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Forum: Our World The World RSS
(Now the Official China thread)
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Author name (Administrator) #46
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Member since May 2011 · 2475 posts · Location: Brisbane
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In reply to post ID 2705
Subject: China's problem with North Korea
This article points out fairly succinctly how China's got a problem looming as South Korea comes close to releasing a report about an alleged North Korean sinking of one of the South's warships this year.

Basically, China's looking as if they'll have to publicly choose between their long-time but no-hoper allies in Pyongyang, and the rest of the world with whom they've many new, strong and lucrative ties.
BLEARGH
Author name #47
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Cynical as I am, I see opportunity in the North Korean situation. There's light at the end of this tunnel that's similar to the Cuban situation, since Kim Jong Il's health is failing and he's hurriedly setting up succession.

I wish I could cite a source for the story about the interview the press conducted with the North Korean military personnel who were managing their World Cup team. One brave European reporter asked a question about tensions with the South Korean team, and the general angrily replied, "There is no South Korea! There is only one Korea, and all other parties claiming to be a government are invalid and illegitimate!" It's no challenge to find similar qualities in other North Korean announcements and press statements that indicate a complete denial of reality, politically and economically speaking.

China's interest in maintaining North Korea is pretty simple. They need a buffer area between themselves and the American military presence in South Korea. It's not realistic to assume that reunification is in the cards, or that it would result in an American departure, so the DMZ will continue to exist for a while. So really, the problem isn't that China is in a diplomatic box so much as that they don't know how to keep North Korea happy and quiet as long as Kim's alive.

So what happens when he dies? Expect a "pro-democracy" revolution in the North that's really backed by Chinese strategists. Lots of people will die (although, not many more than would have died by way of famine) and the new guy in charge will be curiously pro-China. He may even be ethnically Chinese, but wherever he comes from it will be his job to simply maintain the status quo and not rock the boat. If he happens to be able to figure out how to feed 23 million starving Koreans, that will be gravy.
Author name #48
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Time Magazine has these maddeningly brief interviews with academics that serve as little more than new book promotions. But in their recent Q&A session with an American journalist in China, their subject provides unique look at modern Chinese culture:

"If you're in a restaurant and the waiter asks if you'd like some more water, you just say búyào  (don't want) — you don't use any of the normal softeners that make our language polite. I asked some of my Chinese friends, and they told me that in China when you insert words which we consider polite, they consider it as inserting a formality between you and your good friends or family members. It actually sets some kind of distance."

I remember embracing this philosophy when I was young. Americans, and children of Chinese immigrants to the United States, uniformly thought I was cold and rude. I've assimilated now, and I find I prefer the gentle politeness that English draws out of people. It's no wonder that western nations have a hard time getting close to China, when you can't tell abruptness from familiarity.

The whole article is here:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2019179,00.h…
Author name (Administrator) #49
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Member since May 2011 · 2475 posts · Location: Brisbane
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That's a rather fascinating insight.  These kinds of cultural difference are very important to know when you expect to deal with people from places like this.

A related bit of asian behavioural trivia: When you go to Japan, your hosts will overwhelm you with choices and options, letting you - the guest - make the decisions.  Koreans on the other hand will make the decisions for you, sparing you - the guest - the effort of evaluating and choosing from the available options.

When you know these things in advance it's much easier to deal with the differences.
BLEARGH
Author name #50
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Sometimes the unique way America defines political bias is a barrier to communication. But the common elements of a conservative philosophy hold firm; cultural change happens slowly, financial spending is curbed, and people mostly take care of themselves. Which is why in the United States, entitlements and social programs are uncomfortable for conservatives because they seem to run counter to a free market.

Newsweek reports on Patrick Chovanec, a reasonably prominent American conservative political operative who ended up working in and raising a family in China. While there, he came to a new understanding about the way western politics regulates itself.

China's safety net, known as the iron rice bowl, has been broken under the strain of industrialization and nothing comparable has emerged to replace it. It's hollowed out so much that Chovanec says it dawned on him that this is why the Chinese save as much as they do and don't consume as much as Americans. This was a revelation for him as a conservative, and it brought him to this conclusion: "The social safety net greases the wheels of capitalism because it makes people feel more secure about the future and willing to spend." FDR's New Deal made capitalism politically palatable and, with the advent of unemployment benefits, created a more flexible labor market because if people lose their jobs, they have a cushion to fall back on and recover.

