Huang Zheng’s “Sell” Music Video

You have probably seen this elsewhere, but if you haven’t already, you should:

(If the embedded video doesn’t work, try this link).

ChinaHush has an in depth explanation of the music video’s story, and Danwei has translated the lyrics, so go there for the in-depth scoop, but here’s the short version: both the song (implicitly) and the music video (explicitly) are a rather depressing take on China’s housing prices. (The video features different people in society imagining how long it would take them to buy the same house; answers range from 5 days for a rich businessman to over 500 years for a migrant worker).

I am not an avid follower of Chinese pop music or music videos, but this one has been getting quite a bit of attention, attracting millions of views within a few days time. As compared to most Chinese pop music (that I’m familiar with) it’s quite political, and the video is rather bleak. It is, if nothing else, another indication of just how deep the frustration with the housing market runs here. And as far as music goes, it’s rare for something this political to get this popular.

With apologies to Danwei, here’s my own translation of the lyrics, which I think is more thorough than theirs:

Trying to live like a human being,
I was forced to hollow out my heart,
Feeling their dreams are too far off,
Some people have sold off their wings,
Feeling a pain others can’t understand,
I lift my head and stay silent,
Having desires [at all] is so arrogant,
Who would be willing to flaunt them [on top of it]?

I would rather bleed than cry,
I would rather see myself suffer,
Selling out my own dreams ((The original here means “crazy”, not dreams; I’m interpreting it as more like “craze” here.)), why bother hiding it?
I would rather bleed than cry,
I would rather laugh as I suffer,
Selling out my own beliefs, how ridiculous

I don’t care, don’t care about all the scars,
Whatever, who cares if I’m changed beyond recognition,

I would rather bleed than cry,
I would rather see myself suffer,
Selling out my own dream, why bother hiding it?
I would rather bleed than cry,
I would rather laugh as I suffer,
Selling out my own beliefs, how ridiculous

Feeling a pain others can’t understand,
I lift my head and stay silent,
You have your heaven, and I have my wings.

Here are some comments netizens have left on Youku about the video and the song:

“Buying a house…[in the video] they spray blood, [but] I [would] spray brains…”

“Strongly ding ((Similar to “up” or “bump” in English BBS forum slang, indicates pushing something to the top of a webpage, now has also been coopted as a general way of expressing approval)), do not let this song drop”

“We can only kill or be killed, it’s better to go out like a hero than to be crushed to death by the system. Remember to choose who you kill wisely, kill [government] officials.”

[In response to the above comment:] “Well said.”

“I cried at the end.”

“Being a person is hard…being an honest and upright person is even harder!!!”

“Being a “house slave” for a generation is horrible, being a house slave your how life is even worse…fuck, housing prices…”

“These days, domestic pop music is all about discussing love, songs related to [real] life are fewer than few. I support this song by Huang Zheng. Songs that reflect life are the longest lasting ((The word he actually uses here means “vitality” but I think this is really what he means)).”

“Regardless of whatever the officials say, in the eyes of the people, this is a great work of art!”

“If you don’t ding this, you’re simply inhuman. So much better than CCAV [joke name for CCTV]”

China’s Real Challenge is the Western Public

The following is a translation of this piece from Southern Weekend by Ding Guo. For the sake of time, wordiness, and my own sloth, some sections have been omitted or summarized in brackets where I felt they were unnecessarily detailed or non-essential.


As the world develops, communication improves, and the internet continues to widen its reach, the influence of popular opinion on public policy increases with each passing day, regardless of political or electoral systems. Accordingly, rulers are increasingly sensitive to public feedback. These deep changes are also being reflected in Chinese political life. For example, even though the scope and damage of the Yushu earthquake in Qinghai two months ago was not as extensive as the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, [for the sake of public opinion] Chairman Hu Jintao concluded an important summit in Japan and returned to China to direct rebuilding efforts, and Premier Wen Jiabao […] quickly went to the disaster area to observe.

This is a significant change from previous government thinking. In the past, if something similar happened, the Chinese way of thinking would dictate that the government persist in its foreign relations activities, “turning grief into strength”, they felt this was the best way to support the country. These days, putting the people first, when something happens national leaders are duty-bound to return home; taking on the duty of rescue and relief efforts is common practice in the international community, and is [therefore] the best form of diplomacy [anyway]. When leaders put the safety of the people first, that kind of politician and that kind of country is worth trusting. Taking responsibility [in a time of disaster] is the humanitarian way.

