I've been looking into various cities in Guangdong (that are not Shenzhen or Guangzhou) for a day or weekend trip. I've settled on Jiangmen as a fascinating town with a rich local history, including the watchtowers of Kaiping, the Liang Qichao Memorial Museum, and perhaps a trip to the hot springs. A lot of money came back into Jiangmen from a host of its sons and daughters that made the dangerous trip as migrant workers overseas in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
But I was intrigued by the Jiangmen government tourism website. It's probably unfair of me to make fun of the English version, but I shall do it anyway. Under the heading local customs, it has this to say:
Amorous Feelings on Chuan Islands
[Evidently a place for courting couples - Ed.] Sea bath pool at Feisha beach...the first choice among sunny beach with snow-white sands, bright and clear water. Apart from that, other places worth a trip are Monkey Island [sounds like the title of a raunchy reality TV show -Ed.]; beautiful sunset glow in Shadi [no, that's Shah-DEE, Dave you dummy - Ed.]...oil cypress grove, diamond of vegetable kingdom [?-Ed/]; and mangrove.
Via Gizmodo UK, the Chinese Cauca-bot(tress) that sings karaoke, apparently. Her renditions of traditional Chinese ballads seem great, although she's got the lip-symching abilities of Milli Vanilli. She's also stacked and doesn't wear a bra. Evidently the Russian girls working the Chinese body politic are not getting the job done, in terms of their singing local songs, anyway...
We've not had many lurid posts lately and I thought this perky Lara Croft-meets-Chinese diva robot might do the trick!
Somehow I think even Mao would be squirming in his grave. Agreed, in the absence of a lot of 'old money', it is just similar to alumni 'donating' money to their school to get their inbred kids into their alma mater. But there is something powerfully repulsive to me, isn't there, in this system? I guess the social engineers of the system are trying to discourage wealthy parents from just getting their kids in direct to school by purchasing a place. Still, pardon me while I reach for the motion sickness bag.
There was a rather odd, equivocal opinion piece about the Yasukuni Shrine visit controversy today in the Standard. At its heart is the well-worn sentiment that China is diverting domestic and regional attention from more recent national atrocities but continuing to make an issue out of shrine visits by the Japanese leadership.
While there is some truth to that, there is also truth to the fact that many segment of Japanese society live in a complete bubble, insouciantly ignorant of any past atrocities, and an influential minority that prefer to distort history by outright denying it. The power of history is strong, and nationalist leaders in Japan feel they must pander to these revisionists to carry their votes.
It is therefore regrettable, in an article about revisionism of history, that the author himself commits one of the greatest journalistic mis-statements of all time: "Will also pointed out a few things Beijing would never admit. Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces. "
This is actually a farcical claim when Chiang Kai-Shek's generals spent most of their time fighting pointless little battles with each other and running from any armed confrontation with the Japanese, and bilking America out of such amounts in the name of fighting Japan as to make the Iraq Oil-for-food scam look like a child's hand in the cookie jar. While the average nationalist soldier fought hard, this was in spite of the total incompetence and craven-ness of their generals with regard to the Japanese. Chiang had no desire to fight Japan at all and only used the possibility of fighting them throughout the war as a lever from which to extract more pork for him to distribute amongst his corrupt coterie of handers-on and yes men. The Communists, on the other hand, cut a much more noble figure, and were also far more effective as guerilla fighters against the Japanese.
Careful what you say there, Mr. Liu Kin-Ming. History is power, and if we are going to criticize distortions turn about is fair play.
I'm not sure if you're right, but I've always heard the nationalist Chinese forces did most of the fighting against the Japanese. They certainly received most of the massive military and economic aid that the United States sent to China. Anyway, here's what wikipedia(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sino-Japanese_War) says:
# The Kuomintang fought in 22 major engagements, most of which involved more than 100,000 troops on both sides, 1,171 minor engagements most of which involved more than 50,000 troops on both sides, and 38,931 skirmishes.
# The CPC mostly fought guerilla attacks in rural area in North China.
A little guerilla war might seem more noble, but I'm guessing that the hundreds of thousands of nationalist troops who fought and died in major battles would be considered more resistance than anything the communists did in their guerilla campaign. Chiang Kai-Shek's intentions may not have been noble, but it seems like his forces did provide "most Chinese resistance" in the Second Sino-Japanese war.
Your post doesn't address anything at all about the statement that the nationalists did most of the fighting.
All you say is that the nationalists' intentions were not as "noble" and less effective than the communists' guerilla tactics. These two arguments in no way refute the fact that the nationalists provided most of the resistance against the Japanese.
Hi James, you are right, the KMT did do most of the fighting that was done, but to say that the KMT were the heroes against Japan while the Communists did nothing, which was the implication of the author, would be a terrible injustice.
Furthermore, almost all the fighting that was done by the KMT happened early in the war (37 and 38) when they still held onto the nominal concept that they were the government representing all authority throughout China, and then right at the end when Japan was already practically defeated.
I highly recommend the book by Barbara Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, for a very realistic assessment of the efforts made by the KMT throughout most of World War II against Japan. While as I mentioned the average Nationalist soldier fought and died bravely, he did so at the behest of uncaring generals that really had no regard for his own fighting men or their welfare. The KMT retreated so incredibly quickly in 1942-3 that the Japanese did not have time to catch up. It was in great contrast then, that the Communists, after having survived their near-annihilation during the long march, began truly fighting against the Japanese effectively.
The author of that article does not say that the KMT were the heroes of the war. Your perception of the implication of the article is relative and completely irrelevant.
The exact quote was, "Will also pointed out a few things Beijing would never admit. Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces." You then attempted to claim that a revision of history is necessary, when no such thing is needed when you yourself admit that the KMT did do most of the fighting. You claimed that that quote was a farcical claim and a mis-statement, and then backtrack and admit that the KMT did indeed do most of the fighting.
There is nothing factually wrong with the coherent statement, "Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces." No revision is necessary for this statement when it is easily understood and easily verifiable. You yourself admit that it is true.
Regardless of whether the nationalist resistance petered-out after a few years of the war, they still provided the majority of resistance against the Japanese. The Japanese suffered much higher than expected losses in the opening years of the war, and while the nationalists, having suffered massive losses against the Japanese, retreated to the interior of China, that didn't change the fact that they were still providing the majority of resistance against the Japanese. The author merely stated that Beijing would not admit that "Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces." How exactly does this statement, which many people would consider true, qualify as "one of the greatest journalistic mis-statements of all time"? You said it yourself: the KMT did do most of the fighting that was done. The author didn't call them heroes, nor did he claim the Communists did nothing.
"While there is some truth to that, there is also truth to the fact that many segment of Japanese society live in a complete bubble, insouciantly ignorant of any past atrocities, and an influential minority that prefer to distort history by outright denying it. The power of history is strong, and nationalist leaders in Japan feel they must pander to these revisionists to carry their votes."
The issue of what citizens in both Japan and the PRC know about their own countries and about the relations between the two is different from the issue Liu raises. Liu is discussing international relations. Since both Japan and the PRC are one-party states (does anyone care who could be the next DPJ-nominated premier?) where popular will is minimized, how this knowledge affects relations is rahter unimportant. Opposition in both governments is expressed by factional fighting. Factional identification is more important even than votes, because elections are decided in the nomination process and by the support given by a politican's faction. Koizumi belongs to the nationalist, conservative faction with a history extending back to Nobusuke Kishi. He does not to pander, especially to voters, because he believes in the factional line. Without it, he would not be premier. He can rebel against certain parts of the program, such as privatization, but he cannot sacrifice his identity within the faction.
However, judging from protests against textbooks and yasukuni, many Japanese citizens do know their history. For them, this is a Japanese matter, and Beijing's protests only incite resentment.
Koizumi has also clearly stated that he cannot believe beijing would hold up negotiations on important issues, just because of the history issue. It's at least possible Beijing's rhetoric is self-serving, because those issues are not easy to discuss or resolve for a Coomunist party held together with nationalist sentiment. Beijing probably wants cash for concessions on irrdentist claims, energy, and taiwan, like Tokyo has given before. But Japanese conservatives want the concessions before they consider handing cash over. So, Beijing is trying to shame Tokyo. The only difference between Aso and Abe is, that Aso would bring the cash to the meeting waiting for the deal, whereas Abe would make Beijing beg and wait for it. That is Koizumi's game, too.
I would also be willing to bet Rep. Hyde is in hock to pro-PRC lobbies. The Gray Lady's support for Beijing doesn't even need explaining. In lieu of a policy, American blue and red teams just spar, with hisotry as a tool. When dealing with some of the best spin artists in the world, history is just a whore.
Look, Chiang did his best not to win the war against Japan, and nearly succeeded. He avoided fighting with the Japanese at every opportunity, and refused to fight them even when America gave the KMT the ability to do so. He was a totally hopeless battlefield commander that basically relied on the Aamericans to come in and save his skin.
The implication in Liu's piece clearly is that the Communists have something to be ashamed about, whereas the Nationalists have something to be proud about.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
And as to history being a whore, yes some versions may be. But except for the inconvenient fact that there is truth, and there is fiction. The versions of history sold by both China and Beijing are prostitutes but the truth remains about both Chinese and Japanese atrocities against Chinese citizens (and other Asian citizens in the case of Japan) over the past century and nothing they say now is going to change this. Both countries will have these histories come back to haunt them. It appears in the next decade that Japan's turn is first.
Don't try to shift the argument. This isn't about whether Chiang Kai-shek's willingness to engage the Japanese in battle, it is about whether his forces can be considered as providing more resistance against the Japanese than the communist guerillas.
Your original post clearly states that you regard the statement: "Will also pointed out a few things Beijing would never admit. Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces. " as one of the greatest journalistic mistatements of all time, and you directly call this a "farcical claim", which implies that the author's statement that Chiang Kai-shek's forces didn't did not account for most Chinese resistance to the Japanese.
While it's true that Chiang Kai-shek avoided fights with the Japanese, how exactly does it change the fact that his troops engaged in many large conventional battles with the Japanese in which hundreds of thousands of nationalist troops were killed as well as tens of thousands of Japanese? The communists, whose forces were small in comparison, could never be considered most of China's resistance against Japan. Regardless of whether most of the large battles Chiang Kai-shek fought against the Japanese were early in the conflict or whether or not he was aggressive later in the war, most people can look at the cold hard facts and see that the nationalists provided a bigger overall contribution in the struggle against the Japanese.
It's great to know that Chiang Kai-shek was a poor commander who wanted to avoid conflict with the Japanese, but that doesn't change the fact that his forces were far larger, and engaged the Japanese in far more battles than the communist guerillas in their little hit and run attacks.
Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces, and Beijing does not admit this fact in its version of Chinese history. The statement in the article is valid.
"And as to history being a whore, yes some versions may be. But except for the inconvenient fact that there is truth, and there is fiction. The versions of history sold by both China and Beijing are prostitutes but the truth remains about both Chinese and Japanese atrocities against Chinese citizens (and other Asian citizens in the case of Japan) over the past century and nothing they say now is going to change this. Both countries will have these histories come back to haunt them. It appears in the next decade that Japan's turn is first."
