Category Archives: Links

“A Democracy Advocate’s Training Manual”

A few days ago we published a translation of the satirical Fifty Cents Party Training Manual. In the interest of fairness and at the request of some Anti-CNN commenters, we now bring you a translation of this, a similar sendup of democracy advocates.

Translation

First item: This egg tastes great, because it is a democratic egg.
Second item: All democratic eggs taste good, there is no such thing as a bad-tasting democratic egg.
Third item: Undemocratic eggs are definitely disgusting, because they are undemocratic eggs.

A: This egg tastes great.

B: Why does it taste so good?

A: Because it is a democratic egg.

B: Democratic eggs are definitely good?

A: Of course! Please see the second item [above].

B: So how is it that the eggs of democratic India taste bad?

A: Well…you’re making a messy comparison there.

B: But India’s eggs really do taste bad.

A: I’ve already told you, please see the second item: All democratic eggs taste good, there is no such thing as a bad-tasting democratic egg. Even if it did taste bad you can’t say it tastes bad, making comparisons with India is messy, you should make comparisons with America, remember political correctness.

B: So democratic American eggs definitely taste good?

A: Of course! Because they’re democratic eggs.

B: But democratic America also has some bad tasting eggs.

A: Please refer to the second item [above].

B: I think Chinese eggs also taste good.

A: Please look at the third item [above], undemocratic eggs definitely taste disgusting, and even if they taste good you can’t say they taste good, please remember political correctness.

B: So what must Chinese eggs do to become good?

A: Become democratic.

B: And what is “democratic”?

A: Democracy is one-man-one-vote elections, separation of powers, the right to own guns, etc.

B: If there were elections, would everyone choose you to be the president or a legislator?

A: Well…hmph! I don’t have that much money, and I don’t have a grip on public opinion, so they can only choose someone else. Whoever has the most money, the most speeches, the most honors, and the fewest scandals will be elected.

B: So do you understand the person you want to elect?

A: For that all you have to do is watch the media.

B: Who is qualified to be a candidate?

A: That’s not for me to worry about, those capitalists and financial groups will pick two candidates and the public will select one of them.

B: So you’re saying you can only choose your own boss from the representative agents chosen by financial groups. How is that democracy? It’s clearly just choosing your own emperor.

A: #$#@%

B: Those three items you said are definitely correct?

A: Yes of course, I learned this in America, the media is always howling about democracy, people are always talking about democracy, and the internet is also influenced. There is no need to doubt the correctness of those three items, if anyone raises doubts about their correctness then they are anti-democracy.

B: Fuck….

Netizen Comments

[Since this one was a little shorter anyway, a few comments from netizens on Anti-CNN. There aren’t many comments on the post yet, and most of the replies are more in the way of personal conversations between forum members than direct replies to the topic, though]

The original poster [i.e. the person who wrote the dialogue] is an idiot. Just some mental ward patient jacking off?

[In response to the above commenter] As soon as you see the word “democracy” you’re always the first to rush out. In the future, be a little bit more restrained.

This kind of summarizing post should be often reposted, let everyone see clearly the face of democracy mongers!

My Thoughts

Obviously, both this and the Fifty Cents Party Member’s Training Manual are attempts at satire and thus, to some extent, attacking a straw man. Obviously, the “democracy” described in this post isn’t democracy at all, and arguing that China shouldn’t be democratic because India is a mess makes about as much sense as arguing that China shouldn’t be Communist because the Soviet Union collapsed. What both authors are satirizing (and, ironically enough, also engaged in) is the other side’s refusal to see reason and their stooping to straw-man tactics in arguments.

The difference, of course, is that the Fifty Cents Party is, by all accounts, a real thing. Where democracy advocates are perhaps just zealous and unwilling to admit democracy’s flaws, Fifty Cents Party members are literally being paid to deflect criticism (of course, not everyone accused of being in the Fifty Cents group actually is).

The whole democracy or not argument is irrelevant until both sides are willing to actually consider the truth. There are good and bad things about democracy, and both sides could stand to learn from the lessons democracy has taught us throughout history: the good and the bad. Characterizing it as either the best thing since sliced bread or a chaotic mess controlled by “the media” to give power to corporations serves no one.

Although I suppose it does serve as an opportunity for young men to vent their frustrations by cursing at strangers over the internet. And who am I to get in the way of that?

On an unrelated and narcissistic note, check out this article on China bridge blogs in the AFP (via ESWN). It talks extensively about ChinaSMACK, which both Max R. and I also write for, and also mentions ChinaGeeks (although for some reason they didn’t put a link). The author interviewed Fauna (of ChinaSMACK), who is insightful and humble as always, Kaiser Kuo, who I should probably be thanking for mentioning this site because he is awesome, and Shaun Rein, who I have called “extremely pedantic” and once suggested should be replaced in his post at Forbes by an empty beer bottle. So, all in all, a good mix!