The problem is that while China’s leaders may have changed their way of thinking, in the diplomatic field, especially in the field of observing foreign countries, many leaders still cling to an outmoded “party jargon” dogmatic way of thinking. For example, when China and another country are having a dispute or when relations are tense, [they] often say that this anti-China politician is just stirring up trouble, the common people are OK, but the facts or lack of facts have led to an issue in relations. We can use Canada as an example of this:

One thing that got the attention of a lot of the Canadian media this year was [China-Canada oil deals], which needed to be approved by the Chinese and Canadian governments. The sale price [of Canadian oil fields to China] was higher than expected; good news for the Canadian economy. The problem is that while the Conservative Party and economic circles were enjoying a honeymoon in Canadian-Chinese relations, Canadian public opinion polls discovered that [Canadian people] were opposed [to the sale].

The Canadian Asia-Pacific association entrusted a respected polling company ((The Chinese is 安格斯列特, anyone know what the real name of the company is?)) to launch an internet poll, and discovered that [only] 18% of Canadians approved of Chinese enterprises investing in major local companies. The worst-off country was the United Arab Emirates, only 16% of Canadians approved of UAE investment in Canada, Singaporean investments won the approval of 20% of Canadians. But 53% of the respondents approved of investment in Canada by the UK, and 41% indicated they would support investment from the US.

This survey helps us clear up some longstanding blind spots and misunderstandings.

First of all, when China and Canadian relations hit a snag, it really isn’t because some government body or politician just doesn’t want to get along with China, and because of that misleading the people into disliking China. Actually, the dissatisfaction or “misunderstanding” of China lies deeply rooted in the Canadian people. Government policies that are unfriendly to China are just catering to the people, the Dalai Lama and other similar topics are all like this. And when carefully analyzing the source of Canadian people’s anti-China feelings, aside from historical anti-Communist and anti-China movements and the Cold War period, it mostly comes from a deep bias within the Canadian media. One Norman Bethune and one Da Shan aren’t enough to resist the massive power of the media.

Secondly, we often think Canadians are very anti-America, but this is also a misconception. When you’re just talking about Canada and the US, many Canadians are anti-US — this is a fact — but when you juxtapose the US with China or other Asian countries, Canadians still trust America. The reason is simple: Americans and Canadians have the same language and are the same race, they have the same system [of government], and they see China as another “country” ((No idea why this is in scare quotes.)).

So if we really want to change the traditional model of thinking about China in Canada, I believe we have to work on three fronts.

The first is China must continue development and reform to present itself positively to the outside world. China must actually change to change the opinions of the Canadian people. The second is that China needs to go outward, widen the opportunities for communication between peoples, and do everything possible to invite more Canadians to China to see it. The third is of course Canada’s million Chinese immigrants, they are an important asset in Sino-Canadian relations. They are a bridge, but they are also a mirror that allows those who can’t travel to China to experience the modest, polite, respectful, disciplined, diligent, and honest [nature of the Chinese people]. However, with the differences in behavior of overseas Chinese added to Canadians’ traditional perceptions of China, the picture provided is still poles apart from the real China.

This situation goes further than just Canada, these shortcomings appear in China’s relationships with Japan, America, [etc.]

In short, in a democratic society, if the public opinion changes thoroughly, if a politician tries to “stir up trouble” they’ll only be shooting themselves in the foot. A long period of peace between China and Canada comes from the people, comes from the electorate, and this is something everyone must face squarely.


Ding is correct in suggesting China do away with the worn and overwrought protestations from the Foreign Ministry that any anti-China decision made by a foreign country is the result of evil politicians, but he veers dangerously close to committing that exact same logical sin in his discussion of the people. Certainly, foreign perceptions of China are shaped in part by misconceptions, but Ding gives no attention or thought to the idea that sometimes, other nations are going to make decisions that don’t benefit China’s interests because China is wrong, or because they are other countries and they are more concerned with their interests. Ding, in his implications, has set up a false dichotomy in which people from other countries either agree with China or are being misled (perhaps by their anti-China historical traditions, or their love of racial solidarity).

Someday, China may have to come to grips with the idea that other people’s opinions, while certainly often biased, are not always based on lies. And furthermore, that other people’s countries are going to pursue their interests, regardless of how that looks to China or how it serves China’s interests. Is it really in Canada’s best interest to have one of its most valuable natural resources partially controlled by a deeply corrupt Communist ((Not that Communist countries are bad by default, but historically speaking, there’s some precedent for the idea that it may not be the stablest political system around, nor the one that’s easiest to work with commercially)) country on the opposite side of the globe? Anti-China or not, one could argue the prospect of accepting investments from the US or the UK is more appealing to Canada not so much because they don’t understand China but because they do, at least a little bit, and what they do understand doesn’t sound that attractive. Under the best of circumstances, working with China can be difficult. With inflating housing prices and other dangerous economic signs making even Chinese economists nervous, and deeply embedded issues with corruption permeating the government and State-owned enterprises like the one buying Canadian oil sands, is misunderstanding really the only explanation for why Canadians might be a little nervous about hopping in bed with China?