Oh come, that's rather philistine and unsporting of you! Next, you'll tell me you believe in Santa Claus! The correspondence theory of truth is the ugliest whore in the lot! With millions of separate accounts divided into at least tow groups, are you, a college graduate, honestly going to tell me you can see truth in that thicket! I want that drug, pal, but it might kill me! I haven't believed in that crap since Confirmation!
And, even if it did wash, no human has time for such exalted views.
I've mentioned elsewhere on this site that I'm currently in the middle of Chang and Halliday's biography of Mao. With the caveat that much of the book is hotly disputed, they postulate that Mao was busy avoiding the Japanese at every opportunity and the only significant Communist battle against the Japanese - the "Operation 100 Regiments" (pp. 273 of the paperback edition) - was against Mao's wishes. Chang says Mao's intention was to let the Japanese thrash the KMT to the point the Russians would be forced to intervene, and then the Russians would appoint Mao China's ruler. While Chang doesn't heap praise on the KMT, she contends that the KMT were the only resistance to the Japanese with the one exception being Operation 100 Regiments...which later become the basis of the myth of Communist resistance to Japan.
As for the article Dave mentioned, much of it dwells on American disbelief at how much both Japan and China have vested in the issue of Yasakuni. But it's pretty simple: both sides see the issue as a microcosm of their very different views of history and both are playing to domestic audiences. Both countries, to a greater or lesser extent, are now ruled by parties with little by the way of ideology, as someone said above. Nationalism is about it, patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel. So long as the status quo is maintained, everyone is OK on this and all the other issues on the table. The ones that really matter are still being dealt with, such as North Korea or the continuing massive investment by Japanese corporations in China. The op-ed says American politicians believe both Japan and China are big enough to resolve the Yasakuni saga on their own, whereas both countries want some kind of arbiter...like the USA. There's no upside to the USA getting involved (yet), and for both leaderships in China and Japan there's more mileage in Yasakuni than in working it out. When that equation changes, the Yasakuni question will too.
1) i am actually very puzzled at why so many people bought that "divert attention" theory. china has no need to divert attention on its own history. this has become the biggest myth in western media. because,
a) pointing finger at japanese does not change how people think about C.R., GLF, or CCP's role in WWII. If you ask any Chinese person, you would find out there is hardly any correlation in their minds. If that is CCP's reason, they would have secretly asked/wished Koizumi to do more of these stuff.
b) there is only one reason for the temporary lift on popular protest last year, to build a case when China is forced to excercise its veto power regarding Japan's applicaiton to UNSC. Nothing else. As you can see, once Japan dropped its application, this year the civilian protest was suppressed.
2) I agree with Simon's assessment on CKS. The fact is, CKS' army is incompetent and ill-equipped/ill-trained. KMT fought more war simply because it occupied a larger area, with a larger army, and hence more exposure to fighting.
3) Liu kingmin:) this clown is everywher once in a while, but his writing are very predictable. i have some discussion with davesgonechina about his story a couple weeks ago. http://silkworms.chinesetriad.org/?p=331#comments
4) Will's WP essay is just as bad, typical of someone who has no clue about Asia, perhaps he has not even have spent any time in Asia. Howard French was pretty good this time
(the website link was forbidden, so i had to insert 2 "_" there)
the truth is
1) CCP fought a few war (100 regiments, pingxinguan) against the Japanese. But the real contribution is dragging the Japanese army from further expansion, not the 2 battles that it bragged about.
2) the 2 battles may be against Mao's view, maybe only in hind-sight (after CCP also suffered great lost). But we can agree that Mao wanted to preserve power because these battles were not effective. But preserving power does not mean not fighting, if you were Mao, why would you stop from bombing the railway and launching small surprise attack on strayed Japanese troop? Why would you fight them in the front, when you do not even have enough guns and bullets?
3) For every thing Chang said, I would seek a second source before believing. :)
One careful evaluation of Chang/Halliday's claims (which I'm quite sure are the source of Will's claims) is here. In short, the evaluation of Mao's motives is highly suspect, and their evaluation of the military situation is deeply flawed.
When one considers that at the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War the Comunist Party decreed a Policy of Non-Aggression Against Japan (it's in the archives, you can look up the minutes of the meeting), hoping that Japan and the KMT would wear each other out allowing the CCP to swoop in on whichever was left standing, the word "noble" seems rather inappropriate.
I'm in the middle of reading Chang/Halliday's Mao: One hell of a prick. So far the book has shown Mao to be a ruthless, heartless and opportunistic son-of-a-bitch who was politically savvy and was fortunate enough to be protected and coddled by another son-of-a-bitch, Joe Stalin.
It is the 40th anniversary of the launching of one the biggest pieces of state-run lunacy in history: the Cultural Revolution. While Communists generally love their anniversaries, even Beijing can't bring itself to commemerate the beginning of "great disorder under heaven". Which leads to an interesting remenicence from AP hack John Roderick on how American reporters covered China in those days and the somewhat surprising revelation that one of their key sources of information was the U.S. Government.
Thanks I'll follow those leads. I know the book has been critically reviewed elsewhere. I wonder if it's proved popular because of the position it takes, because it is well written, because it is well marketed or some combination of all?
It's a combination, to be sure. The writing is.... well, you can judge for yourself, but it's certainly got more energy and moral outrage than your averge history book. It's been marketed like crazy: Regnery is a significant American conservative echo chamber, which means that they've gotten lots of free good press from conservative commentators (and a few "open-minded" liberals who don't know anything about China), and the marketing has highlighted the "original" aspects of the book, making it seem like more than it is. (I put "original" in quotation marks because, while there is substantial new material in the book, a lot of what's being touted are really findings which have been in the English-language scholarship on Mao for years, and the new material is contentious territory due to the difficulty of confirming their research)
For all the hype, it's an important book: confirming or rebuting their points will probably be a recurring theme of modern Chinese historical scholarship in English for a decade. But it's not definitive, by any means.
Indeed, it would be a more important book in the Western academies if its sources were more transparent than they appear to be. But those who do not write history do not require footnotes. The impact of its mere existence has already been felt.
Surely this book has been reviewed in China at the highest levels in an effort to discover and discredit its alleged sources. Where is the news leakage from within China on this?
Rich Kuslan, Editor
Asia Business Intelligence
Chang may not be able to add marks to her career this time as a novelist although her previous story has won overwhelming success.
Dragging her historian-husband in as co-author has also not made this book look more scholarly. Their so-called research on china-russian archieve was nothing more than a biased integration of scattered and unproven "facts" and emotional enmities gathered from victims of the Cultural Revolution.
Demonization of Mao will not allow us to view objectively that "dark age period" of contemporary chinese history.
[This is not CPC propaganda]
I was quite amused by an article in the People's Daily today that expressed how China was 'soured and saddened' by Western press reports condemning the railway, not least from the Guardian newspaper in the UK. The funny thing is, they dredged up a report on railways in India, apparently from the Guardian a year ago, that had this to say:
"in India, nothing can link up the whole country but rail routes... From a broader sense, railways gives India a sense of unity."
Of course that is true also in a tragic sense this week. Now I've done a quick search of the Guardian website to find the article they reference, and I couldn't find it, so it's possible that this was not said, but I think it is entirely plausible given that I've read similar things expressed about railways in many other places.
The point is, I have to agree on this point with China. Why begrudge China's right to put a railway line in its own country? I think we must all be realistic and accept that Tibet, after over fifty years, is not going to be allowed its own independence by China. That being the case, why criticize a move that might help move at least a trickle of the economic prosperity enjoyed further east to Tibet? Some say that rampant tourism will wipe out what remains of Tibet's indigenous culture. But is that so that wealthy Western tourists can still fly up to Lhasa and, travelling a bit further, find some sort of Shangri-La untouched by time? Because there is no point trying to keep Tibet in stasis until some revolution somehow gives it back its independence.
If you travel to Germany, you don't expect, except on special occasions, Germans you meet to be wearing lederhosen. Does it make sense that we feel it's OK to want to expect indigenous costumes and historic poverty when we go to Tibet? Is it right for us not to want a railroad to a country, so that it remains too poor to afford anything except ethnic homespun?
'Free Tibet' is a pipe dream. The sooner people get over that and hope that people in Tibet can afford more opportunities, improved healthcare, safer roads, and more education, the better.
I think it is just part of ever-present cynical attitude towards everything China. It seems like China can never be right in achieve some sort of net positive for its people unless CCP today just politically slit their wrist and "embrace democracy(???)".
The see the same sort of hilariously cynical attitude in alot of the commentators that when they open their mouth and spew out waves of tired rhetoric, it is hard to not laugh or take them seriously.
The fundamental mindset is that, after the collapse of communism, "Democracy" has evolved from the "best way" to the "only way". Its application is all purpose and universal. Any solution to the contrary is heresy.
IMO, some people needs to stop treating "Democracy" like a religion and return to the examination of the human condition.
So I did a quick google news on Tibet and I found the some headline talking about the railroad and immediately i see some extremely hyperbolic headline such as "Railroad from hell" and "Blow to Tibet's independence".
Can't help but be amused and cynical at the same time.
But I guess the potential is there for cultural genocide such as the American Indians.
Look, I do think what has happened to Tibet was unfortunate, and certainly it is debatable whether it was an independent state historically like Korea and/or Vietnam, or a dominion of China.
But as much sympathy as I have for displaced Tibetans that chafe at the idea of Chinese rule, those debates now are in the past. Given the rise of China and the global geopolitical tectonic shifts that entails, China's absorption of Tibet is a fait accompli.
Once one comes to terms with it, you realize that any efforts to spur economic development of that dirt poor area is a good thing. And to decry globalization there as 'Sinification' is like 19th century Victorians objectifying the 'noble savage'. Yes, there is troubling evidence of forced ethnic heterogeneity by the thousands of Chinese settlers China has encouraged to move there. But the railway has no racial bias - it can only help people there rise up from the poverty that has blighted the region from before even the Chinese takeover.
While I agree with your assertion that Tibetan independence will never happen, I disagree with all this talk about moving economic prosperity to Tibet.
People who believe this are usually the ones that haven't traveled extensively to minority regions in China and/or have no idea what REALLY is going on. Just visit minority group-themed destinations in China such as Lijiang or Dali in Yunnan where the minority groups have been pushed out and Han Chinese settlers have moved in to cash in on their 'minority culture'. Fake cultural shows, tacky shops that sell minority trinkets are all features of them.
Take a look at last weekend's Standard article about a small town on Lugu Lake straddling Yunnan and Sichuan to see what economic development has done to minority people:
"....hope that people in Tibet can afford more opportunities, improved healthcare, safer roads, and more education, the better."
If Tibet was being unified with Canada or Australia then I would agree with you. I'm not sure how often you travel in China, but the health care for the vast majority of Chinese are terrible (visit a MASH-like Chinese hospital if you dont' believe me), safer roads don't exist and education in the rest of the country is in crisis mode.
Nobody asks what the ordinary Tibetans want (other than independence that is), the Han tell them what they need. If they do want economic progress why haven't any of them spoken up about it?