I'm interested in what this says about China. Bizarrely, they are the more conservative in a comparison with any western country, because they really do believe in every man for himself. And this turns out to be a cultural difference, because the safety net that is American welfare and unemployment implies a trust in citizenry that doesn't exist in China. I would never have thought to look at it that way.

The full article is here:

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/17/social-safety-net-greas…
Author name (Administrator) #51
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Subject: Chinese one-child policy.
I stumbled across this Telegraph article via Danwei.  It discusses the looming end of the one-child-per-family policy in China.

The article makes me quite angry and I'm having trouble seeing past my own beliefs being applied to the article.  When a main player in the store says

"We never planned this, but despite the problems we knew it would cause, we were over the moon," he said. "How much longer can the one-child policy last, anyway?"

I keep thinking this short-sighted stupid little man just threw away his career and job prospects and brought into the world another mouth to feed, one that he can't even register (apparently) making her effectively a non person, because he felt like it.  He broke the law and a social contract because he wanted to.

I'm outraged 'cause I think we've got enough people and I think the one-child plan makes sense.  I wish we had it here too.  I don't know if the article's trying to set him up to be some sort of hero or trying to gain my sympathy, but it just pisses me off.

The other players in the story enrage me as well.  She doesn't come across as someone who has suffered, she sounds like a spoiled brat:

Wang Yuanyuan, an accountant at Carrefour who was born in the first year of the one-child policy, said being an only child had blighted her life. "My parents were obsessed with me, I was smothered at home and they tried to interfere with my life all the time," she said. "I had to end my first relationship because the boy was three years older and my parents said it was unlucky."

Then she had to reject a good job offer that meant moving away. "My mum and dad both cried all day and begged me not to leave. I'm angry they ruined that chance for me."

Oh come on!

The article goes on to say that single-child familes result in a single child having to care for two parents and two grandparents by themselves, but negates that by claiming single-child families have been saving far more because they don't have to support two or more kids.

I just want to scream at them there are too many people already!  Stop being selfish!

But perhaps I'm just a mean little bastard.
BLEARGH
Author name #52
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I'm willing to understand this type of selfishness, even if I don't completely forgive it. What culture doesn't encourage its people to believe in exceptionalism, and to have a desire to propagate a specific family line? It's very difficult for people to think about the world at large, when their own immediate future is at stake. Doubly so for people whose one child may be physically or mentally not up to the adult task of caring for aging parents. Having more children is a millennia-old insurance policy.
Author name (Administrator) #53
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Member since May 2011 · 2475 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Perhaps it's easier for me to disregard the reproductive tug some people apparently feel 'cause I don't feel it myself.  One day I'm gonna die.  Having kids ain't gonna change that, and I honestly don't understand the whole concept of children as insurance, or the value of continuing the family line.  Seriously, you think your genes are so good you should get an exception and have more kids?  Fuck you.  You're not a special snowflake, you're a worthless meatbag like the rest of us.  Only, it seems, more self centred.

I don't believe in exceptionalism either, for me or for my country (whichever that is) or for my race, or indeed for the whole planet.  The older I get the more I realize I'm apparently unusual in this.
BLEARGH
Author name (Administrator) #54
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Member since May 2011 · 2475 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: China: Control freaks; plan ahead (or not)
Two interesting things about China I'd like to mention:

First, Kendrick remarks on China's 500 year thinking.  He quotes a Chinese official who says "In 500 years, everyone will see that they were wrong and we were right."  Kendrick remarks:

Quote by Kendrick:
It's that China looks at time in larger, broader units of measure than anyone else. Five-hundred years? What other people in the world are willing to wait five centuries to be proven right?

I don't see it the same way.  Where Kendrick seems to believe this implies long-term thinking on behalf of China's leaders, it indicates to me only that they're aware of a future 500 years from now, not that they're planning for it.  Sure, in the West we get leaders in business and politics who cannot see a future beyond the next election, but I see little honour in China's long-term view.

