I will publish this letter.

I wish you a safe and sound New Year, freedom and happiness

Feng Zhenghu

04.01.2010, outside the entrance of Japan



Date: Mon, 4 Jan 2010 23:22:05

Subject RE: Speechless


First I want to clarify that I am not a Chinese citizen anymore, and have no right to gossip about China’s situation. Everything I have said comes from my heart. I believe: everybody can make mistakes, you can resolve this through the legal system; If you believe everybody else are mistaken, should you not examine yourself?

Happy New Year and I hope you can return home soon!

Chinese love China more than anyone else

Response to speechless netizen’s second letter

Speechless netizen:

Thank you for your reply.

I am grateful for your sincerity. You told me: “You are not a Chinese citizen now. By law you are not Chinese, you are a foreigner.”. Few of today’s Chinese, especially Chinese in China have this kind of shameless mentality, they have gotten rights and revolt when their rights are violated.

Actually, you do not need to be afraid of criticizing the shortcomings of the Chinese government, your gossip about China’s affairs doesn't matter, you're a foreigner, not a foreign country’s government, the Chinese government will not censure you when interfering with the internal affairs of China. You have already been gossiping about China in your previous letters in a Chinese tone of voice. We Chinese are used to be able to interact with different views, a fact that might cause you to get reacquainted with China.

You say that everything you say come from your heart. I do believe that you are being sincere, but this makes me feel even more sad, you’re suffering from both one-sided love and phobia. The internet police, the 50 cent party, anonymous posters and people who benefit from all this also express these kind of views, but they know that they are working or cracking jokes, their words do not come from the heart. Without pay or other benefits, they would be cursing the Chinese government, they would not be as moderate and rational and with total lack of objection like you.

You are indeed naive and easy to deceive. Do you really think that the legal system in China is the same as that of the US, Canada and Japan? That you can resolve everything through law? China is a country where the Party is the supreme power, and although most civil law suits can be resolve through law, if you take legal action that ends up interfering with the government or with the interests of party officials you will most certainly fail, even to file a case can be difficulty. Today China is the perfect textbook example of a strengthen legal system, and at the same time it is also a partial administration of justice. This reality might be hard for you to comprehend, most foreigners don't understand China's problems.

You say “If you believe everybody else are mistaken, should you not examine yourself?” I do not believe that everybody else are mistaken, in my case it is only a few officials who have made mistakes. However, your mode of thinking is a typical example. Not to question the responsibility of the offender, but rather that of the victim, why do I not attack others, but you then? You also have faults, right? As a matter fact, asking these kind of questions while pretending to be just and fair is just pure gangster logic, it is the same to dread the thug and not dare to to battle for a just cause, just to console oneself. When our government officials preposterously infringe of our rights without it being in accordance with the law, they all use this logic and deceive the public.

It is said that China's embassy officials use the same logic when not extending its citizens' passports, rather than acting in accordance with the law, they rhetorically ask the applicants: "You know why your passport was not extended". These are not the acts of a government administration, but rather that of the criminal underworld. The behavior of the government administration is not authorized by law, meaning illegal, it has no basis in the law, one cannot just simply act as one pleases or act passive, as legally defined. In China, there is no legal basis for refusing extending citizens' passports, embassy officials do not have the rights to refuse Chinese citizens who apply to extend their passport.

In our country, a small group of plainclothes policemen and a great deal of our security personnel defy laws, human and divine, they do as they please, if they want to kidnap they kidnap, if they want to take you into custody they take you into custody, if they want to block your house door they block it, they do not require to show any legal credentials, they do not require any basis in the law, that the basis of this logic. They openly raise a hue and cry: "We do not understand the law, it is our boss who sent us.". " Victims demand them to provide proof when they restrict people's freedom and liberties, but they all assume a look of local bullies and loafers, even to the point of asking the victims: "Why do I care about you and not others?". If this reasoning of violating people's rights is established, well then we do not need laws, there will be no justice and safety, procuratorial organs and people's courts will exist in name only. The murderer too can say:". Why did I kill you and not others?" The burglar too can say: "Why did I mug you, and not others?". The petty thief too can say: " Why did I rob you and not others?". According to this gangster logic killing, plundering and stealing are all legitimate actions, and the victims deserved it.

Since you have already become a foreign citizen, I think you certainly live in a Western country, and you have been living there for quite some time. You might not be directly affected by the Chinese reality, and rely just on the news in the paper as well as your simple feelings towards the motherland, in the past our countries pickled vegetables were disgusting, so eating pickled vegetables now might make you homesick. I understand that you say all this with sincerity and good intentions. Yet, I wish that you would go native and be a good foreign citizen and be completely Westernized, accept the ideas freedom, democracy, rule by law human rights, these are the main aspects of the Western value system. It is also advanced human concepts and you should not worry about being labeled a liberal because you have already become Canadian, Japanese or some other foreigner, loving your own country, and being loyal to one's country is natural.