My advice is to go to Tibet, talk to a few Tibetans and see what they think about this tourism/unity with China circus. You'll quickly learn that many of them realise that independence is out of the question but they just want to be left to their own devices. Kind of like many Taiwanese people...but that's another story for another day:)
The railway is an impressive feat of engineering. Like most impressive -- and ergo expensive -- feats, there is plenty of room to debate the rationality of the thing. But now that it's there the Tibetans will get some benefit. Personally I hope to take the thing at some point.
I'm more bothered by that freaky giant Mao Zedong statue.
Dezza, I don't care for tacky Chinese tourism any more than the next guy, and yes, I've seen it - all over the country. They belittle all the 'quaint' cultures of all the 'minorities' of China. It made my experience in Kashgar one of the most disappointing stops of my life (everything afterwards on the Pakistan side was way cooler).
But even with the huge influx of Han Chinese, I still thought that overall, Kashgar had overall become a wealthier city - as has Lijiang, Dali, and lots of other places where the tourism dollars had made its way. And while the chief tourism enterprises, many of them national, were run by Han Chinese, I definitely saw a decent share of my tourism dollars going to local minorities, and to their employment.
Sun Bin: I've traveled extensively in Tibetan areas of Northern Yunnan and Western Sichuan. Although I've never traveled to Tibet itself, Tibetans in the areas I did visit go back and forth between Tibet and their homes in the above mentioned places.
I've talked extensively with regular Tibetan folks, even been invited into a few homes for chats, check out my website for photo evidence. I think it's pretty safe to say they cast a weary eye on all this development talk and feel left out and pushed out. I also speak with Han Chinese residing in these areas who think Tibetans are dirty, lazy and stupid because most of them just want to live on the land and herd yaks. There is definitely a lot of animosity between the minority groups and Han Chinese.
Fellow travelers and Tibetans themselves have even remarked that the Tibetan areas outside of Tibet are more authentically Tibetan than Tibet is now. I guess I'll have to see that for myself when I visit Tibet next year. I hope it hasn't turned out into another Lijiang by then..
HK Dave: if you can stomach what Lijiang and Dali have become then you're a bigger tourist 'man' than me:)
Bobby Fletcher: it's been awhile since I've been to Hawaii, I'll have to check out that cultural centre some time. What state are those cement teepees in?
I've seen cement teepees not on reservations, but outside or near them in southerwestern Colorado and in New Mexico.
I also believe I recall one outside of Tuba City, Arizona circa 1975 during a travesity of a road trip - but that might've been the drugs)))))
Tacky and absurd as they are -- they're used as adverts or picnic shelters, not housing -- they compare somewhat favorably to some of the horrendous housing on the actual reservations.
When some people talk about "evil train" it's obvious that the point is not the "train" but the "evil". In other words, the problem is not whether China has or not the right to put a railway line in its territory (of course it has), but the evil China did in and against Tibet in the last 50 years. If you miss this point, your post makes no sense.
Actually I've always wanted to ask this question but never got a chance to. Every god damn backpacker seems to have some innate knowledge on the "pulse" of Tibetans and seems to have gained some sort of socio-political wisdom. I know that 99% of the schmucks backtracking in Tibet can barely speak a lick of Chinese, let alone Tibetan. Also 99% of Tibetans and Chinese likewise don't speak any English. How are people like Dezza communicating complicated social and political concepts with "regular" natives when the grasp of the language is at best tentative or generally non-existant? Grunting can only take you so far.
It is really nothing "EVIL" about building a train to Tibet. If you want to talk about the policies there's a time and place for it.
The hypocrisy is so deep sometimes that people fails to see things for what they are. It is simply another part of the infrastrucuture development that's going on all over China. Not some neferious scheme to "wipe out the Tibetan culture".
Even if Tibet is an independent country, the train would STILL be just another part of globalization that's inevitable. People can't honestly be suggestion that instead of a train they should build a wall?
Look, Chinese travelers travel the way they want to. We can criticize them when they travel abroad, but when they travel in their own country we can't really tell them how to do it. As much as I hate whistle-stop bus tourism sandwiching in crappy food, stupid rip off 'handicraft factories' that pay commissions to the tour guides and ritualistic, soporific, pathetic 'cultural performances', if a billion people like travelling that way there's not much you or I can do about it.
And anyone that thinks that despite what Chinese domestic tourism is doing to historic or cultural environments, that it is not also bringing in money to the local economy, is totally deluding themselves.
Tibet is a part of China now. Get over any Quixotic quest to hope something will change the status quo and roll back five decades. That being the case, China not only has a right, but a responsibility to bring economic development to the region.
And on my favorite subject - I fervently hope for total culinary colonization of Tibet by China. Stop tsampa!
It would seem that the Chinese are damned if they do and damned if they don't. The predictable response came even before the plans for the railway had been laid. But if the Chinese didn't build a railroad, it's possible that some would have accused the Chinese of trying intentionally to box the Tibetans in.
I also think that tourism would be a good thing. Remember, the Vatican gets millions of visitors a year, and they are still very much in business.
China's history in 4 web pages - one can quibble in parts, but one always can with history (feel free to let fly with your quibbles in the comments). If you want to cover 4,000 years of history in 4 pages, take a look. And if you're looking for a good list of China books, here is a recommended China books list.
Time to bump up the ratings using that old adage that "sex sells". From the SCMP, a comparison of Chinese and Western preferences in sex toys. The main article discusses how one family got their start in the business, realising that yet again Chinese made sex toys could be cheaper but just as good as foreign models (pardon the pun). Far better is the breakout article:
The Chinese are much more adventurous than Europeans and Americans when it comes to sex toys, said Wu Hui , chairman of Wenzhou Adam and Eve Health Products. "It's strange. Among the countries we export to - developed countries in Europe and the Americas - they like simplicity. In China, they want more functions."...
At one of the company's shops in Wenzhou , a middle-aged woman clerk proudly shows products to a customer. "Before I worked here, I had never seen these things before," she said. Despite a lack of customers on a recent morning, she claimed that all the types of products on display had found buyers. "Someone has bought everything, even these," she said, gesturing to a pile of leather garments adorned with metal.
Holding up an item labelled the Erotic Butterfly, she said: "This is suitable for young ladies." She then moved on to demonstrate several other products. Customers who make it through the door are not usually embarrassed. One day last winter, a man bought an inflatable doll and declared he needed it to keep warm.
But even the clerk admitted she felt embarrassed sometimes. Dropping her voice to a whisper even though there was no one else in the store, she pointed to a device displayed in a sealed glass cabinet and said: "Someone from Shandong bought this once."
Those crazy people from Shandong. Could exotic sex tours of Chinese provinces be far behind? It would give new meaning to "Golden Week".
While I'm pilfering things from the Economist, an article discusses the woeful state of China's cinemas even while it's cinema productions are becoming world beaters. Full article needs subscription so I've put it below the jump.
Everyone is in love with Chinese cinema. Except the Chinese
THE Chinese are hot in Hollywood right now. At last month's Oscars Ang Lee, who hails from Taiwan and is a hero in mainland China, won the best director award for “Brokeback Mountain”. “Memoirs of a Geisha”, which carried off a further three Oscars, starred Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi, two Chinese actresses playing Japanese courtesans. Tom Cruise, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are all making films in China. And Britain's Merchant-Ivory studio has just released “The White Countess”, the first western picture to be shot entirely in China.
Unseen in China
It looks like a remarkable comeback for a film industry that was destroyed by the Cultural Revolution after a glorious early debut. Chinese cinema was born in 1896, just a year after it was invented in France. Yet between 1966 and 1972 not a single film was made on the mainland. Last year there were 260, almost twice as many as two years ago. Only America (425) and India (over 800) produced more. Box-office receipts have also been growing fast, reaching 2 billion yuan ($250m) in 2005, up a third on a year earlier, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), the government ministry-cum-regulator. Those figures pale beside the $23 billion that Hollywood raked in last year. But they compare decently with estimated receipts of $266m for India's Bollywood in 2004.
Like many a Californian starlet, however, the Chinese film industry is not as healthy as it looks. Zhang Hongsen, deputy director of the film bureau at SARFT, admitted this month that only 90 of those 260 films were ever screened in China. Many had to be withdrawn days after their release because of a lack of interest among cinema-goers.
A dearth of screens is partly to blame. China has only around 3,000 cinemas, with less than a tenth of the screens in America for a population five times as big. Much of the countryside is not covered. All in, China's 1.3 billion people managed a mere 200m cinema visits last year.
But the fault also lies with the quality and price of Chinese cinemas. Fewer than half of them are modern, reckons SARFT. The new ones charge a whopping 40-120 yuan ($5-15) a ticket, so are affordable only to the middle-classes. Xiang Yucheng, general manager of Kodak Cinema World, a 930-seat luxury cinema in Shanghai, says his average occupancy at just 20-24% is one of the highest in the country. No wonder China has never developed “a popcorn culture”, says David Wolf, a Beijing-based media consultant.
A more fundamental problem is that the industry is not making the films that people want to watch. Like nearly everyone else, the Chinese adore Hollywood blockbusters. “Titanic” is the biggest-grossing film in Chinese history and the fourth “Harry Potter” adventure is the favourite today. Yet only some 20 foreign films a year are allowed into China—although that number should rise to 40 in 2006 under the country's commitments to the World Trade Organisation.
Even then, though, choice will remain limited. China's censors are as prudish and culturally conservative as they are politically repressive, preferring bland family fare from overseas. Horror, violence (unless of the kung-fu variety) and anything challenging are ruled out. Since China has no proper ratings system, every film must be suitable for all. In a speech last December marking the centenary of Chinese cinema, President Hu Jintao left no doubt that censorship would stay: “All those working with China's film industry should stick to the correct political direction all the time,” he said. Neither “Brokeback Mountain”, with its homosexual theme, nor the Japanese-centred “Geisha” were screened in China. Mr Xiang, whose own cinema is barely profitable, says he could charge a third more to exhibit those films: “I just don't have enough good movies to show.”
Many domestic films are also banned. Directors are eager to comment on the rapid changes in Chinese society. But films such as Li Yang's “Blind Shaft” (a bleak, compelling picture about life in China's illegal coal mines) and “Cry Woman” (whose heroine uses her distinctive wail to become a professional mourner and buy her husband out of jail), were not shown to local audiences even though they had been acclaimed abroad. Liu Bingjian, the director of “Cry Woman” gave up, and now sells men's beauty products for Amway, laments Zhang Xianmin, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy.
A little help from the state
Even those Chinese films that survive the censor's blue pencil and are more than mere propaganda, often fall at the next hurdle: promotion. Budgets are low, advertising costs are high and marketing in China is haphazard. As Mr Wolf points out, “There is no studio system as in America where films must pass a series of executives judging their commercial viability. China needs its own Steven Spielberg—someone who really knows what people want to see.” Most Chinese remain glued to the television and opt to watch the latest pictures on pirated DVDs, which, at 10 yuan each, cost a fraction of a cinema visit and deprived American studios of $2.7 billion of revenues last year.
In response, the Chinese government is doing what it typically does to generate growth—build infrastructure. Cash has been found to set up mobile cinemas in rural areas, while businesses in Hong Kong and Macau were told in February that they could set up 100%-owned cinema chains. The same privilege should eventually be extended to western companies such as Warner Bros, the first foreign firm to get into film distribution on the mainland—it operates several cinemas there including a huge new complex in Chongqing, a city of 30m people. With cinemas being built from scratch, there are opportunities for foreign providers of the latest technologies, such as Imax, which is already selling 3D systems in China, and Texas Instruments, with its digital projectors.