Similarly, it might be time to give up the big-bad-bully Western media trope, no? Biases do exist there, certainly — we’ve analyzed them with some frequency on this site, in fact — but the media in the West is down on pretty much everyone, not just China, and in the past few years the quality of China reporting has really improved. Anyway, one wonders if China might get better press out of reporters if it stopped arresting them.

That’s probably enough ranting. Anyway, I have been a little unfair. For one, Ding does say that China needs to develop itself before it can properly win the hearts of the Western masses. And what’s more, everything he says about Western misconceptions and the biased media is true — it’s just that he’s left some important other things out.

Two Corrupt Officials/Poets and Renting Literary Clout

The following is a translation of this article, which we’re taking from Xinhua but which has appeared all over the Chinese internet. It appears to have come originally from the Yangcheng Evening News, and was written by Yan Yanwen. Many thanks to our ChinaGeeks Chinese editor for recommending this piece.


A few days before the 10/3 Crane Cliff disaster [a 2005 gas explosion in a Henan mine that left 34 dead and 19 injured], the Party Secretary and board chair responsible for the Crane Cliff Coal Industry Group was still in Beijing using public funds to hold a press conference for his new book, and Qihe county Party Secretary Li Fengchen was holidng a symposium for collecting and writing “The Long Path of Chinese Poetry: Jihe Sings”, [using his status as an official to make the] local government foot a huge portion of the bill.

On June 19, 2010, Xinhua Net and other major media sources reported that vice-director and Work Safety Supervision Bureau CPC Group secretary Li Yongxin had been dismissed ((Not sure about this either, what does 被双规 mean?)), and that according to rumor he had accepted bribes and concealed the truth of the [coal mine] disaster. What people don’t know is that this “eliminated” Li Yongxin is still a member of the Chinese Writers’ Association, a member of the China Poet’s Council, and the vice-chair of the Chinese Coal Mining Literary Federation. Even fewer know that as the Crane Cliff disaster was happening, Li was in Beijing using the hard-earned blood and sweat of the Crane Cliff miners to buy himself literary accolades.

Using Public Funds for a Press Conference During a Time of Disaster

The October 3rd Crane Cliff disaster shocked the nation. 34 workers were killed, and another 19 were seriously injured; the happiness of 53 families was snatched away in an instant. As the blood was flowing, […] Li Yongxin was buying members of the investigative group with bribes, hoping to cover up the truth, and giving 500,000 RMB to the provincial Work Safety Supervision Bureau Chief Li Jiucheng for protection. This is also mentioned in Li Jiucheng’s file.

After the disaster, Li Yongxin underwent a metamorhphosis of sorts, becoming the provincial group secretary and vice-director of the Work Safety Supervision Bureau. From these “punishment” measures, very little can be seen [about what Li Yongxin had actually done]. “But in early August of 2009, information from reports about Li Yongxin began to spread on the internet that spoke to his concealing of [financial losses], taking and giving bribes, and misappropriating funds from State-owned properties, etc.” “Some of this data was related to [Li Yongxin’s activities surrounding] the 10/3/2005 Crane Cliff disaster.” ((Neither of these quotations have a cited source))

What’s worth asking is this: when the Crane Cliff disaster was happening, where was Li Yongxin? What was he doing?

According to a September 29, 2005 report from the Chinese Writers’ Association, “the Chinese Poets Association, the Crane Cliff Coal Company, and Crane Cliff Coal and Electricity LLC present[ed] the opening ceremony of the first annual ‘Crane Cliff Cup’ poets and writers exhibition on September 26th in Beijing. At the same time, we also celebrated the publication of Li Yongxin’s poetry collection Xingqu Ji Caifu ((Not going to waste time thinking about a good translation for the title of some corrupt official’s book of crappy poetry.)). The CWA secretariat Di Majia and […] Li Yongxin both gave warm speeches at the opening ceremony.”

Therefore, just a few days before the 10/3 disaster, Li Yongxin was still at the CWA Modern Literature Center, using public funds to hold a press conference for his new book and enjoying adulation as a star of the literary world and being honored as an “encyclopedic” great poet.

How Do Corrupt Officials Become Poets?