The way we Chinese see it, to see those overseas Chinese who have become foreign nationals raise the five star red flag, wear the crown of patriotic overseas Chinese and sing patriotic songs is truly nondescript, it is indeed very strange. Overseas Chinese citizens who are patriotic, even though they are criticizing the Chinese government, they too want their country to become even better, because it is their country. We Chinese in China love China more than anyone else, because we live in China every day, this is our home. By making use of the mental shame and physical suffering that I have to endure by sleeping in the open outside at the entrance of Japan I want to raise the Chinese government’s respect for Chinese human rights, letting the Chinese masses know about this national humiliation, give those who have a sense of shame courage, and get all of us together to once and for all get rid of the evil of not letting Chinese citizens return to their country and home.

Speechless netizen, I have been harsh on you. You have made a couple remarks, I have responded with an essay, and lots of netizens are also discussing this. My response is not directed against you as a person, but against a certain view, or a kind of traditional influence one might say. Yet I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings, and I once again thank you for your kindness.

I wish you a safe and sound New Year, freedom and happiness.

Feng Zhenghu

05.01.2010, outside the entrance of Japan.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

China's Online Crime Gangs: the debate

After CCTC's revelation that the Chinese Internet is infested with "Online Hitmen" and "Crime Gangs" trying to manipulate public opinion through blogs and BBS (See ESWN), a heated debate has started on the definition of "Online Organized Crime" and the reasons behind this sudden government witch hunt. This week, the Market Section of the Shanghai Business Daily was completely consumed by the matter. Columnist Chen Yongdong, associate professor in New Media at Shanghai Drama College, explains why it is useless to call companies who specialize in Viral campaigns "Crime Gangs". He mentions some famous Chinese Internet Memes and Virals, and ends with a suggestion for China's Central Television.

“Online Crime Gangs” are exaggerated

By Chen Yongdong

Recently, a CCTC program used words like “Online Underworld” (wangluo heishehui 网络黑社会), “Online Thugs” and other screaming words to describe the phenomenon of IT-companies using the Internet to defame and attack (dihui daji 诋毁打击) the competition. Even though it should be noted that the practices the television program described are in fact real, and have been common practice for some time now, I feel using terms like “Online Crime Gangs” are somewhat overtly critical. It almost reeks of ‘signal posting’ (biaotidang 标题党)(giving an alarming and unrelated title to a piece in order to attract more attention, haodalong).
First of all, online defamation is indeed very serious, but there is no need to make it into a grave danger. I should concede that there are in fact companies whose core business is to influence online opinion (wangluo yulun 网络舆论). Their web posting is endless, and their sphere of influence enormous (saodang fanwei 扫荡范围 lit. mopping reach, haodalong). Just look at last year’s “Master Kang’s mineral water sources” incident(see Danwei), or this year’s “Wanglaoji Herbal Tea additives” (see ChinaCSR) incident. These ‘scandals’ show on what scale the defamation tactics can be used. Actually, Central Television wasn’t even the first to discover these practices. Defamation tactics have been around for quite a while, and known by many netizens. The concept is very simple, just look at the hype started by the “Jia Junpeng, your mom wants you to go home to eat!” post(see ChinaSmack). Nonetheless, even though many netizens feel this online defamation is a bad thing and creates confusion, there is no need to make it into a grave and monstrous danger. After all, netizens have a pretty good sense of judgement. It is just like when we encounter a street vendor, most people do not believe him, and we definitely don’t call street vendors “organized crime”.
Second of all, “Online Crime Gangs” is not an appropriate term, because it doesn’t cover the diversity of online misbehaviour. Maybe Central Television only used this term to attract attention, to make people notice the program. But this seems too hungry for attention. Anyhow, “Online Crime Gangs” seems to me like a very unclear concept. Among many types of online behaviour, we find posts online, meticulously crafted to be a guaranteed hype, but also posts that praise a certain product in a refined and subtle way, there are the famous ‘Human Flesh Searches” that violate privacy rights, there is slandering and swearing, and then there is also the defamation of business competition through web posts. Of all these different types, at least the first two can hardly be grouped together under the flag of ‘online crime’. Even the privacy violating ‘Human Flesh Searches’ are instigated by individual netizens. So we can conclude that only the last two categories effectively qualify for the term. And these forms of slander, name-calling and defamation are already illegal in the ‘offline world’, they are no different online. Even these forms of lawbreaking do not really qualify to be called “Organized Crime”.
China doesn’t have Organized Crime. Interestingly, back in August we were debating whether or not China had a criminal underworld. Back then it was said that, under Chinese law and in legal terms, we didn’t really have organized crime gangs, just “Mafia-style organizations”. If you look at it this way, how is it possible that China suddenly has “online crime gangs”? With regard to “organizations with a mafia-nature”, our penal code does not really have what it takes to tackle this online defamatory behaviour either. Domestic legal experts say “mafia style organizations” are recognized by having a clear degree of violence, in pursuit of financial gain, and handle in corrupt ways. Its members must be numerous, its internal organizational structure must be intimate and intricate. Their actions must always focus around some illegal way of making money, vainly maintaining a sphere of influence and to have domination as a goal. So clearly, online defamation does not qualify for it is not violent, corrupt or pursuing domination in any form.
Concluding, even as online defamatory behaviour is rampant, and as a business model of competition it is quite suspect, it does not rise up to the definition of “organized crime gangs”. So I would suggest Central Television to withdraw the term, to replace it with the much more appropriate and accurate term “Online Grey (huise 灰色)Industry”.