New hardware, however, does not foster creativity. What the Chinese film industry needs is less regulation and greater competition. That would mean allowing in more western films, curbing censorship and removing the onerous cap that limits foreign-studio profits to 17% of Chinese box-office receipts. If a reliable ratings system replaced the censor, domestic filmmakers could take more risks, attract bigger audiences and plough back their growing revenues into marketing and more projects. If all that happened, even the Chinese might start to watch Chinese films.
away from distribution and exhibition issues, the simple (but painful) reason is that 90 percent of movies made are just no good. Try to make a list of top 10 mainland movies of last five years and it isn't easy. Even the foreign film festival favorites tend to be painfully slow and self-obsessed and wouldn't get a look in were it not for their 'oriental' (sorry) appeal. watched 'bao ber in love' t'other night - looked like it was made by a chimpanzee with a camera in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other. shockingly bad.
I would disagree and say that many of the Chinese film festival films are quite good; although they tend towards sentimentality, many talented directors such as Jia Zhangke, Li Yang and Yang Zhang are making good films.
I think piracy is definitely a problem, as are the cinemas themselves. There need to be some brand spanking new cinemas made, and ones that enforce laws on spitting and gross/obnoxious (not to mention unhealthy) behavior. I will never forget going to see "The Rock" in a cinema in Changsha. The movie did not have advertised start times - you just walked in and sat down; they would start playing the film as soon as they had finished and rewound the reel, which usually means you're about halfway through the film when you arrive.
"I would disagree and say that many of the Chinese film festival films are quite good; although they tend towards sentimentality, many talented directors such as Jia Zhangke, Li Yang and Yang Zhang are making good films."
could you give some examples because I have racked my brain and failed to come up with any? Even the likes of pickpocket or blind shaft are interesting rather than actually good in a cinematic sense. others like peacock are just dull. who wants to to the cinema (rather than dvd at home) and watch what are basically puffed up tv movies (or stage plays)?
compare china's output with korea, japan or hk and the you see what a tedious, ego-filled, over-directed movie world we are forced to live in.
Let's be as realistic as possible, and talk about "simple economics", or rather, plain old, common sense. They say, 10Yuan for a pirated DVD, and 40-120Yuan for an admission ticket to a run-down theater - I say, DVD looks pretty good, and the thing is, I make over a 100 times more money than the average, potential movie goer in China - so what's this about "less regulation and more competition". Why should I pay more for something I can have for less - it's stupid. The "Economist" should re-evaluate its own name, and change it to the "Idiots", for failing to see "simple economics" in action - the "Economist" -ha, what a joke.
"Why should I pay more for something I can have for less - it's stupid."
Well, exactly. At its core, this is the same issue that faces cinema owners in the United States. If you're going to create or maintain a popcorn culture of regular movie-goers, you have to offer more than just the viewing of a movie. You need to give people a reason to get out of the house, go through the time and expense, and get that premium value out of it.
Cinema will not progress much further unless it the business is completely rethought and patrons are either getting a unique experience, OR they're going to get an opportunity to see something they cannot see elsewhere.
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While on things history, Sun Shuyun in today's SCMP looks at the realities of China's founding myth in an excellent piece of historical analysis:
Every nation has its founding myth. For communist China, it is the Long March - a story on a par with Moses leading the Israelites' exodus out of Egypt. I was raised on it...
Continued below the jump.
...The myth can be stated succinctly. The fledgling Communist Party and its three Red Armies were driven out of their bases in southern China in the early 1930s by Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government. Pursued and harried by their enemies, they crossed high mountains, turbulent rivers and impassable grassland, with Mao Zedong steering the course from victory to victory.
After two years and 16,000km of endurance, courage and hope against impossible odds, the Red Armies reached northwestern China. Only a fifth of the original 200,000 soldiers remained, worn out and battered, but defiant. A decade later, they fought back, defeated Chiang, and launched Mao's New China.
How does China's founding myth stand up to reality? In 2004, 70 years after it began, I set out to retrace the Long March. Of the 40,000 survivors, perhaps 500 are still alive; I tracked down and interviewed 40 - ordinary people like Huang Zhiji, who was a boy when he joined the Red Army. He had no choice: they had arrested his father and would not release him until Huang agreed. He thought of deserting, but stayed for fear of being shot. Many did run away.
Six weeks into the March, Mao's First Army was reduced from 86,000 to 30,000 troops. The loss is still blamed on the Xiang River Battle, the first big engagement of the march. But, at most, 15,000 died in battle; the rest vanished. Another battle, at the Dadu River, is the core of the Long March legend: 22 brave men supposedly overpowered a regiment of Nationalist troops guarding the chains of the Luding Bridge, and opened the way for the marchers. Mao told Edgar Snow, author of Red Star Over China, that crossing the Dadu was the single most important incident during the Long March.
But documents that I have seen indicate that the general who commanded the division that crossed the Dadu River first told party historians a very different story. "This affair was not as complicated as people made it out to be later," he said. "When you investigate historical facts, you should respect the truth. How you present it is a different matter."
So, there was only a skirmish over the Dadu River. The local warlord, who hated Chiang, let Mao pass. As a reward, he was later made a minister in the communist government.
The marchers did not know where they would end up. When they converged in north China in October 1936, it was hailed as the end of the march. But the "promised land" could barely support its own population, let alone the Red Armies. Barely a month later, the party decided the Long March was to continue. But the communists were saved when Chiang was kidnapped by the general he had ordered to wipe them out. As part of the price for his release, Chiang recognised the communists as legitimate: the march was over. But not, however, for the 21,000 men and women of the Western Legion. They belonged to the Fourth Army, headed by Zhang Guotao, Mao's arch-rival. Their mission was to get help from Russia. But Mao kept sending them contradictory orders, so they could neither fight nor retreat. They were trapped in barren land, and the overwhelming forces of Muslim warlords wiped them out. Only 400 reached the border. It was the Red Army's biggest defeat, yet it is missing from official history.
So, what motivated the marchers? I asked a top general what he knew of communism at the time. "I had no idea, then and now," he replied. "I doubt that even Mao knew what it was." Perhaps no one knew how much suffering would lie ahead, and how great the difference would be between the dream and the reality.
My emphasis. The author is due to release a book on the Long March. I don't expect you'll be seeing many copies in China.
Have you got a blog and you've posted something pertaining to Asian history? Then my friend Jonathan Dresner wants to hear from you.
And early polling shows folders are outnumbering scrunchers. What's wrong with you people - do you fold paper before you throw it in the bin? The world would be a much better place if everyone scrunched.
Compared to other countries, China's higher educational system has one major disadvantage and two major advantages. Its main disadvantage reflects the time-honored legacy of conformity, discouraging innovation and lack of academic freedom. As much as Beijing would invest in higher education, if it does not manage to overcome these obstacles and provide a climate for fearless academic and scientific discussion, this revolution will be short-lived. At the same time, China has two formidable advantages: one is its huge population and the other is its mobilization capacity that is not bound by democratic values. Given that the ratio of talented people in the Chinese society is about the same as in other countries (and some would say it is higher), the Chinese government can feed its higher education system with millions of talented and even exceptional students for years to come.
That's a novel point: democracy hinders "mobilization capacity" and that's an advantage. Yet the very previous sentence the author tells us the lack of academic freedom is a disadvantage. A curious note to finish the piece on.
I struggle with the lack of innovation, improvisation, invention, self motivation every day in my job. The nationals that work for me are bright, great people. But, they really struggle when it comes to thinking of new ways of doing things. The propensity to sit back and let things happen, rather than driving a new way in maddening. A simple thing like getting up in front of the group and presenting a project and convincing people of your point of view...and then, getting the audience to question what is being presented. We (westerners) don't think twice about interrupting and asking questions...but not here.
Training can only take me so far...there is so much ingrained habits that have to be overcome.
Chinese are trained to learn by rote. Historically, the ladder of imperial success, to quote Ho Ping-ti, depended upon rote learning, and that tradition follows to the present day. In classes of 50 or more, little else can accomplished but the memorization of discrete bits of information and spitting it out again. By seeing the best students -- those who have made it through the sieve into the college system -- that we think Chinese are, as a rule, so very intelligent and well-learned. But go into the great mass of businesses and train the sales force (college grads, nonetheless), as I have, and one finds only a handful prepared to think on their own. When education fosters dependency, who can expect more?
Spike points out that China is banning a growing menace. Via the BBC:
Cartoons that blend live-action actors with animation are to be banned from TV in China...The move is aimed at promoting Chinese animators and apparently curbing the use of foreign cartoons.
China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television said people who flout the ban will be punished.
Lucky bastards won't have to put up with crap like this or this. Parents of young kids around the world will soon be beating a path to China's door, desperate to escape the inanity that largely is children's animation. Is that China's hidden agenda: attracting migrants? Could that be the solution to the coming demographic crunch thanks to the one-child policy? Isn't it easier just to remove the one-child policy anyway?
But hark, think of what horrendous wonders China's animators will come up with to fill this obvious gap in the market. And marvel at the stupidity of such a ban when any of the banned shows will still be freely available on DVD for a couple of yuan.
Invoking Occam's razor, the real reason for this ban is obvious: the head of the State Administration of Radio Film and Television the father of young kids.
With the new emphasis on Marxism, the kids in China will no doubt have a new father figure called Uncle Mao or some such. Look for characters who speak in cliches and platitudes and describe Uncle Mao in superlatives such as "glorious," etc. The sacharine in their tones will no doubt give a whole generation of kids diabetes. I'll take my sugar in Snickers bars any day.
Henry Ford said history is bunk, but far better is when fake history is debunked. The Economist, amongst others, hails an alleged 1763 map as a replica of an 1418 Chinese map of the world, proclaiming China beat Columbus to it, perhaps. The hedging in the headline isn't as noticeable in the article proper.
An astute observation by Peter Gordon in The Standard:
If Zheng He really did visit the Americas, it was a historical dead-end. This is, of course, the really interesting question: exactly why did China turn its back on its explorations, leaving the field to the Europeans? The net result was a long, slow decline in China's relative position in the world from which it is only now recovering.
It may still be, however, that some bright spark in China might see the map as a justification for demanding tribute from the United States, that it send large sums of money each year to build up central government coffers.
Except that America is already doing that.
Hemlock on the map:
The antiquary in me is intrigued. If an 18th Century Chinese map of the world really is – at its creator claimed – a copy of one from 1418, it would add serious weight to the theory that Admiral Zheng He/Cheng Ho’s fleet visited America before Columbus, and went round the rest of the world too.
Which is more probable?
1. The eunuch not only sailed to India, the Middle East and East Africa in 1421-23, which no-one doubts, but circumnavigated the globe via the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn a century before Magellan and also dropped in on Europe, Australia and Antarctica.
2. The mapmaker was lying – he had copied a more recent, Western-influenced work.
The first theory has gained popularity thanks to the book 1421 – The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies, whose beliefs rest on the spacemen-built-the-pyramids sort of evidence much loved by fans of pseudoscience. Menzies has been debunked as junk history. Other supposed evidence of Chinese exploration, like reports of Chinese DNA among Maoris or peanuts and tomato seeds in ancient imperial tombs, has never come to anything.
