Category: Useful Links
Jeff Crosby profiled Beijing in February in this space. Knowing Jeff and his work as an art consultant, I think he’d agree with much of what Osnos writes.
I must say that I’m excited as hell to be in Beijing this summer, despite the usual fears of heat, grime, and pollution. Bring in on.
From another corner of China, old friend Chris Horton talks about the town of Shuhe, Lijiang Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China. Shuhe is a beautiful, interesting town and Chris is an excellent travel writer. Check it out.…
The Asia Times has an interesting article arguing that contrary to popular perception, many Chinese migrant workers are unwilling to give up their rural registration status for fear of losing their land in the country. Any meaningful hukou reform, thus, will have to address this point. The whole article is worth reading.…
The anti-Japanese fervor in China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands hit the Sichuan capital Chengdu recently, leading to a fairly major demonstration. Here is a post from Chengdu Living with photos and videos. This is one of the videos they included. The characters on the ground, 日本, is ‘Japan’ in Chinese.
I remember in 2005 witnessing an anti-Japanese protest in Shanghai. I can’t even remember what the issue was then, but it was far more minor than the recent disagreement between the two countries. Seems like this sort of thing could become more common in the future.
Dan Washburn is a writer I’ve followed since I arrived in China six years ago. Over the past couple of years Dan has shifted his focus to golf, a burgeoning sport that has attracted a certain amount of controversy in China. To say that few Chinese play golf would be a grand understatement- the percentage of those who could even plausibly afford to play is statistically insignificant- yet golf course development has accelerated rapidly in recent years.
If I may take a break from my usual content, I’d like to direct your attention to this very moving profile of America’s finest film critic, Roger Ebert. Since a 2006 surgery, Ebert has not had a lower jaw. He has not eaten, had a drink of anything, nor spoken a single, solitary word since.
Most Americans my age know Ebert as one half of the eponymous film-critic duo Siskel & Ebert, whose passionate arguments about films both good and bad comprised a much-loved television program that lasted until Siskel’s death in 1999. The two were a study in contrats; Ebert was fat and verbose, Siskel thin and reserved. Their arguments would culminate in an ultimate judgment: was the film worth watching? The two adjudicated this matter by a simple, trademarked gesture: thumbs up or thumbs down. In its day the ‘two thumps up!’ judgment would be displayed more prominently on the print ads of films than any other.
Before the Internet age few outside of Chicago, where Ebert is based, knew that the voluble fat critic was also a wonderful writer. His reviews now appear at the top of IMDBs ‘External Reviews’ list on each major film’s page, and are truly a primer in how to write about film. Many times through the years I’ve struggled to articulate a particular feeling about something I’ve watched, only to discover Ebert had captured it perfectly in his review.
Ebert keeps a journal of his thoughts on film, art, culture, and dying. It’s well-worth bookmarking, if only to celebrate a national treasure while he is still among us.…
In Foreign Policy Christina Larson provides a useful reminder that Tibet is no ‘Shangri-La’. My own experience traveling through Tibetan parts of Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces confirms this; Tibetans aren’t the enlightened, beatific race imagined by the region’s more fervent supporters.
Yet the Tibetans are, in fact, Tibetan and not Chinese. China likes to tell the world that it alone among the great powers eschews colonial expansion, a narrative that sells well with the patriotic masses. But the simple fact remains is that periodically throughout history, China has established suzerainty over Tibet in order to form a buffer zone with other powers as well as to exploit the region’s abundant resources.
More recently, China has invested greatly in Tibet’s infrastructure in order to link the region to the rest of the country, both physically and culturally. Likewise, Beijing provides incentives for Han Chinese to migrate to Tibet as a means to dilute the area’s demographic makeup and guard against organized rebellion.
China’s actions are by no means unprecedented. Great powers have long made incursions into strategically important territories on their periphery. Yet the notion that China is different- exceptional, if you will- because it does not behave as a colonial power is central to the national narrative promulgated by the Communist Party. Such a narrative helps inspire a sense of patriotism among the population, essential in maintaining national unity.
So while it appears on the surface that the Dalai Lama is winning the global public relations battle over Tibet over Beijing, it is important to recognize that China prizes a different battlefield- domestic opinion. As a result, I don’t expect editorials in the China Daily railing against the Dalai clique to cease anytime soon.…
Who writes the textbooks we use in our schools? Who pays for them? From which point of view do they argue? How do our schools choose these textbooks? Do alternatives exist?
To the last question, I can definitively answer yes. Not long after I arrived in college, a friend lent me a copy of the recently-deceased Howard Zinn’s People History of the United States. Zinn’s conclusions may not please everybody but his immense contribution to historical scholarship cannot be denied.
But think about it- for the average American, an enormous amount of our historical education is inculcated via textbooks. These books- written near-anonymously, in soothing words devoid of any polemical content. Teachers treat these textbooks as repositories of factual information rather than texts worth critically analyzing. As a result millions of children develop a shared sense of ‘what actually happened’ without the faculties to criticize it.
If this wasn’t frightening enough, check out this fascinating, 10-page article in the New York Times Magazine detailing how evangelical Christian activists have managed to hijack the Texas governing body responsible for approving content to the vast majority of American public schools.
At question is the notion of whether the United States is an explicitly Christian nation. Non-American readers may find this question baffling; why does it matter, after all? Yet to understand this divide is to understand the separate political forces that operate in the country.…
On the heels of a lazy Saturday day and a rare Saturday evening at home, here are a couple of links to brighten your weekend reading.
- I realize I talk about Peter Hessler a lot, but skeptics will know why after reading this wonderful interview the writer gave entited “Why I Write”. Well worth a read, for China and non-China interested readers alike.
- Hessler once wrote regularly for a site called The China Beat. While his articles seldom appear there any longer, the site itself is a wonderful source of information, analysis, and stories about China. Plus, it seems to be getting better with age.
Hey all- I hope you’ve enjoyed the first week or 2010, which here in Kunming has been sunny, nice, and warm.
Here’s a good article to start the year off- in the Financial Times Gideon Rachman writes that democracies such as Turkey, India, Brazil, and South Africa have increasingly turned their backs against US foreign policy in support of policies supported by China. Here’s the key finding:
So what is going on? The answer is that Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and India are all countries whose identities as democracies are now being balanced – - – or even trumped – - – by their identities as developing nations that are not part of the white, rich, western world.
Just another example of how neo-conservatism’s blind devotion to democracy promotion as the end-all and be-all of international relations was so wrong-headed.…
I’ve spent part of this morning listening to a podcast lecture organized by Folger on the subject of foreign impressions of China. The three panelists are Rachel DeWoskin, author of Foreign Babes in Beijing and a former actress in the Chinese soap opera of the same name, Orville Schell, the distinguished China scholar and author of many books, and our man James Fallows.
The lecture is informal and funny; all three authors recount humorous stories of their experiences in the country as well as observations they’ve made. In particular, their account of how the world looks from the Chinese perspective is well worth listening to.
The link to the podcast is here.
(via China Digital Times)…