陈永东 Chen Yongdong 29-12-2009

translated by Haodalong
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Remarrying , the best scheme for retirement?

From Southern Weekly's review section page F 30, 17.12.2009.

A few days ago when I returned home to my village to visit relatives, I heard that my widowed aunt was planning to remarry, her husband being a 70 year old worker from our village. People in the village talk about this with great envy; my 52 year old aunt is in good health and can work in the fields of our village for another 10 years without having to save money for retirement, now she relies on her husband's pension, and with health insurance she can live a life of ease --- It really is “the best scheme for retirement”. My aunt also told me, this kind of remarrying is already becoming more and more common, some marriage recommendation companies have even opened up shops in the village in order to promote this kind of “retirement scheme” service.

Supervisor of a private enterprise, Zibo, Shandong province

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Crazy Garlic

Southern Weekly's homepage of today features a Xinhua article on this years garlic prices.

In 2009, garlic farmers and traders in Zhongmu county, Henan province, the home of garlic production in China, experienced radical changes in garlic prices. In just a half year garlic export prices surged from 100 Yuan per ton to several thousand Yuan per ton, and retail price also increased tenfold.

According to news reports, garlic prices dropped steadily after this years Spring Festival, the value of some garlic traders inventory was at this point not even enough to cover the cost of refrigerating the storage. In May during harvest season, the price of fresh garlic was not more than 0.2-0.3 Yuan per half kilo, and a majority of garlic farmers didn’t make a profit when the prices suddenly increased, yet a lot of traders made fortunes. According to analysis, a sharp reduction in the number of planting areas, reduced production amounts, and speculation all lead to this crazy increase in garlic prices. To local garlic farmers, this years crazy garlic prices might be a mixed blessing, and they can just hope that next years crop will be bought at a stable and fair price.

Picture: President of Zhongmu county storage association and general manager of Heng Da storage Liu Shaochen shows Zhongmu garlic that's ready for sale.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

British people's view on China

From Southern Weekly's review section 09.12.2009, a part of their "Watching China" series.

Author: Southern Weekly's editorial department

The independent British research company Populus recently conducted a survey which found that 41 % of British parliament members believe that over the next 50 years China will become Britain's largest trade partner. The data presented in this survey is undoubtedly good news for Chinese companies planning to enter the British market.

But it also includes news that are not that encouraging: 45 % of ordinary people believe that the quality of Chinese products is inferior to British products, which is three times the number of people with the opposite view (14 %). Is this really a fact? Certainly there are some Chinese products of bad quality, but there are also many Chinese products that are not only cheap, but also of superior quality. Even so Chinese companies should not ignore public opinion, no matter if this view surely differs from reality.

The basic solution to this problem is of course to improve product quality, create one's own brands, and gradually change the West's prejudices against "Chinese manufacturing". The survey discovered that young British consumers understand more about the new generation of imported Chinese products and their view on "Chinese manufacturing" is also more positive: 60 % of people between the age of 55 and 64 and 56 % of people above the age 64 believe the quality of Chinese products are worse than British, while only 33 % of people between 18 and 24 and 32 % of people between 35 and 34 are of the same view.

Young British people and “Chinese manufacturing” put together is an extremely good opportunity, but the opportunity is only there for those who are prepared, if only this time we do not once again ruin our reputation by going the way of Russia “using chicken feathers as eiderdown”.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Residence permit

From Southern Weekly's review section page F 29, 03.12.2009.

Residence permit! Residence permit!