Viewing the chart, the words that come to my mind are‘17th Century’ and ‘gwailo’. Whoever put together the original outline knew the world was round and could place geographical features more or less correctly in terms of longitude and latitude and therefore in scale. The Jesuits introduced serious mappaemundi to China from 1600 and had their work criticized and even banned for showing the middle kingdom as anything other than a vast area surrounded by small and adoring tributary barbarian states. Up to that time (and later), all known Chinese world maps were wildly inaccurate. Portugal was described in one as a place south of Java that traded in small children as food. Another divided the distant world into lands of small men, large men, etc.
In the West, the great voyages of discovery from the late 15th century onward ignited interest in “capturing the world as a single ordered image.” But Zheng He's earlier--and in some ways much more impressive--sea voyages had no such effect in China; in fact, they were a source of embarrassment. And whereas the possession and display of a world map or globe from the Renaissance onward in Europe signified that the owner was “a knowledgeable and worldwise citizen,” it meant no such thing in imperial China. Thus, until forced to reconsider their craft by new political and cultural priorities, Chinese mapmakers generally made the choice to depict the world not so much in terms of how it “actually” was, but rather in terms of how they wanted it to be. Richard J. Smith , Rice University
While even The Economist is taking this “fresh and dramatic evidence” seriously, China’s historical officialdom is bemused. Beijing appreciates Cheng Ho’s ability to stir feelings of national pride, and they especially like the idea of him zipping through the Spratly and Paracel Islands, thus providing incontrovertible historical evidence that the South China Sea is an integral part of the motherland. Claiming America would be pushing it.
1) Is this revisionism?
2) Would the US ever accept that it's history (at least the columbus bit) is wrong?
I'm not saying, not even by a long shot, that this map is real (it's as fake as my 99 cent copy of Lord of the Rings), but even if China could produce the original map, on Carbon dateable material, made with carbon dateable ink, and accompanied by who knows what else that would be indesputable to modern science, is there even a remote chance that America would accept it as being genuine?
Re: ABC's comment. 1. History is always subject to revisionism.
2. Why wouldn't "America" accept it as real if it was proven to be so beyond a scientific doubt? Few, if any, Americans have no problem with the fact that the Norse predated Columbus's discovery, for instance.
Many of us are more educated and open-minded than you may suspect.
Of course, I have to admit that there are also the boneheads in the US who think the world is 6,000 years old and that it was created in 6 days...I don't think they'd be comfortable with a Chinese Columbus.
why does it matter, even if the map is true, zheng he is just someone between the nativs american and the white.
either judge by the first discoverer (native american) or the current occupiers (mainly whites, and more recent immigrant), zhenghe's alleged trip bears no implication whether it is incorporated by the US textbook or not.
it is no different than a bird fly by without laying egg or even some dropping.
I am with Sun Bin on this one. China's rise today has very little to do indeed with Zheng He or indeed any other notables of the Ming dynasty.
Please make the Zheng He issue go away! Why does everyone think this is so important, even if the proof is there that he globetrotted (which he didn't?)
I would like everyone to read an excellent book - the Adventures of Ibn Battuta, a 14th century Muslim traveler that visited much of the known old world, which at that time, a great deal of it was under Islamic influence. A fascinating book. travelling by land and sea, in total distance he must have covered the world.
My comment comes because, in my experience, America tends to intensly dislike any attempts at revisionism, no matter how justified.
I hold up the example of 'Native Americans' (indians, or whatever you like to call them). American history records them as coming over on land bridges from Asia around the end of the ice age, yet there is indisputable scientific evidence (including Carbon 14 dating and forensic reconstructions) that non Asians were present in the US long before the end of the ice age.
During the 90s, they dug up a skeleton of a non-Asian human male in a river, it carbon dated back to significantly earlier than any known Asian-Indian remains and did not match up to the facial or genetic structure of any known native American tribes of Asian decent. A Revelation in history? No.
Federal authoriteis confiscated the body and presented it to a local native American tribe for berial, despite it pre-dating them by thousends of years and having no genetic relationship to them.
Similarly, there is pretty good evidence to show that George Washington had a number of black children with a servent, yet most of their decendents are denied official recognition despite DNA evidence.
The list goes on.
No offense, but American hisotry is full of events where it should have been revised, but it wasn't and those who tried to revise it were denounced.
I just can't see Columbus day being scrapped for Zheng day.
Imagine that, America celebrating a Chinese eunec, it'd never happen in a millien years.
opps, maybe I should add that the argument wasn't whether native Americans are not decended from Asians who crossed over on a land bridge near the end of the ice age, but whether or not they were the first human settlers in America.
I think that the earliest accepted date in Us books is 13,000 years ago, but the true (revisionist) date is 16,000 years ago.
ACB, your point is irrelevent and seems to betray an irrational disdain for the US.
First off, most people don't give a damn about Columbus day in the US, except that it gives them a day off from school. Furthermore, the historical perception of Columbus in the US has been in a steady state of revision.
But regardless of whether a Chinese guy set foot on the Americas, Columbus would still be the guy who brought that knowledge back to Europe, which led the way to the European exploration and colonies that ultimately drastically changed the continent and led to the creation of the US.
It's like, if you could prove that some guy invented a silicon chip in his barn in 1824 and then buried it, it wouldn't really change the significance of its development in the 20th century.
The SCMP often comes in for serious stick, the latest deserved example being the controversy over Peter Kovolsky, an anti-smoking campaigner who's interview was spiked due to pettiness. In a paper that often struggles for content (just try it's City section on any random day for an example) it seems bewildering. But to the SCMP's credit, they do have some good journalists filing good stories. Unfortunately again due to misguided policies, the SCMP hides its online articles and lets these stories miss a wider exposure, much to both their journalists' and own detriment.
Today's example is Josie Liu's story, headlined Equality finally gets a chance with revision of education standards. It's reproduced below the jump. China's "free" public schools are often anything but, with some of the elite ones in Beijing effectively turning themselves into high fee private schools. The abolition of the farmers' tax will, perversely, mean poor rural schools will lose their primary source of income. China's leadership continually frets about the widening gap between the rural poor and the urban rich, and the inequality of opportunities and education are a major structural barrier to closing that gap (so is the billions in unpaid wages to over a hundred million rural labourers working in cities, but that's for another time). Amazingly, especially for an allegedly socialist country, schools until now have not been funded by the central government. But reforms are underway and so long as they are properly funded, they will go much further in improving the lives of tens of millions than a bunch of pampered Korean farmers marching down Causeway Bay.
It through such steps that China's future remain optimstic and hopeful.
Beijing newspaper editor Zhang Xiujiang is not happy with his son's Grade Five English teacher. He says she is a bad teacher and those who are good have found jobs in "good" schools far from his home that charge tens of thousands of yuan a year. "There is huge disparity between public schools, even within one city," he said. "It's not fair."
Proposed revisions seek to reduce disparities in education standards between schools and regions. The State Council approved draft revisions last week, almost 10 months after 740 National People's Congress representatives filed the initiative at the last NPC session. The changes will be put to the NPC Standing Committee next month for review and final approval. If passed, China will have its first revised compulsory education law in 20 years.
A version released for feedback had more than 90 items covering issues from the way schools are run to management of teaching staff and legal responsibilities. In contrast, existing legislation has only 18 items in total. It came into effect 20 years ago, to guarantee basic education for every school-age child. By 2004, 94 per cent of populated areas met compulsory education standards, but the law has not kept up with problems that have emerged over the past two decades.
One of the biggest problems was the one-time drive to corporatise education, turning part of the public school system into a money-making machine.
In several instances, elite public secondary schools are allowed to operate like private schools, charging higher fees and adopting their own selection criteria. There are more than 40 such schools in Beijing alone, and pupils have to take many extra classes to acquire the skills needed to qualify for a place. Parents also have to "donate" thousands of yuan in admission fees.
Chu Zhaohui , from the China National Institute for Educational Research, said that in such cases, the few had access to the assets of the many. "Good public schools are funded by the government and the high-quality resource should belong to all taxpayers, but actually they are enjoyed by a small number of rich people," Dr Chu said. "It has been proved that compulsory education cannot continue this way, with the public paying for it. It doesn't work."
The draft revision bans public schools from being run along private lines and contains a consensus on the government's key role in providing free basic education. It says local governments should be prohibited from setting up so-called key schools in the compulsory system.
The government should not only provide sufficient funding for compulsory education but also strike a regional balance in the allocation of resources.
To narrow the chasm between rural underdeveloped regions and the country's east, the draft proposes that central finances pay for textbooks and upgrades to rural schools. Rural governments have had less money to spend on education because of reductions in the fees they can collect. The situation could worsen this year with the scrapping of the agriculture tax, a major source of income for local administrations over the past five decades.
Finances were so badly strapped in some Shaanxi village schools this winter that students turned purple because the school did not have money for fuel.
Peking University law professor Zhan Zhongle said it was widely agreed Beijing should shoulder more of the burden of funding rural education. Yang Dongping , director of the 21st Century Education Development Research Academy, said a State Council meeting last month had fostered hopes of allocating more money for needy rural schools. The council decided that by next year 15 billion yuan in annual fees would be waived for all rural students and Beijing would inject an extra 120 billion yuan into rural education over the next five years, the China Business News said.
Minister of Finance Jin Renqing , said in a speech last month that in the next five years, the central government will shoulder up to 80 per cent of the money needed for fee waivers and school budget improvements in the west and central regions.
my regret is that i did not save the set of photographs of rural Chinese children whose cheeks were all purplish-red ... I mean, everybody in that classroom ... If I remember, I was too busy crying ...
In what way is the Peter Kovolsky matter a controversy? According to the dictionary, "A controversy is a contentious dispute, a disagreement in opinions over which parties are actively arguing."
Just who is actively arguing on behalf of SCMP right now?
The reader learns, for example, how close the Americans came to winning the Korean war and creating a united, pro-western Korea. At one point Stalin seemed resigned to the defeat of North Korea. Mr Gaddis quotes him as “wearily” remarking: “So what. Let it be. Let the Americans be our neighbours.” The pro-western tide was turned only when Mao persuaded his own advisers that China must intervene, and sent 300,000 troops to support Kim Il Sung. Mao's baleful influence reappears in 1956. Khrushchev apparently agonised over whether to put down the Hungarian rebellion of that year, and his final decision to send in the troops was made partly “under pressure from Mao Zedong”.
Here is the ink to the New York Times review of this book, which also comments on page 2:
"If events in Cuba and Indochina gave Washington fits, the Soviet leaders, in their turn, were stymied by North Korea and driven to the point of apoplexy by Mao Zedong, who would traumatize Khrushchev by casually commenting that war with the United States might be an excellent idea."
Read a fascinating pair of articles today from the New York Times (free registration site). This first one is about how Viacom's Nickelodeon, the children's cable TV network, is targeting the children of China is fun, irreverent rogramming that dispenses with dogmatic messages about how to behave. Great strategy - will the parents and the government like it? A quote from the article:
Viacom already has a 24-hour MTV channel in southern Guangdong province. China Central Television and the Shanghai Media Group broadcast Nickelodeon's "Wild Thornberries" and "CatDog" cartoons. "SpongeBob SquarePants" is due to premiere here next month.
