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Who was Hong Kong returned to?

A "call and response" via Huang Yilong:

Who was Hong Kong returned to? (a call-and-response essay)

Call: In the present world, a united country should at least allow freedom of movement for the people within its borders, and freedom of circulation for printed material and radio & TV. If even a "quasi-nation" like the European Union has accomplished the free flow of information, the free movement of people, the free circulation of printed material and radio & TV, then why not a true nation! But this is something that cannot be done for Hong Kong and the mainland. All of this - can Hong Kong truly be said to have returned? Has it really become a part of the People's Republic of China?

--- Zhang Yunruo, Hong Kong - has it really returned?, 2007.6.18

Response: What Mr. Zhang discusses is just one part; allow me to add a second:

Hong Kong has indeed returned, it has returned to those who see it as their own backyard - the rich dudes who go back and forth practically every day. Officials like Liu Jinbao, and certain princelings and maidens. There, their every wish is granted and they do what they please - such comfort! A few newspapers, a couple books - what does that matter?

So perhaps Mr. Zhang's true question should be: Hong Kong - to whom has it returned?

--- Huang Yilong, 7.1
Scholarship and education

Harmony means everyone gets a passing grade

Last Friday, China Youth Daily reported that a young teacher with the College of Art at Shanghai Normal University had been punished by the school for failing a number of students who had plagiarized their term papers.

During a grading session in February, Mr. Ma noticed varying degrees of plagiarism in the papers of eight students, so he marked them zero, submitted his grades, and went on vacation. At the start of the spring semester, the administration hauled him into the office and ordered him to change the grades; when he refused, they punished him for being "subjective" - he had overlooked several other plagiarized papers.

Ma believes the main reason for his punishment is that the college is upset with him for "making trouble for the school and destroying its harmonious atmosphere." Here's an excerpt from the CYD narrative:

The second time they talked about the matter occurred in the administrator's office not long after school resumed. There, Ma said that he did not intend to cancel the scores.

"So long as there is one sentence of the students' own writing in their papers, you cannot give a zero," said the administrator, "shocking" Ma. Another line was even more "stunning": "You either pass them all, or fail them all."

Scholarship and education

Wu Si on the intractable problem of forced labor

Wu Si (吴思) is the author of the highly influential history books Hidden Rules (潜规则) and The Principle of Blood Payment (血酬定律). He also serves as vice-president of Yanghuang Chunqiu magazine (炎黄春秋 aka Chinese Chronicles), which has been on a reformist bent this year.

In an interview published in this week's Southern Metropolis Weekly (Life edition), Wu reflects on the Shanxi brick kiln scandal in the context of the history of forced labor in China over the past few centuries, as well as how it relates to China's capitalist reforms.

Wu Si: The illegal kiln affair and the local tyrant system

by Chen Jianli / SMW

After the media exposed the Shanxi kiln affair, there was a swift reaction from critics, who went after the core issue from different perspectives. The ethical bravery and rational power of public opinion became a welcome bright spot amid the process of rescuing the kiln slaves. Today, aid has been mobilized, but the analysis and contemplation of the situation should not halt yet. We have been searching for a deeper vision with which to evaluate the illegal kiln affair, and we found Mr. Wu Si. This student of history, who discovered amid the voluminous historical record "unwritten rules" and a "principle of blood payment," has had his theories verified by the illegal kilns: do not those cold-blooded, black-hearted kiln-masters and local officials believe in none other than grey "unwritten rules" and a blood-drenched "principle of blood payment"? The final termination of illegal kilns depends on the termination of the local blood payment system. Wu Si has a new concept to apply to the illegal kiln affair - the local tyrant system. And it is under the local tyrant system that illegal kilns spring up all over.