Li Yongxin’s dismissal reminds one of another “corrupt official/poet”: Li Fengchen. In January of 2009 when Xinhua and ChinaNet announced the results of the “2008 Literary Circles’ Most Badass ((牛)) Writer” poll, corrupt official writer Li Fengchen won in a landslide, and he was summarily dubbed “history’s most badass corrupt official poet” by the media. But with Li Yongxin’s dismissal, it seems he’s looking to break Li Fengchen’s badass record. If Li Yongxin PKs ((here, internet slang for “defeats”)) Li Fengchen, then who will be history’s most badass corrupt official poet? In terms of the writers’ associations, the two are evenly matched, as they are both members of the CWA and council members of the Poets’ Society. In terms of administrative level, Li Yongxin is at the departmental level, whereas Li Fengchen is only at the vice-departmental level. In terms of money, Li Fengchen’s Qihe county is poor and has no financial power, whereas Li Yongxin’s Crane Cliff Coal Group is one of the country’s top 500 enterprises, with significant financial power.

Aside from these differences, these two “corrupt official poets” have many surprisingly similarities.

The two men were both “secretaries” and also both lauded as “poets”. Li Yongxin and Li Fengchen are both CWA members who rose very quickly to prominence as “corrupt official poets”. Li Fengchen’s shocking act was using public funds to publish seven poetry collections between May of 2005 and September of 2006, becoming a member of the CWA and the [periodicals] Poetry and People’s Literature. It has been called the “Li Fengchen model” and the “the poetry world’s miracle”. Just as he was coming to prominence in April of 2006, the Chinese Writers’ Association celebrateded his 50th birthday with a special symposium on his Mandate of Heaven Collection.

Similar to Fengchun, Li Yongxin was also a CWA and Poets’ Society member. In the short time between 2004 and 2005, Li Yongxin — who previously had only written several bad poems and had never published a thing — suddenly exploded onto the literary scene, and his poetry was repeatedly published in Poetry and other reknowned national publications, a symposium on his works was held in the Great Hall of the People, and he became a touted star of the Chinese Writers’ Association and Beijing poetry circles [etc…]

The good are dismissed while the mediocre are promoted. As these corrupt official poets were taking the stage, many authors of good works who had been making their livings writing for decades found it difficult even to get a few sentences into national publications. It is, as the saying goes, harder to get into heaven than it is to get into the Chinese Writers’ Association and obtain a title. Perhaps Li Fengchen said it best in his explanation of this phenomenon: “For a great poet to become a great official is very difficult. For for a great official to become a great poet, perhaps it is not so difficult.”

Renting Clout in the Literary World

These two “corrupt official poets” both used their power and resources as officials to play at being poets. Li Fengchen invited the Chinese Writers’ Association to participate in the writing and collecting of poems for his symposium: “The Long Path of Chinese Poetry: Jihe Sings” from August 5-7, 2005. On the 6th, Qihe formally annouced that it was a “base” for the creation of Chinese poetry. Li Fengchen personally organized groups and scheduled extremely ceremonious activities, paying for the huge costs directly from the local government’s coffers.

Only a little earlier, in April of 2005, the “Crane Cliff: The Home of Chinese Poetry” poetry collection activies were underway in Crane Cliff […] Di Majia and Crane Cliff Coal Group board director Li Yongxin both spoke to open the festivities. If it’s fair to say Li Fengchen used the power of his county to “play at” being a poet, then it’s also fair to say that Li Yongxin used the power of the entire Crane Cliff mining operation to play at poetry. The difference is that since Li Yongxin made his play four months earlier than Li Fengchen, and he used his status as a Party Secretary to publish documents and put on a grand show, one could say he played ‘harder’ than Li Fengchen.

Using an official’s status and power to become a poet or author and pose as a lover of culture […] this model of renting literary power really provides some food for thought. If you think Li Fengchen is just a coincidence, you should know that just in the year 2009, six members of the Chinese Writers’ Association were sentenced as corrupt officials. This is absolutely not a coincidence. Today’s dismissial of Li Yongxin once again sounds the warning bell of corruption throughout the literary world. What does the explosion of “corrupt official poets” tell us? What abuses within the literary system does it lay bare?


To my way of thinking, it lays bare not so much abuses within the system as the flaws with the system itself. In a literary system controlled by politicians, especially corrupt ones, there will always be opportunities to meddle. Generally speaking, this has taken the form of censorship, and its effects on the development of Chinese writing and the spread of Chinese culture outside China’s borders have been fairly devastating. The effects of literary censorship remain a hot topic — one of Han Han’s favorites, in fact — but beyond censorship, the system as it exists today makes it remarkably easy for corrupt officials to try their hand at literature, buying attention and publications with money and power, and elbowing talented artists out of the spotlight in the process.