But with television programming in China entirely state-controlled, Western media companies must negotiate every nuance of programming. And experts say that parents here may be even more restrictive than the government, viewing American-style television as too unruly.
"It wouldn't be surprising if the government said no to programs like these," says Lei Weizhen, who teaches about television at People's University in Beijing. "The public may question whether or not these shows are good for Chinese children."
In the cutthroat competition of contemporary Chinese society, parents invest heavily in what is often their only child. Urban children especially may attend school from 7 a.m. till 4 p.m., followed by hours of homework, music lessons and other enrichment courses. Deviating from this rigorous program is not encouraged.
"We don't allow him to watch too much TV," Qiu Yi, a 41-year-old advertising salesman in Shanghai, said of his 11-year-old son. "I'm not against cartoons. But I try to encourage him to watch documentaries on dinosaurs and the Second World War. These programs are useful to his study."
I am sure both Viacom and the Chinese government are wondering the same thing. Are these 'creative' influences mildly suggestive of American child rebelliousness, and what impact will it have on Chinese society?
There's a greater worry - that China's little emporers will turn into a vast army of rote-learning robots that lack creativity, initiative and drive, such as largely afflicts Japan and Korea. If American cartoons can engender a small amount of rebelliousness, it may undermine Confucian ideals of filial duty, but it may also prove the spark that ignites future economic growth and success.
I quite agree Simon, the potential for differences in thinking created by cartoons are quite positive overall, as much as China may fret about it (proof being that Disney was banned from airing its Looney Tunes cartoons on TV on the mainland until this year).
It will also be interesting to see what works and translates well in China, and what does not (for instance, Mulan) simply because the kids don't like it much.
Today, on my own blog, I wrote about the misadventures of the French expeditionary force organized to rescue the embattled Legations of Peking during the siege of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. But while the French force mustered to save the Legations left much to be desired, many of the Frenchmen on the spot demonstrated tremendous bravery. One of them was a 22-year old French scholar named Paul Pelliot. Although not trained as a soldier (he was an academic that just unfortunately happened to be in Peking during the Siege), under fire he stormed an emeny position, and also relieved the dietary stress on the defenders by procuring for them fresh fruit.
True reknown came to him though, in his academic and archaelogical discoveries. He discovered a huge number of paintings and scrolls in many places near the Taklamakan Desert, including Dunhuang, which he felt were endangered by the anarchic last days of the Qing Empire and safer in French hands. So he bought them from a monk at the monastery named Abbot Wang.
Both were reviled by the Nationalist and Communist governments for giving away priceless Chinese artifacts. In Dunhuang today, you can still see a mini-museum dedicated to what they called the cultural robbers of men like Paul Pelliot and Sir Aurel Stein.
Which is why I was so surprised to read an article today about a joint Sino-French expedition, almost 100 years after Pelliot first set out for China, that discovered several ancient cities from the Western Han dynasty over 2000 years ago, on the southern fringe of the Taklamakan Desert (which means, he who goes in, will not come out - I can tell you from personal experience the area is so vast and arid that it can be believed at face value). Funny how things change!
Suppose you had been married to someone. Then she was whisked off her feet by a Japanese man. She grudgingly came back to you, decades later. But then, only for a couple of years - she then is forcibly taken away by your worst enemy, who happens to be your twin brother. She at first still believes that she will be reunited with you one day, but that belief gradually dissipates and she sometimes now believes that she never had anything to do with you in the first place.
Should you, 60 years later, still celebrate her brief return from that Japanese man 60 years ago? China definitely thinks so in the case of Taiwan. Please go to the link I have just provided, if nothing else for an eye-opening display of girls in banana skirts, bubbleheads and fellows in traditional costumes that go to show that the mainland choreographers seem to understand as much about modern Taiwan as a redneck from Iowa. Nevertheless, this display shows how China intends on keeping up the pressure on Taiwan for a resolution of its sovereignty in a way that is acceptable to the mainland.
As they say, all is fair in love and war...and with China and Taiwan, as always, it 's a schizophrenic mixture of both.
Thanks for the cyber-pat on the back, Simon. High praise from a newspaper columnist!
For some reason, people don't seem to like my analogy much of Hong Kong being the child of a forced union between Britain and China, with Britain being the father of the 1841 assault. The father takes the child away from the mother after its birth, and raises the child as his own. But the previously strong father is brought low by catastrophe (read: WW II), and is eventually forced to return the son to the mother, who in the meantime has become rich and powerful. The custody agreement is signed by the parents without consulting the child himself.
This of course explains why the mother is overjoyed to have the son back, but the son does not return this affection, with part of him preferring to stay with his wealthier father (who had outgrown sowing his wild oats in all corners of the earth). The mother, a rather sensitive character, becomes incredibly offended when her son tells her he wants more independence and freedom...
The beautiful thing about countries, unlike people, though, is that they are blessed with a very long lifespan, and can sometimes grow younger instead of older (I would argue that China today has the energy of someone in their early 20s rather than a 4,000 year old geriatric!).
The problem with this aging system for countries, though, is that some of them never seem to grow up, particularly with regard to their relations with other countries. Just like with our families, our relationships with close relatives can sometimes seem frozen in time...
This review of Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday is also the chance to remind the bloody history of the man whose gigantic portrait still overlooks Massacre Square, whose statues still stand in chinese villages, towns and cities, whose political heritage CCP has never repudiated.
Keith Windschuttle starts and ends his piece highlighting the responsibility of western intellectuals and journalists for praising the barbarism of Mao era and for lying against every evidence:
Snow’s book played a major role in converting public opinion in both America and Europe towards a more favorable view of Mao. Its biggest impact, however, was within China itself, where it had a profound influence on radical youth. Red Star over China and the Mao autobiography were quickly translated into Chinese and widely distributed. Many young, urban, middle-class Chinese men and women who read Snow’s books were converted. They cut their long hair short—still a daring and eyebrow-raising gesture in the 1930s—and joined the Communist Party. By 1941, thanks to the reputation Mao had earned from the Long March, party membership had grown to some 700,000.
Edgar Snow was the first, but he was far from being the only Western writer or artist to succumb to Maoism.
Instead, the West was fed a steady diet of propaganda from respectable political leaders and writers who asserted the opposite. The future Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau visited in 1960 and wrote a starry-eyed, aptly titled book, Two Innocents in Red China, which said nothing about the famine. Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery visited in both 1960 and 1961 and asserted there was “no large-scale famine, only shortages in certain areas.” He did not regard the shortages as Mao’s fault and urged him to hang on to power: “China needs the chairman. You mustn’t abandon this ship.” The United Nations was completely ineffectual. Its Food and Agricultural Organization made an inspection in 1959, declaring that food production had increased by 50 to 100 percent in the past five years: “China seems capable of feeding [its population] well.” When the French socialist leader, François Mitterand, visited in 1961, Mao told him: “I repeat it, in order to be heard: There is no famine in China.” Mitterand dutifully reported this assurance to a credulous world. At the same time, Mao enlisted three writers he knew he could trust—Edgar Snow, Han Suyin, and Felix Greene—to spread his message through articles, books, and a celebrated BBC television interview between a fawning Greene and Chou En-lai.
Among Western intellectuals, Mao’s most enthusiastic supporters came from the French Left. Simone de Beauvoir visited China in 1955 and declared: “The power he [Mao] exercises is no more dictatorial than, for example, Roosevelt’s was. New China’s Constitution renders impossible the concentration of authority in one man’s hands.” She wrote a lengthy book about her visit entitled The Long March. During the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, her consort Jean-Paul Sartre praised the “revolutionary violence” of Mao as “profoundly moral.”
This was the regime western intellectuals (and politicians) appreciated and excused:
Chang and Halliday calculate that over the course of his political career from 1920 to 1976, Mao was responsible for the deaths of 70 million Chinese. This is more than the total killings attributable to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin combined. The biggest single number of Chinese dead was the 38 million who perished in the famine of the four years from 1958 to 1961, during the so-called Great Leap Forward. Westerners have known since Jasper Becker’s path-breaking 1996 book Hungry Ghosts: China’s Secret Famine that the famine killed between 30 and 40 million people. Becker attributed this to Mao’s ideological folly of conducting an ambitious but failed experiment in collectivization. Chang and Halliday produce new evidence to show it was more sinister than that.
Mass homicide on the scale of the Great Leap Forward was something that Mao prepared for. He told the 1958 party congress it should not fear but actively welcome people dying as a result of party policy. It was a common theme of his at the time. In Moscow in 1957 he said: “We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution.” On the prospect of another world war, he told the party in 1958: “Half the population wiped out—this happened quite a few times in Chinese history. It’s best if half the population is left, next best one-third.” Hence, Mao’s eventual career tally of 70 million deaths was actually much less than he anticipated.
Mao used precisely the same model in the so-called Cultural Revolution of 1966–1968. Party historians and sympathetic Western academics, then and now, rationalize this event as Mao’s attempt to revive the revolutionary spirit and arrest pro-capitalist and anti-socialist tendencies. In reality, Chang and Halliday show, it was yet another purge of Communist officials designed to terrorize the party and secure Mao’s leadership. Indeed, Mao himself thought of it as the Great Purge. Its principal targets were those party leaders who thought Mao’s attempts at collectivization and industrialization during the Great Leap Forward were a disaster.
But what were the main differences between Mao and the other totalitarian mass murderers of the XX century?
What made Mao the greater monster was not just the sheer quantity of his killings. It was because so many of his victims came not only from his real and imagined enemies but also from his own supporters. Chang and Halliday make it clear that Mao built his political power out of a life-long strategy that easily outdid even Stalin in waging murder and terror among his own Communist Party comrades.
Mao’s innovation to the Soviet system was to turn this persecution into public display. Mass rallies, public denunciations by informers, and public confessions of being AB (anti-Bolshevik) became the order of the day. Mao used this accusation to purge the party hierarchy of anyone who disagreed with him or whom he thought potentially disloyal.
Unlike Hitler and Stalin, who used secret police to arrest and interrogate victims, Mao used all those not yet accused to spy on, guard, interrogate, arrest, and punish those already accused. The Yenan settlement became a self-perpetuating totalitarian state. No outside press or radio communication was permitted. No letters could be sent or received from the outside world: Indeed, letters were construed as evidence of spying. Humor, sarcasm, and irony were banned. The regime invented a new catch-all offence, “Speaking Weird Words,” which meant any comment that could be interpreted as a complaint or a wisecrack could have its speaker accused of being a spy or traitor. Two years of this regime transformed the once young and passionate volunteers into robots, capable of enunciating nothing but bland echoes of the party line.
Mao and CCP today:
Chang and Halliday finish their biography with a gloomy reminder. In the face of today’s renewed bout of Western enthusiasm for China and its purported miracle economy, they use their epilogue to emphasize just how little has changed politically. Today, Mao’s portrait and his corpse still dominate Tiananmen Square in the heart of the Chinese capital. The current Communist regime declares itself to be Mao’s heir and fiercely perpetuates his myth.