Tibet and Western Romanticism

Thanks to twitterer niuB for pointing us in the direction of this excellent piece in Foreign Policy on myths and truths about Tibet, and the strange collective nostalgia many Westerners seem to have for a place they’ve never been and a people they’ve never been among. The entire article is worth a read, but I’ll be excerpting a few bits here with my commentary.

Larson first characterizes Western pereceptions of Tibet and the Dalai Lama:

Tibet is a land of snow-capped mountains and sweeping vistas, fluttering prayer flags, crystal blue skies, saffron-robed monks spinning prayer wheels, and, perhaps most of all, timelessness. And likewise, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and its chief emissary to the West, is a man of abiding wisdom and compassion, an inspiration and moral compass, a beacon of calm in a frenetic modern world. Set aside the fraught politics of this contested region. If one word sums up what Tibet means to the West it is this: purity.

The Dalai Lama is an especially beloved figure — something I have always found baffling, not because he is unworthy of it but because many of the people who speak so highly of him know little about him or his religion. Doubtless, the man has done many things worthy of praise. But Larson wonders if you were aware that he is opposed to abortion, in favor of nuclear weapons, has accepted large financial donations from terrorists, and believes that using anything other than your genitals during sex is improper (no masturbation, oral, or anal sex allowed, although curiously, he is OK with prostitution). Christopher Hitchens has also written on this topic in this Salon article, but his ignorance of Buddhism and the vicious tone of the piece make it much less worthy reading than Foreign Policy’s piece.

Larson goes on to note that Tibetans are not as “pure” or “spiritual” as some imagine them. They are, in point of fact, regular people. While she notes that they do tend to be more religious than the average Chinese, and they hold a strong sense of ethnic unity, for the most part Tibetan youngsters like Adidas and cigarettes just as much as their Han counterparts. Surprising? It shouldn’t be, but for some people it still is.

On the topic of religion, Larson notes:

Many versions of Buddhism are practiced in China, some with tacit consent of the authorities, but Tibetan Buddhism has proved particularly difficult to integrate because, as with the Islam practiced by Uighurs, it invests authority in local religious leaders who rival the authority of local officials. On issues ranging from property rights to marriage customs, sparks may fly.

Countless times I have heard people in the US espouse the idea that the Chinese government wants to repress Tibetan buddhism because ‘they are afraid of so many people organized in one group’. No one ever mentions that, in all fairness, the religion does not match particularly well with secular governance. That doesn’t mean that Tibetan buddhism should be repressed, or even that Tibetans shouldn’t have the right to elect their own religious leaders to political positions if they so choose, but regardless, it’s worth noting that (as usual) there is more behind the official Chinese government position than just “pure evil”.

Later, Larson is describing some time spent with Tibetan youths from both inside and outside Tibet proper who have gathered in Yunnan province for a friend’s wedding:

What they resent, they told me, is three things: when government actions benefit new Han settlers more than locals; when government makes incorrect assumptions about what Tibetans really want (for instance, the railroad into Tibet and greater development in general); and when government restricts their culture and practice of religion. (To learn about traditional Tibetan culture and heritage, many families in China who can afford to do so send their children to study in India, where there is a large Tibetan exile community. Some say it is near impossible to learn about real Tibetan culture within China.) These young Tibetans did, not, however, say their concerns necessarily added up to wanting independence, but they did think that something in the system would eventually have to give.

And therein lies my biggest problem with the Western discourse on Tibet: it generally ignores the opinions of actual Tibetan people. To be fair, there are some good reasons for this. It is expensive and difficult to travel to Tibet, and even once there, the government certainly does not encourage independent opinion polling or canvassing the locals about whether or not Tibet should be free. But that doesn’t excuse making assumptions or presuming that the Tibetan you talked to once is representative of an entire ethnic group.

The fact is, certainly some native Tibetans want Tibet to be an independent country. Just as certainly, others do not. My guess — and this is just a guess — is that one would be hard pressed to find Tibetans who wouldn’t say that Chinese policy in Tibet is in need to serious reform at the very least, but if we’re going to have that discussion at all, it needs to be one that Tibetans and Chinese are involved in, rather than one that’s occurring in some useless three-way echo chamber between the Tibetan exiles in India, Free Tibet groups in the West, and the central Chinese leadership in Beijing.

And, as the Foreign Policy article points out, the first step towards a more productive discussion is abandoning our orientalist, black-and-white ideas about Tibet.

Thoughts? (This is the part where half of you hurl abuse at me for not siding with Free Tibet groups, while the other half of you hurl abuse at me for being an anti-CCP splittist!)