Year in year out I've been a migrant worker, and after a while my wife joined me, while my parents were looking after our 6 year old daughter, making her a stay behind child. When our child entered kindergarten, I planned to settle down in this alien land and then for her to attend school here, but because we are not "locals", not having a "residence permit", not included the costs of transfer her to another school , but just the normal fees for one school term was more than 1000 Yuan. At the time me and my wife had just found work and we were short of money, so we had no choice but to temporarily drop our plan. Later when we got a small raise, we once again started considering bringing our daugther over to study. But when we went to the local primary school to seek advice I once again felt dejected, again because we do not have a "residence permit". If our daugther was to attend school here, she wouldn't be able to take the required entrance exams for middel school and university because the local school won't let people without "residence permit" take the test. Finally, I abandoned the plan of bringing our daughter over for study, and my wife returned home to accompany her to study.

Sunweiguo, farmer Quanjiao county, Anhui province
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Sunday, November 29, 2009

A cab driver's confession

From Southern Weekly’s review section page F 29, 26.11.2009

Saturday around noon, when taking a cab to take care of some stuff, I discovered that there were traffic jams everywhere. The driver said that you can’t make a living on driving nowadays: Every day he has to turn over 160 Yuan to the taxi company and pay more than 100 for gas, so when traffic is like this it’s equal to not taking on passengers at all. Looking around there were cars waiting all over the place, we just sat in the car dawdling the time away.

The driver was more than 50 years old and seemed very kind, yet his face was brimmed with helplessness, worry and apathy. As the road was jammed, he put his hands on the steering wheel and said to me (in an old Guiyang accent): “Miss, sometimes, when there’re no passengers, sitting in this car, looking at the traffic jam, I really feel like ending this life”. He often felt like there wasn’t any hope in his life…

The ride, which originally would have been around 10 minutes, ended up being more than 40 minutes long. I thought the fare would be crazy, but when I got off, I realized, to my surprise, that it was only 20 Yuan.

Gao Dongmei – Manager in a bookstore in Guiyang

This translation was made for information purposes only. The views expressed in the article are that of the author and her alone.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

A poisonous thorn

To a large extent, nationalism isn’t natural, but merely a product of power struggle among countries.

Author: Hefan

Link to original essay: (Chinese)

This essay is taken from this year’s eight issue of the magazine “the Soho tabloid” (SOHO 小报), named “The balance between profit and soul”(利润与心灵的平衡).

This translation was made for information purposes only. The views expressed in the article are that of the author and him alone.

A poisonous thorn

To a large extent, nationalism isn’t natural, but merely a product of power struggle among countries.

Something that has restricted the people of China (in terms of nationalism, translator's note), and strengthened its ideology, is “the idea of community”.

More than 10 years ago, I had just arrived the US to study. It was the first day of school. The school held an orientation for all the exchange students from “ethnic minorities”. What left a profound impression on me was that the teacher speaking, partly serious, partly joking, told us that upon arriving in America we needed to learn an important word: The powerful D. She said that if we ever run into trouble, e.g. getting a ticket for double-parking, we could just say “D…D..D…”, and before we had even finished our sentence, the police would meekly walk away. What kind of word possess such powers? Well, it is Discrimination, in Chinese qíshì (歧视). What Americans really fear the most is being labelled a racist.

Hearing this, I just dismissed it with a laugh. However, gradually getting to know the Americans more, I discovered that being a racist is America’s biggest taboo. White Caucasians love to make friends with African Americans, are very fond of the black culture, like adopting children from abroad, enjoy eating at foreign restaurants, believe in religions from other countries, and no matter if they’ve been to Tibet or not, they all put a sticker saying “Free Tibet” on their car bumper, all because they wanna prove they’re not racist. In America, if you’re not cautious about what you say, you will easily end up being labelled a racist. On one occasion, I sat in on an econometrics class. The teacher wrote the symbol “∧” on the black board, stopped cold turkey and made a joke: “This looks like a small Chinese hat”. Before he could even finish his sentence, an American Chinese cried out: “Teacher, what did you just say?”. The teacher’s face went blanch with fear, hasten to explain, he spent about five minutes repeating over and over again that he did not intend to mock neither Chinese or Asian people. He really loved Chinese culture, and explained that his child even was learning Chinese in kindergarten. I was sitting there, both laughing and sighing: Not even Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution behaved like this.