Victims of Tainted Vaccine Gather to Protest

Wang Keqin, China’s most famous investigative journalist, has been following the story of the tainted vaccines that affected thousands in Shanxi province for some time now — a story that he originally broke to the public. Unsurprisingly, in the wake of this catastrophe, there’s been no shortage of blame being shifted around, but very little done to help the children affected by the poison vaccines. So, according to Wang Keqin’s latest update, the families of victims of vaccine poisoning from all over the country have come together to protest in front of the Ministry of Health ((From the way the post is written, I expect they mean the national Ministry of Health in Beijing, but that is never explicitly stated.)). Wang hasn’t written much, just posted some pictures of the protest sent to him by the families:


Recently, the parents of many children harmed by tainted vaccines have come from all over the country to the Ministry of Health to protest. These are a few of the pictures they have posted of themselves.

[Text in the photo reads:] Shanxi vaccine victim Yi Wenlong is in the middle of questioning a Ministry of Health worker. [The two numbers in the photo are Chinese cell phone numbers.]

UPDATE: Today’s Global Times also ran a short story about this protest.

Is Uncensored Internet Access a Human Right?

Browsing the web for something to write about and finding little, I turned for a moment to that low-hanging fruit, the China op-ed piece. This was, in essence, an act of cowardice on my part. Anyone with a browser and a few minutes can find something written about China that’s easy enough to pull apart, and it’s been a while since the barrel of this blog was pointed at some hapless Western pundit. Luckily, in my search, I ran across something a bit more interesting in the Global Times, a Chinese paper whose editorial pages I have also contributed to from time to time:

In some cases, China’s Internet may even be too open. For example, regulations regarding publishing sensitive or patent-protected corporate information online remain largely non-existent, a clear oversight as China wishes to strengthen its knowledge economy.

As this example shows, there are many good reasons for controlling the Internet. Nearly all countries operate restrictions on obscene or offensive material as well as sensitive corporate data, documents relating to national security, and so on.

Like other governments, Chinese authorities are well within their rights to operate restriction policies according to the national situation.

I am taking this quote out of context. The author’s overall point is that China’s internet policy is far too opaque; probably almost no one would disagree with that. But this argument I’ve excerpted is worth examining for a moment.

First of all, the implication that Chinese internet censorship is acceptable and “normal” just because other countries censor their internet is misleading. Yes, most countries restrict the internet in some ways, but this is still a terrible analogy. “Nearly all countries” do not censor their internet to the extent that China does. China is, indeed, one of the worst countries on the planet when it comes to censorship — and I’d cite evidence to support that claim, but the first five links I found were all — surprise — censored.

More interesting to me is the idea that China has the “right” to restrict its internet as it sees fit (an idea that seems to be growing more popular by day with American lawmakers, interestingly enough). Does China, or any nation, have such a right? Many advocacy groups say no, but few countries have yet bought fully into the idea that uncensored internet access is a human right, least of all China. And, especially in China where the system of internet access is largely the product of State-owned telecommunications companies, it may be unfair to suggest that the government doesn’t have the right to control information that’s being transmitted over wires it (generally speaking) owns.

But China owns the newspapers, too, yet plenty of people would argue that freedom of the press is a fundamental human right. This is not a question that can be answered, of course — and even if we do all agree I find Beijing unlikely to care — but I put the question to you anyway: Does China’s government really have the right to control the internet?

(As a sidenote, check out the most recent Sinica podcast for what is presumably a much more in depth discussion of China’s internet. I say “presumably” because it is loading preposterously slowly here so I have not yet had a chance to listen to all of it.)

Southern Weekend: “How to Solve China’s ‘Brain Drain'”

The issue of “brain drain” has been a topic of discussion in China for some time. As China’s best students are offered opportunities to study and work abroad, the nation is finding they often don’t choose to return, and the national resources used to raise and educate them are, in essence, wasted. A 2007 survey suggested that 70% of Chinese students who study abrtoad don’t ever move back to China, and while some suggest that the situation is not that dire, it is certainly clear that China wants ways to attract overseas talent. And these days, they’re not just after study abroad kids who got green cards and never came back, they’re also looking to lure purely foreign talents to Chinese soil.