Wu Zetian Comics

In lieu of posting anything original, today I point you in the direction of Hark, A Vagrant!, indisputably the best history-based webcomic on the interwebs. It is almost always funny, and although Kate Beaton rarely writes comics on Chinese history, her comic on Wu Zetian is pretty great:

Click to view the full comic.

Yes, in internet years, this borders on prehistoric. But there’s a chance you haven’t seen it, and if you haven’t (and you know who Wu Zetian was), you should. (She’s got a good one on an amusing moment in Japanese history, too).

As a sidenote, did you know that Wu Zetian’s face is purportedly immortalized in the Longmen Caves near Luoyang? The caves, or at least some of them, were carved during her reign and the story goes that she demanded the central statue’s face be modeled after her own. So, apparently, she looked something like this:

click to see full size

Two New Translations

Just a quick FYI, I have two new translations up at other blogs:

America Sells Arms to Taiwan, Netizen Reactions (ChinaSMACK)- Translation of an editorial piece from China.com about the arms sale and netizen comments from a couple places. Check out the article, avoid the terrifying, terrifying comments (not the Chinese netizen comments, the actual ChinaSMACK commenters)

Acosta: The Desert Spring (CNReviews)- Translation of a blog post from popular blogger Acosta that I think gives a little window into post-80s and post-90s thinking about success and sacrifice.

If you’re interested, check them out!

Plus, if you haven’t seen it already, check out Kaiser Kuo’s guest translation!

Journalism Win!

It’s a tough life for journalists in China sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they have to like it. In this awesome post at ESWN, Roland translates part of the transcript of a PSB press conference discussing an incident where a police officer shot and killed two local men. Unfortunately for the PSB representative, the reporters weren’t in a particularly charitable mood. Some especially delicious excerpts:

Unidentified reporter: Why did Zhang Lei only fire lethal shots? Is it possible that he shot and injured the man in the leg and then shot him again in the head to cause death?
Ran Taiyou: Based upon our investigation, we can say categorically that this view is not objective. Two of the shots were fired into the air. One shot hit a non-lethal part of the body. There was no such thing as injuring Guo Yongzhi first and then going up to shoot him in the head.

Xiaoxiang Morning News: Guo Yongzhi was shot twice. But you just said that there was no such thing as injuring GuoYongzhi first and then going up to shoot him in the head. Does that mean that he was shot dead in the head first before being shot in the leg next?
Ran Taiyou: There was no such thing either.

Xiaoxiang Morning News: So he was neither shot in the leg first nor shot in the head first. Did Zhang Lei shoot Guo Yongzhi twice faster than the bat of an eye?
Ran Taiyou: You can ask again after we complete our investigation.

(chaos in press conference hall)

Xinmin Weekly: I protest! This press conference has been rehearsed!

And then a little later…

Xinmin Weekly: The police investigation report stuck to the “attacking a policeman” story on January 13 and the attempt to seize the gun. How come none of the eyewitnesses interviewed by the media said so? Many eyewitnesses did not even see any physical contact between the two sides. At most, the principals said that they shoved and pushed the police. I don’t know how the police concluded that there was an attack on a policeman and an attempt to seize his gun. Have you interrogated these eyewitnesses? The police must reveal their procedures.
Ran Taiyou: As the reporter comrade said, the procedures must be revealed. However, the case is still under investigation, including the scene analysis and technical examinations. A lot of investigation is still going on. When the investigation is completed …

Huasheng News: If the investigation is still ongoing, then wasn’t it hasty to announce “the attack on a policeman” on January 13?
Ran Taiyou: No, no, that was not a result. The true legal results will have to wait until the investigation is completed …

Chongqing Morning News: A conclusion was drawn before the investigation was completed. Do you feel that you were acting responsibly as a government worker?
Ran Taiyou: The state of our investigation … the final results … we will reveal the facts from the investigation to everybody …

Xinmin Weekly: Do we understand that you mean mean to say that the “attack on the policeman” and the “attempted seizing of the gun” are not definitive but just certain testimonies that the police heard during their investigation?
Ran Taiyou: The final results will have to wait until the investigation is completed before being revealed to everybody.

Chongqing Morning News: Can you give us a time for the results of the investigation?
Ran Taiyou: This … we can … after this is over, we can set up a time together … oh … this … exchange … exchange together.

Xinmin Weekly: Is the press conference today a progress report on the investigation? Or is it definitive? Please answer directly!
Ran Taiyou: This is … the situation of our investigation … this is not the final state …

Host: The Q&A is over.

(Instant chaos in the meeting hall. The reporter are extremely unhappy and they protested loudly. They shouted out more questions)

Chongqing Morning News: If you have defined that two villagers were shot because they attempted to seize the policeman’s gun and the government paid 700,000 yuan in compensation, aren’t you encouraging other people to do the same thing to a certain degree?