In the past, books about China have played a major role in altering its politics. Edgar Snow’s Red Star over China was important in winning domestic support for the Chinese Communist Party. Chang and Halliday’s book will be impossible to ignore. It will no doubt be banned in China, but will still circulate secretly and be more sought after for that. The tens of thousands of Chinese students now studying at Western universities will see it in the bookstores. The story its authors tell is so awful it will both shock the Chinese people and confirm many of the private anecdotes and rumors passed down within families. Rather than being the man who made the ancient Middle Kingdom stand up again, Mao was the one who brought it to its knees. This is a powerful story which Mao’s heirs will have great difficulty denying or suppressing. Just as Snow’s book helped install the regime, Chang and Halliday’s could help bring it down. If any single book in our own time has the capacity to change the course of history, this is it.
Dedicated to the CCP (and sometimes Mao) apologists that still today people the world and the blogosphere.
I doubt that arguing Mao is evil is going bring down the system.
The official version is that Mao was a great man for leading the 1949 revolution but led China into disaster in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. In any case Mao doesn't matter all that much any more.
Yes, statues of Mao really annoy me, but they are no worse than statues of Confederate leaders that you still see in the southern United States, and there really are a lot of parallels between how Southerners think of and attempt to defend Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and the official Chinese history of Mao.
The interesting thing about facts is that people react differently to them. For example, what do we learn from the Cultural Revolution? The thing that I've learned is that basing policy on ideology is a bad thing, looking at details is important, experts can be stupid, bureaucracy can be a good thing, and "revolutionary causes" are a bad thing.
For example, I think it is hideous that one would consider allowing millions of people to die for the "greater good," but sometimes I think detect the same sort of thinking in Chinese democracy activists, who really don't think through or don't care about the consequences of social revolution because it fits in the "greater good."
The thing that I've learned is that basing policy on ideology is a bad thing, looking at details is important, experts can be stupid, bureaucracy can be a good thing, and "revolutionary causes" are a bad thing.
For example, I think it is hideous that one would consider allowing millions of people to die for the "greater good," but sometimes I think detect the same sort of thinking in Chinese democracy activists, who really don't think through or don't care about the consequences of social revolution because it fits in the "greater good."
excellent points, Jo
"democracy fundamentalists" won't do china any good compared with old guards of the past, because they harbor the same mentality of intolerance and sacrificing individual/minority for the "greater good".
while the dying ideology annoies me from time to time (like the blocking of wikipedia), "democracy fundamentalists" in various forms are more dangerous for china in the coming years.
btw, here is another portrait that might upset some people but is no longer related with any ideology or "national spirit", it only serves to be a symbol of mongolian nationality:
Enzo: It might help if you point out why my historical analogies are silly.
I don't think that comparing the official Communist view of Mao Zedong to the southern view of Robert E. Lee is silly at all. Both of them were responsible for defending systems that were morally reprehensible and indefensible, yet both have fans today that rely in some part on emphasizing some parts of history and deemphasizing the "bad bits."
I mean pretty much no one can defend chattel slavery and institutional racism just as I don't think anyone can seriously defend the Cultural Revolution. By you can talk about the heroic qualities of Mao and Confederate generals, and how they are good people because they "defended us from outside interference."
States-rights/anti-imperialism, same thing. It lets you have people rally together without really thinking about what they are defending.
Another experiment is to find someone that calls themselves a Maoist and see what they think about the current Chinese government. Pretty much every self-described Maoist I've talked hates the current Chinese government which must mean that they are doing something right.
Also if you think that my worry about "Chinese democracy activists" repeating the Cultural Revolution is overblown, read the last few paragraphs of Wei Jingsheng's the "Fifth Modernization." If forced to choose between the Communist Party's version of democracy and Wei Jingsheng's, I'll take the former. (Yes I realize its not either or, but I'm making a point.)
Fortunately, overseas Chinese democracy activists are like campus Marxist radicals, pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. They've manage to destroy themselves before doing any real harm to anyone else. Sad, in a way. The Tiananmen generation could have done so much more, but oh well......
The current crop of public intellectuals and peasant activists are a different story. They aren't trying to overthrow the system, just put pressure on the system to reform itself, and so my objections don't apply to them at all.
Joseph Wang - you never cease to amaze me! Once again, as usual, you bring to these discussions a sober sense of fairness and balance. I won't add anything further, because you have already pretty much summed up my own views.
Enzo, you are right to point out that millions died under Mao, and that given not only what we know today about him, but also what we know he knew about the tragedies he caused, he was a terrible, atrocious leader neck deep in blood.
I think before one totally rips apart outside observers for being sympathetic to him though, one has to remember that during those years, outsiders actually knew very little about what was happening inside China. The CCP was very good at pulling the wool over the eyes of foreign visitors. There was evidence, yes, but the same sort of evidence that, for instance, tells us that there is global warming today.
It was also a time when the Cold War and later, the Vietnam War made intelligent people wary of demonizing another country just because it was Communist. They thought they were open minded by considering Mao without the blinkers of Cold War rhetoric. Sadly, this sort of doubt led people to very incorrect conclusions.
I am not defending Mao at all. I simply think that we must remember that many people's sympathy to Mao came out of a time of little information about China and also of rebellion against 2 decades of anti-Communist rhetoric. They were mistaken, they were misguided, some of them were stupid, but it does not make them evil...
Incidentally, I think Joseph Wang makes a good point, albeit tangetially related to the main thrust of your piece, that what is really necessary in China is not a new ideology per se, but a fundamental appreciation for the sanctity and dignity of the life and welfare of individual citizens.
"As I was reading this book [Chang and Halliday's], I kept asking myself why historians should feel that they ought to be fair even to pathological monsters, if that is truly what Mao was. The most salient answer is perhaps structural as much as conceptual. Without some attempt at fairness there is no nuance, no sense of light and dark. The monster, acute and deadly, just shambles on down some monstrous path of his own devising. If he has no conscience, no meaningful vision of a different world except one where he is supreme, while his enemies are constantly humiliated and his people starve, then there is nothing we can learn from such a man. And that is a conclusion that, across the ages, historians have always tried to resist."
"I don't think that comparing the official Communist view of Mao Zedong to the southern view of Robert E. Lee is silly at all. Both of them were responsible for defending systems that were morally reprehensible and indefensible, yet both have fans today that rely in some part on emphasizing some parts of history and deemphasizing the "bad bits."
Unless you think that one death is a tragedy, one million deaths is statistics (Stalin docet), unless you have some news for me, Robert E. Lee was not responsible for the death of many millions people in the name of a totalitarian utopy. Is that difference enough or do I have to go on? Let's be serious, these are serious matters.
"Also if you think that my worry about "Chinese democracy activists" repeating the Cultural Revolution is overblown, read the last few paragraphs of Wei Jingsheng's the "Fifth Modernization." If forced to choose between the Communist Party's version of democracy and Wei Jingsheng's, I'll take the former. (Yes I realize its not either or, but I'm making a point.)"
When I read statements like "the Communist Party's version of democracy" I give up. There are some necessary premises to have a consistent debate. "The Communist Party's version of democracy" in the real world is called dictatorship. You are free to think that it's the best for China or that chinese people don't deserve anything else, but stop using the orwellian language, please. Democracy is a serious thing, many democracy activist as well, if you don't like them don't talk about. But, please, don't insult them and the intelligence of your interlocutors. Confusion is not a good companion.
Dave, you wrote:
"I simply think that we must remember that many people's sympathy to Mao came out of a time of little information about China and also of rebellion against 2 decades of anti-Communist rhetoric. They were mistaken, they were misguided, some of them were stupid, but it does not make them evil..."
In the case of journalists and intellectuals, they had cultural background and material possibilities to know the truth. Simply, they weren't interested.
As for the "rebellion against anti-Communist rhetoric", I don't buy it. I'm sure the same excuse wouldn't accepted if we were talking about nazi crimes.
"what is really necessary in China is not a new ideology per se, but a fundamental appreciation for the sanctity and dignity of the life and welfare of individual citizens".
I completely agree. It's for that that China needs democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and individuals.
Enzo, correct me if I'm reading you wrongly here, but are you trying to say that China ought to adopt something similar to what we have in the West? If so, what makes you think that our system is any more democratic than what China already has?
What is democracy, Enzo? I tell you what it is. Democracy, by definition, is the idea that soceity's public decisions will reflect the collective will of equal citizens rather than those of powerful elites. Now, do you really believe that in countries like Australia or Britain or France or Germany or the United States, that the public decisions which are made by government usually reflect the collective will of their citizens? And are all citizens in these countries really all that equal - in terms not only of their wealth and educational level, but also in terms of their abilities to influence decision-making processes and to impact in any significant way on public opinion?
In the United States, Britain, Australia, and most other developed countries, there operates what is generally known as the "two-party system". Sure, other political parties can exist, like the Greens in Germany and Australia for example, or like independents like Ralph Nader in the U.S. But the rules are rigged in such a way as to ensure that one of only two main political parties will always form government. Sure, this system does provide a certain amount of political stability for a nation state (I'm not necessarily against it), but it also prevents any real form of democracy from being able to emerge - in essence, it works to protect the status quo.
The United States is in fact less democratic than most other parliamentary democracies, because in the United States there exists a "winner-takes-all" electoral system: by giving all representation to the candidate with the most votes by definition shuts the door on political minorities, does it not?
Nearly all European legislatures, as well as in New Zealand, have forms of proportional representation, where 51 per cent of the vote wins ten percent of seats, and in some nations, like Germany and Belgium, candidates can win with far less support. Indeed, new political parties form in European "democracies" in roughly similar numbers as they do in the United States; the difference is that with proportional representation, more than half of these parties ultimately win seats and a chance to bring new voters and issues into politics even as the leading parties (or coalitions) typically function as stable pillars of government.
Still, I would argue that even under a system of proportional representation, parliamentary democracy is a very limited form of democracy. Surely democracy implies much more than the simple right to choose between representatives of political parties every four or five years? The Chartist Movement in the 19th century saw that gaining the right to vote was meaningless unless it could be used to effect "change".
Exercising our democratic right to vote for a conventional political party does not effect change Enzo. No way! It amounts to little more than making a selection between rival representatives of power and class interests whose overarching function is to protect private property and to ensure that profits flow. It is, quite frankly as far as I am concerned, little more than a representative government where all the representatives support obedience to the capitalist system.
Can anybody seriously say that in the United States there is really any fundamental difference between the Democrats and the Republicans? Or in Australia, between the Liberal/National Party Coalition and Labor? Or in Britain, between the Tories and Labour? I don't think so. What differences do exist are grossly exaggerated when you strip away all of the opposing rhetoric.
Not only this, but in all of these societies, both major rivals are more often than not funded by the same corporations. Do you think that Murdoch for example, puts all of his eggs into the one basket? Of course not.
Any political party which in fact challenges the orthodoxy of corporate rule, any party which genuinely seeks a better deal for workers, or whose policies are perceived in any way to threaten the health of the corporate world, will simply not attract any real funding from corporate bodies. How can such alternatives manage to voice their policies in fair competition with the big guns? Such an enequal contest is far from democratic. To get anywhere, a party must be able to attract corporate sponsors. The last presidential race in the U.S. is estimated to have cost at least US$1.2 billion.