China has had illegal mines since ancient times

Southern Metropolis Weekly: Looking at the information revealed in the Shanxi illegal brick kilns affair - child labor, the mentally disabled, corpses, wolfhounds, thugs, the town's party secretary, and the 95% unlicensed rate - were you surprised?
Wu Si: I wasn't surprised. These things aren't unique to Shanxi. Other provinces may have them as well, and history shows that this sort of thing was prevalent throughout China. In addition, the solutions of the past were basically the same as those today - they rely on supervision of the subordinates by their superiors. If China did not have this sort of thing, then I'd find it strange. Because the core power structure has not changed: it is still an upwardly-responsible pyramid. The exposure of this incident just further corroborates my argument.

SMW: So looking at history we can see that this type of thing has been around for a while?
Wu: I'll read for you a few passages that I've copied down. In the twelfth month of the fourth year of Jiaqing (1799), Jiaqing issued an edict: "Xishan's coal-pits are most vulnerable to harboring treachery. We have heard that there is a bandit in that place named 'Water Foreman' who coaxes common people into the pits and flogs them so ruthlessly that they die." The emperor commanded the Shunyi Magistrate: "If there is such a ruffian, then find him, seize him, and prepare a memorial so that his crimes may be punished according to the law."

So a magistrate named Lu led a contingent "through many pits, thunderously liberating all of the miners imprisoned in the tiny dorms." And they dismantled all of the coalpits and dorms. The records state that the miners who were rescued "all cheered and put their hands to their foreheads." The Xishan coalpits were where Mentougou is today.


World's longest sea bridge connects Shanghai to Ningbo

Image from Xinhua
Xinhua reports that the two halves of the Hangzhou Bay Bridge that will connect Shanghai to Ningbo were linked yesterday after more than three years of construction.

According to Xinhua, the bridge has the world's longest cross-sea span. It will cut the length of the drive from Shanghai to Ningbo from 400 km to 80km.

Here's a photo of the future site of a 30-story observation tower and a hotel and conference center to be built right in the middle of the bridge:

Image from The Beijing News.

Also in the biggest, longest, most macho category of engineering achievements, another report from Xinhua says that 'the two ends of the bridge with the world's longest span were connected over China's Yangtze River' on June 18. The report explains:

Started simultaneously in the cities of Nantong and Suzhou in 2003, the Sutong Yangtze Road Bridge, linking Nantong and Changshuin Suzhou, runs 32.4 kilometers, with 8,146 meters spanning the Yangtze, China's longest waterway.

It has the world's longest span of 1,088 meters, usurping the previous record holder, the Tatara Bridge in Japan, which has a main span of 890 meters.

Its steel and concrete bridge towers, the tallest in the world, stand at 300.4 meters...

... Around 150,000 bridges had been built in China over the past 15 years, an average of 10,000 a year, said Xu Kuangdi, president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

The bridges, with a total distance of more than 8,300 kilometers, include road and railway bridges, cloverleaf intersections in big cities, and 156.7 kilometers of bridges built on frozen ground for the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

Trends and Buzz

The media circus when a celebrity dies

Cross-talk performer Hou Yaowen died of a heart attack in Beijing over the weekend. Hou, son of the even more famous cross-talk master Hou Baolin, was 59.

Hou's sudden, premature death has had domestic media - both online and off - following the story to a degree that prompted entertainment journalist He Dong to mock the media circus on his blog. Here's a translation:

The death of a celebrity, a festival for the paparazzi

by He Dong

A while ago, Huang Ju died. At that time I immediately wrote something up, but as soon as I posted it on my blog, it was automatically deleted. Then I received a system email: "We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused." I then thought that it must be great to be a comrade leader, you can die in peace, or at least the system controls by the higher-ups won't allow the general public to mourn chaotically - at any rate you can't say anything. Because there are norms, see.

But now as soon as the news of Hou Yaowen's passing reached the Internet, an entertainment editor immediately picked up the phone: "Do you have anything to say?" I replied, "There's nothing I can say at the moment." The editor said "Oh," and hung up.