Host: A reply has already been given.

Jiangxi TV: Did the compensation to the deceased come from using the budget for civil affairs?
Wu Xin: It was only borrowed temporarily.

Jiangxi TV: Isn’t this loan a form of transfer? The civil affairs budget is used specifically for relief work.
Wu Xin: No, this comes from civil channels and it is only being temporarily borrowed.

(The mayor and the deputy director wanted to leave, but the reporters surrounded them. The scene fell into chaos again.)

Host: We have prepared lunch for everybody. Please go and eat lunch.
(The reporters said that they didn’t want lunch and continued to surround the mayor and the deputy director, who were able to run off eventually.)

I try not to do this (make posts that are just long quotes from someone else’s site), but this was just too awesome not to highlight. If you speak Chinese, the video is also quite entertaining.

And since we’re doing the links thing, check out these three things as well. 1. 2. 3.

Happy Birthday, ChinaGeeks!

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this humble blog, which burst onto the scene with a historical post about the atrocities committed at Unit 731 that virtually no one read.

In terms of growth, we’re fast-approaching our 100,000th visitor to the website itself, and have over 800 RSS subscribers according to the last count. For some comparison, check out our 100th and 200th posts, which have similar statistical information.

While the blog is back to being just me, much of this blog’s success is owed to contributors Chris Hearne and Michele Scrimenti, who both wrote excellent posts and remain an important part of ChinaGeeks even in their absence.

In any event, this seems as good a time as any to highlight some of my favorite posts of the year. In chronological order:

Thanks are due, of course, to everyone who has linked us over the year (too numerous to mention but check out our blogroll), to everyone who has commented (ditto), and to everyone who has offered help and support behind the scenes. Some exciting things are in the works for the future, and they are going to be very good for you, reader of China blogs!

Here’s hoping the next year of ChinaGeeks brings more talented contributors, and fewer depressing stories! If you want to help out, please read this and join us!

A Few Quick Links

This blog has, perhaps, earned its name in some small part due to our coverage of racism in China (even though we’re told it doesn’t exist). On that front, I point you in the direction of a few more drops in the bucket.

First, a popular Chinese social network game that allows players to enslave their friends (virtually; think “Happy Farm” but with more slavery) also allows them to punish their female friends by, among other things, forcing them to marry “an old black man”. From ChinaSocialGames via BendiLaowai:

Slave Manor copies the original Facebook game Friends for Sale! but takes the competition to another level. White-collar workers flock to the SNS Kaixin001 to hire their boss as their virtual slave—upon which they can make him shovel shit or marry an extremely ugly girl. Female slaves can be assigned to different hardships: serving as a “special hostess” or marrying an old black slave. The punishments on the original Facebook game were likely far tamer.

Another little bit of evidence popped up on Blood and Treasure in their analysis of the critical response to Lu Jiamin’s book Wolf Totem, which itself made some criticisms of Han culture. They also briefly discuss Hanwang, a site they say boasts over 100,000 members and compares to a Chinese StormFront.

Also of interest, perhaps, is this op-ed piece in the New York Times that compares Mao Zedong to Ho Chi Minh, then calls the two of them “Gods”:

These 70-percent Gods are interesting creatures. They no longer slaughter. They do not imprison en masse. They don’t try to fast-forward to utopia.

No, they build firewalls rather than walls. They fear peaceful protest more than violent movements. They ban Facebook rather than banish folk to camps. They’re less ruthless but more stressed. In short, they’ve gone through 21st century makeovers.

These makeovers have been successful. It’s hard, but not impossible, to imagine the survival of the one-party Chinese and Vietnamese states without the fabulous growth Market-Leninism has produced.

The thing is, however, that such dynamic societies produce more educated, wealthier people; and those people in time wonder about things other than getting a bigger apartment or a car. They start wondering whether they should determine who governs them. They wonder about freedom of expression. They get irritated by corruption. They wonder why they can’t Twitter.

And that is why — a great paradox — the custodians of the 70-percent Gods are so nervous at the very moment when things are going their way, when they have growth unimaginable in the West, when everyone’s talking of China’s rise.

There are some ideas in the piece that I agree with, and some I don’t, but it’s all couched in a rather crazy metaphor. Viewing Mao Zedong as a “God”, I think, does nothing to help us understand the effect he’s had on modern Chinese culture and politics, or why Twitter is blocked. The 70% doctrine (the idea that Mao was 70% right and 30% wrong) does not make him a “70% God”; rather, it was a conscious effort to humanize him. Roger Cohen obviously doesn’t agree with the 70/30 ratio, but calling Mao a “God” to Chinese people doesn’t help anyone understand why many Chinese people do agree with the 70/30 ratio.