And of course, not surprisingly, the corporate media in all of these countries even shut out the smaller fry by staging election "debates" between the two major parties only. And these so-called debates are very limited in their scope, precisely because both parties are essentially the same. They are the "two heads, of the one monster", as Gore Vidal once said - and each one feeds from the same trough.
Just take a good look at how governments throughout the so-called "democratic" world operate. The most important decisions are usually made unilaterally and without any consultation - not even with elected representatives or allies, much less with the ordinary citizen. Most people in both Britain and Australia were opposed to any military involvement in the Iraqi invasion for example, and still are. And yet, the governments of both of these countries made the decision to get involved nevertheless. There was no referendum, no consultation with local representatives even. Both governments ignored all opinion polls as well.
At any rate, for us Westerners to be constantly rattling on about how China needs and should be compelled to introduce "democracy" (whatever that might mean, and I assume usually such people like yourself Enzo are referring to a parliamentary system not unlike the type found in the U.S., etc) is simply unrealistic and naive, not to mention downright ignorant and arrogant. Not every country can suddenly "introduce" this kind of democracy for themselves - for such systems of limited representation always develop best where it develops incrementally - with gradual but consistent reforms in the political and civic landscape - instigated by economic change, and the changes in social mores that flow from this.
Indeed, in the West, electorates were enfranchised gradually. It took the British almost 150 years to develop a middle-class parliament. By contrast, the advent of democracy in the developing world has been telescoped. In relative terms, Asian politics is still where Britain was when rotten boroughs were bought and sold.
You cannot simply implant a "democracy", in the way that certain U.S. cowboys are trying to do in Iraq right now. The idea that you can bomb a country to pieces, occupy it, and then set up a parliamentary system with free elections is foolish nonsense - especially in a country with no real democratic traditions, and where political power has for centuries rested with local tribal affiliations based on religious and ethnic divisions.
In fact, parliamentary democracies do not promote peace and prosperity in such places, but conflict. One of the leading causes of conflict in our world today is the rivalry between peoples of different ethnic and religious groups. A very large number of these conflicts have taken place under so-called "democratic" regimes - like in India for example. According to the noted American lawyer and libertarian scholar, James Ostrowski, 25 out of 29 recent intrastate conflicts were ethnic or religious in nature, and out of those, 23 of the 25 occured in nations that were "democratic" throughout the time of the dispute.
The empirical evidence supports the view that "democracies" can, under certain social conditions, promote ethnic and religious conflict. According to Ostrowski, "an examination of the dynamics of the democratic process explains why this is so: in democracies, people tend to vote along ethinc or religious lines. All experience confirms this: people of one ethnic group tend to vote for candidates of the same ethnic group, or candidates that are known to favour the interest of such a group. The same applies to religion - the recent division of Americans in the last election certainly took on an evangalist verses liberal line to some considerable extent. Not only this, but according to one Gallup Poll, 93 percent of Republicans are white, while 93 percent of blacks voted for Al Gore for President in the 2000 elections."
Why do people vote like this? Simple, says Ostrowski. "It's because parliamentary 'democracy' gives people a virtually meaningless single vote. It allows them to vote for one of the candidates on the ballot, none of whom may represent the views and values of the voter. Since voters implicitly recognise the virtual meaninglessness of their vote, they have little incentive to inform themselves in detail about candidates, issues and policies. It is much easier to vote along ethnic or religious lines. Thus, ethnic/religious voting is a rational response to the problem of rational ignorance about candidates and issues."
"So 'democracies' inherently contain the seeds of ethnic conflict," concludes Ostrowski, "and as history shows us, under certain circumstances, people who are members of ethnic minorities prefer to fight wars of sucession to escape from the control of majority ethnic groups they believe are hostile to their interests."
Just look at all of those countries that once belonged to the former USSR - their experiments with democracy have proven to be dismal, and have resulted in conflicts and wars that have been based around ethnic divisions. Most Chinese will most certainly alert you to the speedy break-up of the former Soviet Union once it began dabbling in "democracy", which is one of the main reasons why they now tread so cautiously.
China is a country with not only a huge population, but also with a diverse range of ethnic minority groups. At least 56 in fact. Trying to rush through with the introduction of a parliamentary "democracy" could be fatal. Most people in China, if given the choice, would have no hesitation in choosing their current system rather than to risk the break-up of the nation state, and all of the violence and conflict this would no doubt entail. In the paper he delivered to the 32nd Sino-American Conference on Contemporary China, Gilbert Rozman noted that influential CCP members as well as influential mainland academic analysts have indeed interpreted the Soviet collapse as "the consequence of moving too quickly toward democracy and thereby losing control," which is something that the British journalist and author, Kevin Sinclair, also discusses in his book, China Culture Shock.
Remember Enzo, every major study to date - both by independent US and Chinese scholars alike, have found that the overwhelming majority of mainlanders DO NOT WANT multi-party elections, and are generally satisfied with the present system and status quo. You can't simply ignore empirical data like that, nor can you try to dismiss it as CCP propaganda.
China has a one-party system. We in the West have also have one-party systems, disguised as two-party systems.
As I've said before, we need some premises to have a consistent debate.
Every time I run into someone trying to explain to me that liberal democracies and one-party dictatorships are the same thing, I give up.
Nothing personal but some points of view and some history and politics interpretations are beyond me.
Well look Enzo, this is why, at heart, I am an empiricist, in the more traditional British sense. The fact that the our Western parliamentary democracies are essentially designed to maintain the status quo is I think, empirically verifiable. And I think this is a good thing, incidentally, because what most rational human beings want is stability - a stable economic, social and political environment. They why the two party system exists, but let's not pretend that it is democratic! It's not - and that too, is empirically verifiable.
If the same interests fund and influence both major parties in a two-party system, then is it not reasonable to conclude that these two parties are merely the two sides of the one coin? Some people, intimately familar with the Western political system, like Gore Vidal, are honest enough to admit this.
The Chinese people, like us Westerners, want stability. The two party system might work well for countries like Britain, Australia, etc., but most Chinese themsleves don't believe that it would work well for China. And I agree with them - as do many other Westerners, journalists and scholars alike.
You disagree - fine! But you should at least be willing to listen to alternative viewpoints, and to examine whether such positions can be supported empirically or not, and if so, by how much weight? It's ultimately a more productive approach to debate than merely drawing a line in the sand, separating the two opposing viewpoints as though they were incapable of coming together to form something new. Sands do shift, and it's always best to think dialectically - both the ancient Greeks and the ancient Chinese appreciated that, and independently of one another too.
Enzo, as I pointed out earlier, there have been a number of surveys, some of them on ahuge, national scale, conducted by independent researchers from countries as diverse as the United States, Taiwan, and of course, the mainland itself. All of the them consistently produce the same basic result: most mainlanders do not want multi-party elections at this stage of China's development. They answered these surveys freely, the findings have been discussed widely and accepted - the last one I know of was discussed at the 32nd Sino-American Conference on Contemporary China in Taipei.
O.K. Enzo, I take your point. I mean, I wasn't trying to suggest that national surveys constitute in themselves a form of democracy. As a way of gauging popular sentiments and attitudes, surveys are limited, I admit. We're not talking about a national census here. But every single survey to date has yielded similar results, and this provides some empirical evidence to suggest that most mainlanders do not want multi-party elections, and that most are presently satisfied with the current system. That's all I'm pointing out. It doesn't seem as though most mainlanders are screaming out for a two-party system, as some people like to suggest.
My main arguments here are (1) two-party systems are really one-party systems disguised as two.
(2) Both China's one-party system and the two-party systems that we have in the West are undemocratic, and are designed to maintain the status quo and to provide economic, social and political stability.
(3) Both systems in question are clearly achieving these aims, and that I think, is empirically verifiable fact.
(4) The aims achieved are in fact what most rational human beings desire, so I'm not suggesting that either system is bad - I'm merely saying that both are very undemocratic.
(5) At present, the one-party model is best suited for China,
and (6) if national surveys are anything to go by, most mainlanders themselves are of the opinion that the one-party system is best for them.
Sorry Mark- but to argue that there are no substantive differences between the Democrats and Republicans in the US simply defies reality. Many naive Americans thought so back in 2000- allowing a clown like Ralph Nader to amass millions of votes and allowing the "compassionate conservative" Bush to take the White House.
I actually agree that introducing parliamentary democracy at this stage of China's development would probably be chaotic, but equating China's one-party government with the two-party ones elsewhere in the world undermines your entire argument.
Stumbling around Xinhua, I came across a forum titled Mao Zedong, a forever warm memory. The page holds 15 comments, all in praise of the Great Helmsman. One that stands out:
jjg: My father and grandfather were wronged and persecuted for 5 and 20 years, respectively. But I still think that Mao's merits outweigh his demerits….We can never forget that he helped lay the foundation for the growth of the People’s Republic of China.
And another links past with present:
Dhgsk: Mao Zedong is remembered not for the mistakes he made, but for the work style of "serving the people wholeheartedly"pursued by the Chinese Communist Party under his leadership….People have longed for a government that does its utmost to improve their well-beings. Fortunately, the current central leadership gives us that hope.
According to the book "Mao Tse-tung, who for decades held absolute power over the lives of one-quarter of the world's population, was responsible for well over 70 million deaths in peacetime, more than any other twentieth century leader" and claimed that he was willing for half of China to die to achieve military-nuclear superpowerdom.
Chang and Halliday argue that despite being born into a peasant family, Mao had little concern for the welfare of the Chinese peasantry. They hold Mao responsible for the famine resulting from the Great Leap Forward and claim that he exacerbated the famine by allowing the export of grain to continue even when it became clear that China did not have sufficient grain to feed its population. They also claim that Mao had many political opponents arrested and murdered, including some of his personal friends, and argue that he was a more tyrannical leader than had previously been thought.
The entry also has links to various reviews of the book and some of the disputed points in the book.
I imagine this book won't be available in China, nor will it get it's own Xinhua page.
If you only read one post about China this year, you should read more blogs. But if it really has to be just one, make it this excellent essay by David Moser titled "Stifled Laughter: How the Communist Party killed Chinese humour". A small taste:
It is ironic that China, with the world’s largest population, also wastes more human resources than any country on earth. An entire generation of talent was effectively lost during the Cultural Revolution. And it could be argued that, since 1949, China has metaphorically shackled and silenced all its Lenny Bruces, Mort Sahls, Richard Pryors, Dick Gregorys, Eddie Murphys and Margaret Chos. Of course, all cultures are different, and such potential Chinese comedic geniuses would have undoubtedly produced standup comedy with “Chinese characteristics”. The pity is that we will never know what that comedy might have been like.
If crosstalk is dying, it is not because of inexorable market forces, or because of some ineffable cultural difference. It is rather the fault of the Communist Party, whose paranoia and pathetic sense of dignity has produced a media environment in which nothing truly humorous can ever arise and flourish. It is the Party that killed the laughter. And this is truly no laughing matter.
Add humour to the pile of damage the Communists have done to China. I rarely say this: read the whole thing.
Wilson, you could argue that China moved one step forward and many steps back, especially with Mao's chaotic Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolutions. China's emergence in the last 25 years has been because Mao died and more sane leaders took the helm.