How can this be accomplished? In a recent op-ed piece in Southern Weekend, Wang Huiyao offers some ideas:

  1. Allow immigration visas for both technical specialists and people who can benefit “national interest”. Attract high level foreign talent to settle down in China with a visa, then apply for a green card, and finally become naturalized citizens. Finally, permit foreigners with talent and education who can benefit the nation to immigrate via visas and apply for green cards even if they are not technical or economic specialists so that they can benefit Chinese education, culture, health, etc.
  2. People at the highest level can directly apply for green cards. Nobel Prize winners, Fortune 500 CEOs, professors at foreign brand-name schools, international leaders in science, the arts, culture, etc., who have achieved outstanding success in their fields — all of them can apply directly for green cards. Those who have invested more than 1 million USD in China or created more than ten jobs in specific professions [in China] can directly apply for an “investor green card”.
  3. A public path from green card to naturalized citizenship. Those who posess a green card and have lived in China longer than 3-5 years may apply to become naturalized citizens if they wish.
  4. For those originally from China and those who were forced to give up Chinese citizenship, grant long-term “overseas compatriot” visa exemptions. At present there’s no dual-citizenship policy, so consider simplifying visa application procedures and directly granting long-term residence permits for those of Chinese origin but born abroad who can be considered high-level talents.
  5. Increase the recruitment of foreign students [to come to China to study]. There are more than a million Chinese students studying abroad in other countries, but little more than 200,000 foreign students studying in China.
  6. Create a mechnaism for attracting international talent, smash the barriers between domestic and foreign within the [extant] system. International experience could become a criterion for promoting cadres, and State-owned enterprises should not make nationality a restriction in their search for talent.
  7. We can consider tacit approval of dual citizenship.

It’s going to take a lot more than that to attract high-level foreign talents to China, although making navigation of the immigration system easier is probably a good first step. Still, Wang seems to be missing the point here. The important question is: what is it about China that causes students who go abroad to abandon it in the first place? After four years of studying abroad, any Chinese student could quite easily return home without any visa or naturalization issues — they would still be Chinese citizens at that point — but they choose not to. Why?

Moreover, is the reason more foreign talents in business and culture haven’t moved to China really that the immigration procedures are too difficult? The United States has — and has had for some time — a nortoriously labyrinthine and strict naturalization process, and yet many Chinese students thrown themselves into it voluntarily upon conclusion of their studies. Why aren’t foreigners willing to do the same thing in China?

The answer to that question is almost certainly quite complex. But how difficult the answer is to uncover doesn’t matter; China is unlikely to ever arrive at an answer if they aren’t asking the right question.

Xu Zhiyong, et al: “The Chinese Citizens’ Pledge”

The following is a translation of this post from Tiger Temple, but it’s a pledge that’s being spread around the Chinese internet that was written by Xu Zhiyong, Teng Biao, Wang Gongquan, Li Xiongbing, Li Fangping, Xu Youyu, and Zhang Shihe. Those who agree to take the pledge are encouraged to sign it virtually, using this site.

I should note for the record that because I have been busy recently and because I don’t have a VPN, I have no way of knowing if this has already been translated elsewhere. If it has, my apologies to whoever beat me to it. Readers should consider this a rough translation. In any event, it’s a pretty interesting document, if for no other reason than it really draws out how many people it takes for corruption to take off the way it has in China: it is not, as we might often be led to believe, just corrupt officials who are causing trouble.

The Citizens’ Pledge

Whereas democratic politics have already become the consensus of the people, the rule of law has been written into the constitution and forms the bedrock of the nation’s blueprint; and whereas nearly-omnipresent corruption and “special privileges” damage the rule of law; whereas building, supporting, and even defending the rule of law and changing social conduct to create belief in the rule of law requires an overwhelming number of rational citizens of undertake the cause; to those Chinese citizens searching for justice and the rule of law: resolve to mutually abide by the principles of conscience, duty, democracy, the rule of law and the concept of the “modern citizen”; protect the people’s rights and livelihoods, promote good laws and leaders. For the sake of a modern nation by the people, for the people, and of the people; for the sake of justice, love of one’s fellow man, and a happy civil society; for the sake of the future of the Chinese people under civilization and the rule of law, be willing to toil and to pay to build the foundation and the way forward.

The promise is as follows:

  1. My conduct will be rooted in conscientiousness, understanding, respect, and love of my fellow man.
  2. I will respect the laws of the constitution, and fight for the correct implementation of those laws.
  3. I will protect civic justice in a manner that is lawful and humane, and be a manifestation of social righteousness.
  4. In my station at work, I will accord to the following minimum moral standards:
    • As a government employee I will dilligently serve the people. I will not be corrupt and accept bribes, public funds, or take public property like cars for personal use.
    • As a judge, I will be honest and incorruptible, centered in conscientiousness and the law; I will not pervert the law for power or personal gain
    • As a police officer, I will enforce the law fairly, I will eliminate the bad and protect the good, I will not extract confessions through torture, or collaborate with crime syndicates.
    • As a public prosecutor, I will be loyal to the nation’s laws, I will not tolerate corruption, and I will not wrongfully imprison the innocent.
    • As a People’s Congress Representative, I will protect the public interest and have the courage to follow the law while conducting my duties, I will not engage in vote-falsifying or rubber stamping.
    • As a Party member, I will pursue pragmatism, and not lie or speak politely [about the truth]
    • As an internet administrator, I will have the courage to protect freedom of speech, and will not cover up the crimes of the corrupt.
    • As a teacher, I will care for my students, I will not treat any student with bias, and I will not teach lies.
    • As a doctor, I will care for my patients, I will not accept gifts, needlessly prescribe medicine, or be prejudiced against patients.
    • As a lawyer, I will be true to the law and will not bribe judges.
    • As an accountant, I will be true to accounting standards, and not falsify accounts.
    • As an editor or reporter, I will search for the truth, and will not report lies.
    • As a college student, I will study hard, care for society, I will not cheat on tests of plagiarize essays.
    • As a scholar, I will dedicate myself to pursuing the truth, and will not curry favor or plagiarize.
    • As a worker in the literary revolution, I will express the true, the great, and the beautiful, and will reject hidden regulations.
    • As a referee, I will be solitary and impartial, and will not be influenced when making calls.
    • As an athlete, I will compete fairly, and will not gamble or throw games.
    • As a business manager public or private, I will manage things sincerely and honestly, and will not swindle clients.
    • As a real estate developer, I will guarantee the quality of buildings and will not pay off officials.
    • As a factory worker, I will ensure the quality of products and will not cut corners or build things that are fake or of poor quality.
    • As a farmer, I will be dependable, I will not use hormones or anything else harmful to accelerate the ripening of crops.
    • As a food producer, I will hold safety as my highest standard, and will not add any harmful ingredients.
    • ….As a citizen in any post, I will be scrupulous in separating the public from the private, I will not be corrupt, and I will not strive for personal gain.
  5. I will adhere to the principles of constructivism, rationality, and nonviolence when conducting public affairs, I will improve public policies, oversee public power, initiate a culture of citizenship, and strive to push forward the rule of law so that government departments, political parties, and social groups in China are bound by the rule of law.
  6. I am willing to donate or volunteer within a specific timeframe for the purpose of pushing forward the rule of law.
  7. For the purpose of effectively carrying out the Citizen’s Pledge, once a certain number of citizens have made the pledge as communally agreed upon, mutually agreeable regulations will be created and a mechanism for implementing the pledge will be founded. Before the regulations and mechanism are created, the sponsors of this pledge are entrusted with discussing and deciding what work must be done to implement the pledge, including [what must be done with regards to] the legal system, investigating and researching public policy, pushing forward improvements in the system, giving legal support to the defendants in major cases, criticizing corrupt and illegal government departments, Party associations, and social organizations, making recommendations and supervising. Citizens who take the pledge have the right to be aware or and participate in sponsoring the pledge and the associated actions taken to implement it, they also have the right to criticize and make suggestions about the pledge’s implementation, and to receive answers from the pledge’s sponsors.
  8. Citizens must be self-disciplined, supervise each other, and must not violate this pledge.
  9. This pledge is limited to ten years beginning from the date listed by the signatory below. After its expiration, the pledge can be renewed with the approval of a majority of those who pledged.

Pledging Citizen:
State ID:
Contact Telephone:

In the Internet Age, Will We Still Read?

This essay was written by Yang Hengjun. We’ve translated a portion of it here outlining his opposition to the internet’s alleged role in reducing China’s appetite for real reading.


The internet has changed everyone’s reading habits. Or, you might say, the internet as a medium has replaced traditional reading. I would like to congratulate those who have put down traditional paper-and-binding books and started to use computers (and cell phones) for reading purposes. Compared to the number of books we can buy on the mainland, the number of books we can download on the internet is virtually limitless.

But I would like to address a different set of netizens. They’ve put down regular books (or they never picked them up in the first place) and got online, but they’re not reading; at least they aren’t reading in the traditional sense of the term. They use forums, look at blogs, then go ahead and send something out on Twitter. The result is that a few hours of each day are passed in this way.

While interacting with some netizens, I feel that quite a large group of them are this type of “reader.” This group has been lured by the various wonders the internet holds, and entered into a sea of brand-new information and knowledge. Thus they feel that traditional reading is out of date and can’t keep up with modernity.

In my opinion, this is an enormous mistake, even a negative side-effect of the internet itself. The number of people in our country that like to read has been small all along, and now that we have the internet, a portion of our readers are getting online. I don’t want to claim that reading and internet use are opposites: nothing can replace the internet for those that want to read news and gain better understanding of all types of information and new types of knowledge. Yet for young people that are absorbing knowledge, there is really nothing that can replace reading – what I mean is reading actual books, not just aimlessly glancing over materials online.