Looking on it from the point of progress, to oppose racial discrimination, is Western people’s reaction to their own wrongs of the past. An American friend once told me, the reason why white Caucasians have a guilty conscience about African Americans, is that the ancestors of African Americans were abducted and sold as slaves by white Europeans, clearly not emigrating out of own free will. Therefore today’s white Caucasians feel that they should atone for their ancestor’s sins. Frankly speaking, what white Caucasians in America really should bear the cross of guilt for is their crimes against Native Americans; killing their people, stealing their land. Unfortunately, it seems as though Americans are reluctant to reflect on their maltreatment of Native Americans. I am eager to continue exploring this topic with Americans, but they completely lack interest.

This can hardly be considered thorough rethinking, it doesn’t help solving problems of ethnic minorities, it doesn’t raise the moral standard of the West, is also makes the West weak and helpless. Nationalism is the demon the West got after opening Pandora’s Box, this special treatment of ethnic minorities as well as the popular culture pluralism being the angel flying out from the bottom of the box. Regrettably, this feeble angel cannot recall the demon, on the contrary, she has agreed to marry him. The result is that not only won't the demon go away, but instead it continues to multiply.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Western Europe was left with many small countries, and entered a time of tangled warfare. Originally, the poison of nationalism grew out of this political chaos. To a large extent, nationalism isn’t natural, but merely a product of power struggle among countries and the desire to control a countries population, on the contrary, what strengthens one’s ideology is “the idea of community”. Nationalism increases the differences between communities and leads to hatred and killing. As a quote from Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” goes: “Unless we hate others, we can not love ourselves”. This is exactly what after many years of warfare, ultimately evolved into the national state and capitalism. In the rest of the world nationalism didn’t exist. The West conquered the world and spread their poison all over the place. The Balkans are called “The powder barrel of Europe”, where you have numerous ethnic groups and religions. However, before the Western powers arrived, the local ethnic groups were getting along just fine, everyone living in peace with each other. But after nationalism spread to this area, it exploded into constant warfare. The African country of Rwanda was originally home of many different tribes. In the 1930, the Belgium rulers decided to split the country in two, one called Hutu, one called Tutsi. In the movie “Hotel Rwanda” a Western journalist asks the locals what the difference between the two ethnic groups really is, and the answer is that they have different noses and styles of walking! The conflict that broke out in the 1990’s and ended in genocide, was directly causes by the nationalism introduced by the West.

Today's culture pluralism is still causing differences among rigid communities. Despite not being as aggressive as nationalism of the past, forbore and yielded by the West, but the gene is the same. This concept requires differential treatment by ethnic minorities, giving them more compensations and liberties (than the majority, translator's note). Yet, this kind-hearted aspiration have not resulted in satisfaction. The black and white boundaries of the American society are still very distinct, black people are not only unsatisfied, on contrary they are getting more and more indignant. Where's the problem? I'm afraid it's a sidetrack. A long time ago the founders of the United States warned reminded the people to be "United as One". America has always claimed to be "a big melting pot", and what's the outcome, the melting pot has turned into a separator. The situation in Europe is even worse then in America. America is the country in the world most open to immigration, in a steady stream new immigrants bring fresh blood to the country, while Europe has already entered a stage where the population is aging, step by step nearing death. Aging of the population raises immigration issues, but Europe is doing bad job with aspect. On the one hand, Europe's nationalism is even stronger, especially as the racists who make up the drags of society once again gain the upper hand, on the other hand in order to restrain the domestic extreme nationalists, Europe's culture pluralism gets more pacified and weak. In the light of the speed of today's population changes, in 50 years, Europe might be a Muslim world. If Europe doesn't seriously reflect on how to mix and unite different crowds, how to handle the ongoing withering Anglo-Saxon population and differences between the tidal wave of people coming from Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, then sometime in the near future Europe will disintegrate.

Perhaps an archaic state is able to provide the West with some wisdom. Since ancient times China hasn't had a concept of ethnic groups, the Han population include people who in an anthropologic sense are of completely different races, including different religious beliefs, the radiant splendour of various languages, customs and cultures. Actually this is the true melting pot. I once read a book called "Jewish history". The book mentions Jewish people wandering all over the world, encountering supercilious looks from locals, and therefore they chose to preserve their own customs and traditions while being in alien land. One branch of Jews arrived in Henan, China, and was assimilated by the good-hearted peasants. This is the greatest success of ethnic policy.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Han Chauvinism

Does Han Chauvinism exist in China? This is indeed a controversial topic.

A lot of Han Chinese friends of mine say: How can there be Han chauvinism in China? China only has reverse discrimination. The government has implemented quite a few policies favoring ethnic minorities, e.g. extra points on college entrance exams, reserving local government positions etc. This is all disguised discrimination of the Han; especially in criminal cases, where ethnic minorities less often are arrested, executed and in general get handled leniently, which surely gives the Han a feeling of being treated unfair. Needless to say, the dissatisfaction is justifiable and quite understandable. Even so we have to keep in mind that this so-called big-nationality chauvinism is a typical example of forced assimilation of ethnic minorities. On the basis of this criterion we have to acknowledge that China actually has Han chauvinism.