Instead I see Chinese leaders who still do whatever bullshit pops into their minds, and totally deny all responsibility by passing the buck to people so far away from the here and now they might as well be space aliens.  Talking about the ultimate judgment in five hundred years is an awful lot like a christian adamant that he can do what he wants in this life 'cause no one will judge him until the next.  It's a cop out.


Via Danwei comes this news that ChinGov has demonstrated exactly how out of touch it is with reality by announcing an end to foreign words and new terms used to describe new technology and concepts.  According to The People's Daily:

Arbitrary use of English words and acronyms is now prohibited and coined terms that are not intelligible to everyone are not allowed to be used...

Abuse of foreign languages, including arbitrary use of English words; acronym mixing in Mandarin and coined half-English, half-Chinese terms that are intelligible to nobody, are commonly seen.

All these have seriously damaged to the purity of the Chinese language and resulted in adverse social impacts to the harmonious and healthy cultural environment.

This, right here, is what happens when you let a cadre of old men run a country.

On the bright side, it lessens the potential of a modern Chinese superpower as its people are forced to use ill-fitting language to describe the things around them...  Actually, since this only affects the press, it might be more accurate to say that the press is once again crippled and kept weak while the masses keep going about their days running circles around the fossils running their lives.

Forgive me, I get a little feisty when people fuck with language unnecessarily.  Grr.
BLEARGH
This post was edited on 2010-12-24, 17:07 by NFG.
Author name (Administrator) #55
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Member since May 2011 · 2475 posts · Location: Brisbane
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I've always maintained that China's got a tough job to do.  People don't just change overnight, the fears and habits and beliefs that belonged to your grandparents' generation probably belong to yours.  Put another way, you can bring civilization to the peasants but it doesn't mean they're going to get all cosmopolitan overnight.

So ChinGov maintains some controls that seem quite draconian to those of us in countries that have taken much longer to go from mud huts to skyscrapers.  Like the previous post, where they tried to control the language.

And now they're meddling with fiction.  In China, the relevent authority (the General Bureau of Radio, Film and Television) has decided that time travel dramas, currently in vogue, are "disrespectful to history" and that some stories are "totally made up".

Which, I imagine, will segue nicely into next month's announcement that fiction must deal only with factual events to avoid misleading the populace.

Original story from China Hush
Found via Techdirt
BLEARGH
Author name #56
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There's a phrase I like to use to describe Chinese belief systems. "Chinese people believe things they know aren't true."

In western society, we like to take ownership of our beliefs. We internalize, we digest, we process and consider things that are told to us and then we form beliefs. Usually it happens slowly, and frequently in reaction to something that we question or some information we synthesize. Europe, America, and related cultures cultivate independent thought.

China has no such tradition. In China (and in expatriate Chinese societies like you might find in New York, Jamaica orAustralia) you're told what to think and that's that. History (all ten-thousand years of it) is immutable and unquestioned, and China is the center of the universe. People who question that setup are branded dissidents, separatists, 'splittists' and other words that are used to describe people who are not part of society or part of the giant but exclusive club that is China.

Looking at their objection to time travel, it's not that China has a problem with fiction. What they have a problem with is speculative fiction that wasn't generated from a Chinese point of view. More specifically, if the Chinese communist party wasn't the origin of the speculation, then there's the danger of someone coming up with an insane idea like a world where Mao's economic experiments didn't kill tens of millions of people. That's what they mean when they say those stories are 'made up' and have no artistic merit or entertainment value.
Author name (Administrator) #57
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Kendrick: I very much enjoy your contributions to this thread, you quite consistently make me stop and re-think the things I considered unassailably sound.  It makes me think that many of the things I consider to be universal about humanity really aren't (and, by extension, I wonder if we can ever really understand real aliens someday.

Meanwhile China rightfully mocks Americans for their bullshit dual standards.  Criticizing China for its rights abuses while at the same time doing some pretty silly shit of its own (as seen in this Ars Technica post.

And then there's this Reuters discussion with US State Department spokesman Mark Toner where, basically, the reporters tell him that while the US is telling all who'll listen that their human rights record is wide open to scrutiny, actual attempts to scrutinize are met with opacity.  While discussing the case of Bradley Manning, the US Army Private accused of leaking classified info to Wikileaks:

LEE: Being forthright is saying nothing because there’s a legal process underway; is that correct?