Nowadays, the development of the internet’s “anything goes” nature, I’ve gradually come to feel that many of the young netizens I come cross are of the “onion-shaped” variety. On the outside they’re great, but inside they’re empty. They seem to be omniscient about everything going on in the world, and they have quite novel viewpoints. But if you talk with them just a bit you’ll discover they’re completely empty on the inside, and nothing can pull them from the viewpoints they found online. Naturally, this type of young person’s most important quality is impulsiveness. They think that typing a search into Baidu and playing around online means they can go anywhere.


Not surprisingly, Yang Hengjun is not the only person out there talking about the supposed evils of the internet. In 2008, Nicholas G. Carr published an article in The Atlantic with a similar theme. Carr’s thesis is essentially that the way we read on the internet is negatively affecting how we read other media as well. That is to say that the quick skimming we tend to do online (like you’re probably doing right now!) impairs our ability to understand Tolstoy novels and other deep, ponderous pieces of literature.

These concerns are as old as the internet itself, but China is relatively late in developing widespread internet access. While now a generation of young adults now graduating high school in America may have had internet access in their homes as long as they’ve been able to read, this is not likely to be the case in China. Should Yang’s warning be heeded by educated Chinese attempting to raise children to keep in contact with the (physical) written word, or are Yang and Carr just neo-Luddites? Should parents have their children dive with abandon into the electronic world so as not to hinder their functioning in society?

In a society like China’s, the written word has had particular importance. Its traditional place in society is immense. If China fully embraces a fundamentally new type of written word, what will become of the traditional respect given to masters of the old script? The equalizing, democratizing nature of the internet makes me think that there can be no equivalent to the traditional scholar on the internet. Whether this is a good or bad thing isn’t as clear.


I am in the process of flying to Beijing, interviewing for jobs, searching for housing, switching visas, etc. etc., as of about three hours from right now. As such, ChinaGeeks updates are going to be pretty light for the next few weeks or however long it takes for me to reconstruct some semblance of a life in China. Please consult our blogroll for other good sites to read, keep an eye on our 中文版 which will continue updating in my absence, and cross your fingers for me.

Of course, one of our many contributors may post something in the interim, so don’t stop checking this site, either!

Discussion Section: Should China Send Troops to Kyrgyzstan?

You are, no doubt, already aware of the unrest in Kyrgyzstan:

After three days of ethnic rioting that spread across the south of this strategically important Central Asian nation, many streets in this city lay in smoldering ruins on Sunday night.

The official death toll rose to more than 100, and thousands of refugees poured across the border into Uzbekistan as the authorities were unable to contain the murderous mobs.

Whole sections of Osh, where longstanding tensions between the Kyrgyz majority and the Uzbek minority exploded into violence Thursday night, were all but deserted on Sunday, and heavy black smoke still billowed from Uzbek enclaves set afire by Kyrgyz gangs.

Heavily armed police officers guarded intersections, and troops patrolled in tracked artillery vehicles, but few pedestrians or motorists were visible.

Readers may also be aware that the Kyrgyz government has asked both the United States and Russia for military aid and rubber bullets to quell what is beginning to sound like a genocide. Washington apparently turned them down outright, and Russia is holding out for the approval of other local powers before deploying troops.

Unlike Russia, China actually borders Kyrgyzstan. As far as I’m aware, Kyrgyzstan hasn’t asked them for aid, but an email from a friend of mine this morning raised some interesting questions I thought I would pass on to you all. Here’s part of his email:

“[…] AP is reporting more than 75,000 ethnic Uzbek refugees have fled the country as mobs of Kyrgyz men attack their villages and slaughter the inhabitants. The city of Osh, which is the country’s second-largest and heavily Uzbek, has apparently largely been destroyed. It’s being to sound vaguely like genocide, and the government says it can’t quell the disturbances on its own. Russia says it won’t send troops, but maybe China would? China is interested in Central Asian energy resources and China and Kyrgyzstan are both in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”

China would certainly be hesitant to deploy military resources of any kind outside its own borders, given that the fact that they’ve never done that before (which, of course, isn’t true) is part of the domestic propaganda narrative (after all, only imperialist countries invade other countries). Still, they certainly could help, and if the Kyrgyz government needs help, why shouldn’t they? It might be in their own interests, as my friend suggests above, but more to the point, it seems like the right thing to do.

However, what with preparing for the move in a couple days I have not been following this story too closely, so I leave the analysis to you. Thoughts?