As everyone knows, in China, regional national autonomy is nothing but an empty title. The CCP continue to carry out compulsory Han assimilation policies, policies which have been further intensified in recent years. In Xinjiang, almost all the leading positions with real power (meaning Party power) are in the hands of the Han. Previously there was a Mr. Sai Fuding who served as CP committee secretary, but after him there has never again been an Uyghur serving as first in command in the autonomous region. In the course of 60 years of CCP rule, CCP has trained numerous of Uyghur cadres, how can it be that they are unable to find a single one capable of serving as CP committee secretary. This indicates that the concerned authorities still are anxious about "If they're not cut from the same cloth, their mindset must be different". How can the Uyghurs just let this go? Since Wang Lequan assumed office they have strengthened restrictions on Uyghur culture and religion, demolishing the old town of Kashgar and other traditional buildings of great historic significance, stipulating for the use of Mandarin Chinese instead of Uyghur language in primary schools, and banning or restricting government personnel right to believe in Islam, including not being allowed to grow a beard, wear a turban or fasting and praying at work. Uyghurs celebrating their own traditional holidays are also being restricted, and son and so forth. This cannot but cause Uyghurs with national consciousness and distinctive ethnic features a strong feeling of being discriminated and repressed. In fact, the policies of the authorities towards Uyghurs are: crack down more often than you relax restrictions. The authorities use a high pressure approach and do not tolerate that ethnic minorities have any kind of emotions. If at a meeting an ethnic minority cadre as much as tries to raise a complaint, he is not going to get promoted, maybe even expelled. To ethnic minorities, if this is not Han chauvinism, then what is?

Let's take the language issue as an example. That the function of language in everyday life is significant, goes without saying. The so-called Chinese language, as a matter of fact, refers to Han Chinese language. Of course, the Han Chinese make up for more than 90% of China's population, so making Han Chinese language the official language is reasonable. But this also leads to disadvantages for other languages, thereby creating unfavorable conditions for ethnic minorities who have other mother tongues. A speaker of Han Chinese language can travel throughout China without any inconvenience (except for only a handful of remote and underdeveloped areas), yet a speaker of Uyghur language or Tibetan will face difficulties as soon as he leaves his hometown. Actually, if Uyghurs go to inland China without being able to speak Han Chinese language they will be very unpopular. Uyghurs perfectly understand this, and will by no means complain. But the problem today is that because of large numbers of Han Chinese people immigrating to Xinjiang, holding dominant positions in an absolute majority of all fields, it has come to such an extent that even in their own hometowns, the Uyghurs are likely to get turned down when applying for jobs if they do not speak Han Chinese language, and even if they do speak it, there may still not be working opportunities for them, because a lot recruitment ads require people to be Han Chinese. From a Uyghur’s point of view, is this not indeed Han chauvinism?

On the web there is circulating an essay called “I’ll tell you about the real Urumqi” by an author which calls himself “Second generation army”. This essay discusses a very interesting phenomenon: In Xinjiang, on Han Chinese holidays, the Uyghurs also get off work. On Uyghur holidays, the Han Chinese go to work as normal. It looks as if the Han Chinese are treated unfair, “but if you think carefully, you’ll discover an unexpected secret. Because of this illustration… In Xinjiang, everything can be done without any concern for Uyghur participation or normal regulations." Thus it can be seen that in their own hometowns Uyghurs are already left behind. A lot of Uyghurs already feel that they have become minorities in their own hometowns; they are marginalized culturally, and are an economically underprivileged group. They feel as if their own home is on the brink of being lost. What’s even worse is that Uyghurs have no channels of communications as to express their dissatisfaction and suffering. If they turn to the authorities, the authorities will often just ignore them, if they publish something online the authorities will simply just charge them with “violation of national unity, and an attempt to split the nation” and take them into custody.

Here, most average Han Chinese are not getting any special treatment, but Uyghurs on the other hand cannot but feel their interests are being violated. A lot of Uyghurs are not jut dissatisfied with the authorities, but also with Han Chinese people. Ethnic relations have become very tense. What really has created this situation is the authorities not paying attention to the needs of the ethnic minorities and carrying out policies of mandatory Sinicism. On the other hand this tells us that we can not solve these problem until we have implemented real minority autonomy.