Times change, so everything can change into something else. When celebrities are alive, the entertainment news will follow them every day. In the event of their death, then it immediately turns into a huge gossip festival! Websites, for example - they're the fastest! At the very first moment they post black-bordered photos and mini biographies. Later they make up a "memorial" page to allow the public that was unable to express their opinions on Huang Ju's death space to air their grief about the death of a celebrity.

But all this is a trap. In years past when people passed on, we wished them rest in peace, but now with entertainment gossip, there's no rest until the celebrity's death is hyped up into a big festival; what's critical is to dig up all sorts of significant and insignificant things to fill up pages to your own satisfaction and to satiate the public's desire to pry.


Some like them uncut

Unopened edition of Chen Zishan's Sketches (2007).
The Chinese term 毛边本 (literally, "fuzzy-edged volume") refers both to uncut volumes with deckle edges, and to unopened books, in which the pages have to be sliced open by the reader. They're not especially common, and for most readers who still enjoy reading dead trees once in a while, having to slice open every other page is just another hassle.

For collectors, it's a different story. Hu Tong, the proprietor of Booyee Bookshop near Beijing's Panjiayuan Market, wrote in the Mirror last week about the popularity of uncut editions of recent books.

"New uncut editions" are increasingly popular

by Hu Tong

"Uncut editions" have been very popular recently; whether they be Republican-era or new works from recent years, they have been welcomed by collectors. Even articles about "uncut editions" number substantially higher than in years past. I am not a student of editions, nor am I a collector, so I can only write about them from the perspective of a bookseller.

So-called "uncut editions" (毛边本) refers to special books whose top and outer margins are not sliced by the publisher during printing and binding. Reading an uncut edition is a slow process that requires slicing open each page with a knife. People who enjoy this find it very interesting. Those worried about the hassle slice open a number of pages at once and then read them, to avoid holding a knife while they read (of course, there are those who use a stiff piece of paper, like a business card, and reportedly the result is also quite good). There are even lazier people, or collectors who focus on collecting uncut editions, who don't even read the books, or else they buy another "common edition" to read and save themselves the trouble.


Baseball's Yao Ming?

2 Players.jpg
Zhang Zhenwang and Liu Kai
On June 17 the New York Yankees baseball team signed two Chinese players - catcher Zhang Zhenwang and left-handed pitcher Liu Kai - to minor league contracts. They'll play for the Yankees' farm system and work their way up to the majors. Their contracts have the approval of the China Baseball Association.

Liu Kai, from Guangdong province, and Zhang Zhengwang, from Tianjin, are both 19 and are members of the China national team. The general manager of Yankees, Brian Cashman, said: "This is an exciting opportunity for us to integrate Chinese players into the organization."

This contract is based on a memorandum of cooperation, which was signed between China Baseball Association and the NY Yankees. The memorandum states that they will work together to popularize baseball in China and improve influence of this sport at the coming Beijing Olympic Games.

UPDATE: The Black China Hand comments:

The Yankees television network just gained a potential 1.5 billion viewers with this deal.
Links and Sources
Environmental problems

Rural smoke envelops Beijing

Beijing newspapers announced today that the city has issued an edict banning farmers from burning stalks and chaff. In recent days, the capital's customary clean air has been choked with smog that has drifted in from first-harvest field-burnings in the countryside.

But what are "dried stalks"? In Xinzheng City, Henan, a certain Mr. Wu was accosted on the street by two men as he tried to light a cigarette. They said they were from the town "anti-burning office" and demanded that he pay a fine of 500 yuan or they would confiscate his mobile phone. He managed to talk them down to 120 yuan, but they said he had to pay 2000 if he wanted a receipt.