[...]

LEE: Well, then I don’t understand how you can say that you’re being forthright about it if you refuse to talk about it.

It's very interesting, pointed stuff.

LEE: I understand that you’re put in a difficult position where you say that you’re willing, as Arshad noted when the – that you’re – you don’t understand why China is so upset because the U.S. is willing to open up its human rights situation to all kinds of scrutiny --

 TONER: And, Matt --

 LEE: And then the first example that anyone raises, you’re not.

The whole transcript is very much worth a read.  Long the standard bearers for transparency and freedom Americans have basically thrown it all away in for paranoia and self-interest.  I think it's just driving those few with a wide enough viewpoint to realize this quite insane.


Also, over on James Fallows' blog, he mentions the same quandary I have every time I think about ChinGov's actions: are they expressing a newfound confidence, or 'nervous insecurity'? 

In this case it was in the context of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and activist, but who is decidedly disliked by ChinGov.  The Global Times newspaper staff were required by management to seek out and counter with the official party line all positive mentions of Ai Weiwei on the internet.  By one reporter's account:

This led to a very long conversation -- over an hour -- in which I explained that if only China would actually engage in a dialogue about these issues with the outside world instead of sabre-rattling and always sounding like a misunderstood and petulant child, maybe then China would advance its cause and help people outside China understand what China is really all about, how human rights are seen through Chinese eyes...

[...]

Why not throw the West a bone and let him go, declare an amnesty and then explain why he was detained in the first place.

This evoked quite a response. "Let Ai Weiwei go? But Richard, how can we do that? How can China admit to the world it is being defeated, it is bowing to international pressure and not doing what is right for China? How can we humiliate ourselves like that?"

James Fallows follows that up with:

Quote by James Fallows:
No one in the outside world would take it as a sign of "weakness" or "humiliation" for the Chinese government to let Ai Weiwei go -- or not to have arrested him in the first place. But nearly everyone in the Chinese hierarchy seems to fear that it would be seen that way.
 
That's a problem, to put it mildly.

I have to agree.  Real strength is letting your enemies rail against you, not shutting them up and hoping they never get heard.  On the other hand, perhaps real strength is bringing your population into the future safely while suffering the abuses of misunderstanding foreigners who can't see the big picture.

I do not envy them.
BLEARGH
This post was edited 2 times, last on 2011-04-13, 22:05 by NFG.
Edit reason: Ai Weiwei did not win the Nobel.  Oops.
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I hate to correct you, but the Nobel peace prize was most recently awarded to Liu Xiaobao, the Tiananmen activist. Ai Weiwei was viewed as a reliable ally of the communist party up until recently, being the designer of the Olympic stadium and several other public installations. It was only very recently that the party figured out that Ai was subtly mocking them, which is the explanation for the severity of his treatment now.

That's not to say the two issues aren't related. China's actions against dissidents in general over the last year or so are likely a result of the international fallout of Liu's recognition, as they assert their authority over their own citizens. Ai could probably have gotten away with another decade of screwing the communists in art if they weren't presently sore and wounded.
Author name (Administrator) #59
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Ah, thanks for that correction.  I have corrected the error.  =)
BLEARGH
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Subject: The trouble with paranoia...
China's got a bit of a problem.  It seems, according to the Global Guerrillas blog, that ChinGov is being trolled:

In summary, several Chinese language, but overseas based, websites have been blogging on the creation of a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China.

[...]

The blogs and websites themselves are largely invisible to ordinary Chinese as the Great Firewall keeps them out, but they can be seen by the security agencies, who have been swift to react.

[...]

Now, because of the number of competing and overlapping security agencies, there is a lot of pressure on the local commanders to make some arrests and to show some success, but there are no genuine protesters, just some bemused local tourists and a lot of foreign journalists.

This is hilarious.  A bunch of trolls talk about a protest, inviting people to just walk around and do nothing unusual in popular public places where people are likely to already be doing exactly that, and the security agencies start roughing people up.
BLEARGH
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