Author: Hu Ping, editor of Beijing Spring

Link to original essay:

This translation was made for information purposes only. The views expressed in the article are that of the author and him alone.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Central Military Comission calls for armed forces' obedience

An interesting press release from the Central Military Commision (CMC) yesterday calling for all military forces to stay loyal to the chain of command raises a lot of question.

The essence of the statement is very much summarized in the following sentence:

"All military forces should unify their will to the decision and deployment of the CPC Central Committee to ensure that they "uncompromisingly obey the Party and Central Military Commission's command at any time and under any circumstances"

There is no doubt that this year will be a challenging one for the Communist Party. The economic downturn has already resulted in 20 million migrant workers losing their jobs, it's 20 years since the Tiananmen incident (that's the term used by Chinese officals, but most of us would probably agree that "massacre" might be a better word to describe it), and it's 50 years since Dalai Lama fleed to India.

The central goverment seems anxious about the possibility of massive civil unrest. All criticism a side, you have to give them credit for taking the situation serious. The way I see it, this press release is not meant as a threat or an ultimatum to the public,but is a result of a typical Chinese way of thinking: plan for the worst. The Chinese communist party seems much more adaptable now than just a few years back. They are starting to realize that without economic stability (in China, that means massive GDP growth) people might really start to question their rulers.

To me as an economic 外行 it seems like the Chinese government is the only government so far that has taken the financial crises serious. Maybe that's because they know what's at stake, but nevertheless, they seem very aware of the challenges their facing, and more important, ready to deal with them.

A year ago people were talking about the possibility of the Chinese economy getting too hot, and we should remember that even though the so-called experts might be right when they say that China seeds an annual growth around 10 % in order to keep the public on their side, we are not talking about a situation like the one we're facing in the western world, but merely an annual GDP growth around 8 %.

Looks like it's gonna be (another) interesting year for China.

Photo: Flag ceremony at 天安门, 1. May 2008
Photographer: André Holthe
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Charter 08 – The aftermath

For quite some time I’ve wanted to write an update of the reactions following Charter 08. But then I read this great post over at Inside-Out China, which pretty much gives you everything you need to know about the topic.

Go ahead and read it. It’s truly a great and informative summary of the events so far. Read More..

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Charter 08 (零八宪章)

Today is December 10th, and for all it's worth, exactly sixty years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed. In China, that event was celebrated by a group of influential intellectuals who published "Charter 08", a pamphlet in remembrance of the 1977 pamphlet by Havel and his friends in Prague. Among the people who signed the document is Liu Xiaobo, one of China's leading critics and 'intellectual enfant terribile'. Liu was arrested yesterday, and for now is still in prison. "Charter 08" calls for thorough reforms and democratization. Perry Link translated it for the New York Review. Read it, and the floor is opened for debate! If anyone manages to find the chinese version, please let me know.
First questions I would like to pose:
So the document is published today, and Perry Link translated it today? He must have received a copy beforehand. Which leads to my next question: Who will read this document IN China? I am 99% sure that the People's Daily will kindly decline the offer.
Furthermore, "Change is no longer optional"? This kind of talk will not please Zhongnanhai...
Pay special attention to the repeated mentioning of "basic and universal values". Do they mean "western values"? Or are democracy and republicanism universal?

Time for debate!

Thomas de Groot
December 10th 2008

Update: the Chinese document is here. With a list of all the people who signed...
Update 2: The document was deliberately published online. But so far I haven't seen any reaction on the BBS-forums. Will the portals apply auto-censorship?
Update 3: The first real reply by a "left wing" intellectual was just released by Wang Xizhe on his blog. ESWN has the translation. Earlier this week, the debate on China's future was started by Yu Keping, one of the closest advisors to Hu Jintao, by an interview he gave to several newspapers. It seems it is going to be an interesting winter. Read More..

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The King is dead - Long live the King

I've always been very fascinated by the American dream. Not the dream itself, but the way it was marketed and spread to every corner of the world. Just the fact that I, not being an English native speaker, find it not only useful, but also natural to write this post in English clearly shows who won the Cold War. Another noteworthy fact is that I used the word "market", a slightly more positive word than it's counter part used to describe similiar Russian culture export during the same period, this so-called "propaganda", even though it basically was the same act. The winner takes it all, ey?

So, where does China fit in all this? Well, as recent history shows, being a world super-power is not only about economic and military power, but also about the ability to promote values. This is why I've always been very hostile to the idea that the 21st century is going to be Chinese, as an increasing amount of people seem to believe. To me, the idea that China is going go global with it's culture, as the Americans did with the American Dream, is all very absurd. Chinese culture seems to be way too introvert for that to happen, not only at present, but historically. They don't seem to have the ambition or motivation to export their culture to the extent that the Americans did, and still are doing. Most people in the western world seems to feel that the American dream is passé, but the fact still remains: Although the admiration of America in post-World War 2 Europe probably was stronger than it is today, my generation has a life much more like that of the American dream, than those who grew up 30, 40 years ago. It's not until now that we are actually living the dream.