Smog descends on Beijing and other cities every harvest, and it's usually urban residents who complain the loudest. But the problem is not exclusive to the cities. Columnist Chen She explains the issue in the Taizhou News, and suggests that regardless of how much official ink is spilled, the problem will not go away:

Our rural brothers are most practical. In the past when circumstances were poor, wheat and rice straw, along with weeds, were used as fuel for three meals a day, and the straw piles in front of every home were key to keeping the whole family, old and young, warm throughout all four seasons - no one would dare touch it. But today, the fuel of the past has become useless rubbish. What's the point in picking up every grain? And after you've picked it up, then what? Better to solve it with a single match, saving yourself trouble and fertilizing the field at the same time. Moreover, the family's labor is all out finding work elsewhere; taking a couple days off to hurry home for the harvest has them tired enough without taking the time to handle all that rubbish and care about "environmental protection."
And it's not that our rural brothers are unafraid of regulations, either. Look at them over in Europe - who'd dare to light this fire? Take traffic rules, for example - even if you give their taxis a few dollars more, they won't violate the rules. Why? Their rules are strong and serious - whoever breaks them has it coming. Regardless of the reason, breaking the rules is most unprofitable. And us? Sometimes there are rules, and sometimes there aren't. When there aren't rules, you can't do anything, but when there are rules, you aren't necessarily able to do anything either. And about this straw burning, the greater part of China is shouting, year after year, but how many really effective rules are there? And I'm not the first to start burning - other people are burning, so why can't I? If other places can burn, why can't Taizhou? By the time you've issued a notice, I've already started burning - there's no fire engine, so there's nothing I can do. In addition, if I'm not burning when you come to inspect, can't I just wait until you've left and gotten off work to start? By next year, the next time you remember this stuff and issue another ban, I'll have already burnt things pretty well.
And our rural brothers are also worried about the smoke. Urban residents cry that it's too smoky to bear, kids can't open their eyes when going to school and collide with people on their bikes, and they can't open their windows when they go to sleep at night. The environmental departments announce that air pollution is serious and the environment is in dire straits....I know all of this. The fields are much closer to our homes than to the city - it's a "serious disaster area" - young and old people in a family can't take the smoke, but what is there to do?
Of course, no matter what, you can be comforted on one point: our rural brothers are concerned about the bigger picture. If the higher-ups send someone down to check and inspect an "environmental city," a "healthy city," or a "civilized city," or at critical times like the college or high-school entrance exams, we can guarantee that we will not burn a single stem of wheat straw, rice straw, or weeds, to ensure that there's no smoke anywhere under heaven. We'll have patience to wait until the inspection teams leave satisfied, the test-takers are released from their burdens, and you've let out a sigh of relief, and then we'll seize the opportunity to have a several-day burn.

Links and Sources

Chinese Internet responses to slave children case

The case of the children enslaved at a Shanxi brick factory has been widely reported in the Western and Chinese media, and is all over the Internet in both Chinese and English languages (a good summary by Chen Peijin of Shanghaiist is here, with another later summary by Chris Buckley of Reuters here).

There are a few interesting aspects of the story as related to media. Firstly, an open letter from the fathers of some of the children posted to the popular Tianya forum seems to have been a key factor in forcing government action. This is how China Digital Times described the events:

A group of fathers from Henan province recently ventured to brick kilns in Shanxi province to rescue their children, who were abducted and illegally forced to work as slaves...

After rescuing around 40 children, the fathers’ rescue efforts were obstructed by the local police, who were supposed to protect innocent people but instead were in alliance with the kiln owners. Exhausting all reasonable approaches and obtaining no responses from the government, the fathers had to seek help from the Internet. They published a moving open letter on June 7 on Tianya Club...

The letter brought about an outburst of public opinion supporting the rescue campaign and calling for the central government to interfere. On June 13, Wang Zhaoguo , member of the China Communist Party politburo, expressed his concern over the issue. One of the owners was immediately put on the wanted list by the police as a class B criminal.

State media have published news about the story, with the most aggressive reporting being done by The China Daily: Slave-labor boss detained amid national shock.