Dream of a white collar life

But maybe I've been to egocentric, only viewing the world as the U.S., Europe and some Asian countries. What if the Chinese and the Africans get along and decide to leave us out of the equation? Africa has every right to be skeptical towards us Europeans; throughout history we've caused them nothing but harm and China could be seen as a more suitable companion. Check out this article in the Seattle Times, entitled The American Dream Now Made in China, for more on the subject.

André Holthe, November 2008
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama not suitable for being President

Last week Senator Barack Obama was elected President of the US. Not only was he able to gain the trust of the majority of Americans, but it seems that a vast majority of the world's population was in favour of Obama. According to an online poll conducted on the China daily website by the U.S embassy, 75 percent of Chinese people supports Obama, despite the fact that the Chinese government tried to dampen popular enthusiasm for an Obama win in the American election.

I guess the high support rates for Obama abroad is partly a result of 8 years under the rule of George W. Bush, probably the most unpopular American President ever, but Obama has nevertheless done a great job conviencing the world that he is up for the task.

With the US facing a financial crises (and a likely recession to come with it) and two major wars abroad, we should all hope he is.

But, American spending is decreasing and with that Chinese exports. Already factories in China are starting to lay off people, and this is probably just the beginning. Naturally, Chinese government officials are not very fond of the fact that Obama is likely to try and save the US economy by raising import taxes and implenting other barriers that will unfavour Chinese exports.

Personally, I have to say am really surprised that Obama enjoys such high rates of support in China. With Obama being black, I would have thought that he would receive hostile criticism from a significant number of Chinese. In general Chinese people have a skeptical attitude towards black people. One could argue that this applies only for the uneducated, but in China that is still a vast majority of the population. I remember taking a cab in Beijing earlier this year, and for some reason the topic of different races ended up being discussed, and I still can't shake one of the things my driver said to me "You know, we Chinese don't quite yet live in a fully developed country, like you white people do, but some day we will. At least we're better than the blacks!".

But with this being said, I can understand why the Chinese do seem to love Obama, he does indeed represent something close to the American dream. And if there's one thing I've learn about Chinese it's that they are very much like Americans. I can already hear you all laugh at this statement, but I really mean it. When it comes to being competetive, whether it's in education, business, sports or a social context, Americans and Chinese think and behave very similar. They all have a strong believe in being a self made man, if you don't make it; if you don't make it, there's got to be something wrong with you as an individual.

This post was actually supposed to be a translation of a Chinese blog post with just a brief introduction. So, let's cut to the chase.

Link to original article (in Chinese)
Author: Unknown
Obama, you're not suitable for being the President of the United States of America!

1. Lack of real experience
There's a saying in China: "Those who suffer, will one day get their chance - What goes around comes around." (lit. A daughter-in-law who suffers will one day become a mother-in-law). Look at you, a senator, a federal senator - now President. You should know that being a senator is not really dealing with adminstrative matters, it's more like being a People's Congress delegate, meaning when you next year assume office, you have never been in charge of real administrative duties, you have never really dealt with any matters of real importants. In other words, you, who has not even served as a country magistrate, is going to serve as President!? Take a look at China, are there really any high officals who has laddered to the top without doing it step by step? They all have plenty of experience from real life communities. But with your qualifications!? Sweet dreams!

2. Way too young
When China in 2006 elected members for the standing comittee, the youngest to be chosen was 53 years old, and that was after fall is just to make the cadres younger in average age. When introducing them, our leaders addressed them in a conceited tone. Being Commander of Chief by the age of 47, isn't that a quite obvious signal for China? Will you be able to provide a rudder for your country, with no one there to help you? Will you be able to lead the reformation? I suggest that after you come to power, you let old fellows like Bush and Clinton work together to give you some pointers, this way the citizens of your country can feel relived. Remember, keep the vessel steady!


According to the blog where I found this post, it is uncertain if this was written as a joke or just to provoke, nevertheless, I put it up to show at least one thing: The difference between how western democracies are electing their leaders through general elections and how China more and more is turning into a steady technocracy, a society in which those who govern justify themselves by appeal to technical experts who justify themselves by appeal to scientific forms of knowledge. In these troubled financial times, it is tempting to support the latter.

Update: Due to the Chinese government envoking new censorship laws, has been forced to close. The original blogpost of my translation is therefore unavailable. I'll see if I can find another version of it and update the link...

André Holthe, November 2008
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