However, the government has also sought to minimize the effect of the affair on the 'harmonious society'. On June 15, China Digital Times translated a letter purporting to be from 'The Internet Bureau, CPC Central Office of External Communication' which ordered news websites that 'Harmful information that uses this event to attack the party and the government should be deleted as soon as possible.'

Nonetheless, there are still plenty of Chinese blog and forum posts about the affair, including the original letter from the enslaved children's fathers.

This case is yet another in a growing list of cases of citizen activism on the Chinese Internet, and another encouraging sign that the government is listening to online chatter.

Comments on Tianya

Below are translations of some comments to the original Tianya post:

If I did not read Tianya, I would not know how dark and corrupt this society is...

The police and the gangsters are the same! I am disappointed by the local government, I hope the state takes action.

Socialism! Now it's not even as good as capitalism!

These f*cking beasts must be severely punished!

CCTV! ! Focus Interview! [焦点访谈 — a news program that is supposed to investigate malfeasance in China] Why have you lost your voice at this time?

Why don't the local cops just go die? How the hell can they prevent [the fathers] from taking their children away? They are not little dogs and cats, these are real lives, real children!

What does the goveroer of Shanxi Province do for his salary? Why don't they stop this? Why don't they punish the offenders severely?

It a rerun of the slave plantations in the American south.

No humanity! No justice!

Why does Tianya makes people feel so cold so often?

I felt icy cold in 30 degree weather, even without turning on the air conditioner. 

Our material life is in the 21st century already, but is it possible that our morality remains in the Middle Age

Shoot those who should be shot! Close down that which should be closed down!

China Digital Times' translation of Tianya forum post by children's fathers is reproduced below, together with the original Chinese of the comments translated above.


National Theater unveiled

A twisted Yin Yang symbol?
China's new National Theater in Beijing designed by French architect Paul Andreu is nearing completion. Yesterday workers removed the blue panelling on the north side of the construction site, revealing the completed exterior of the building and the huge pond surrounding it.

There's more about the Egg on Xinhua here.


English language theater in Beijing

Click to enlarge
While Beijing Playhouse has just concluded auditions for a September performance of Broadway musical Guys and Dolls, a separate troupe of actors is in the middle of a run of perforrmances of an originally written play about life in Beijing. This is their blurb:

I Heart Beijing is a rowdy sendup of life in the capital: Naughty nymphette Ting Ting is a Beijinger by birth but a cosmopolitan girl at heart, she and her headstrong American roommate Sylvia have just moved into an apartment and find themselves hosts to the antics of their friends; John a womanizing laowai who names all his girlfriends Apple, and Lucy a schizophrenic ABC who has an orgasm at the merest of mention of Stephen Colbert's name. And life in Beijing seems as it should.

That is, until Ting Ting's arrogant and protective older brother Liu Ming joins the group and fireworks fly. But not the romantic fireworks that sparkle happily in a Hollywood movie, rather those that explode dangerously nearby as you stumble home after dumplings and beer.

There are perfomances on the 15th, 16th and 17th at 7.30 pm at BCIS. Email Elyse at tickets@iheartbeijing.com to reserve tickets. You can also visit the I Heart Beijing website, or read an SCMP article republished on the I♥北京 blog.


Protest at Real Salt Lake vs. China friendly

At a soccer match between Real Salt Lake and the Chinese national team last week, protesters waving the flags of Taiwan and Tibet were thrown out of the stadium after the Chinese manager threatened to halt the match.

The story is available at Deseret News.

One fan blogged about his own experience (with photos here):

The Chinese team was about to walk off the field if I did not put my flag down and I was asked nicely by Trino Martinez to put it down. Since I had my five-year-old daughter standing next to me (my wife was sitting in the next section over with my two-year-old daughter), and I did not want to get hauled off. So I put it down.

In about the 89th minute, Colin [Coker], another member of RCB started back with waving the Tibet flag...He was asked to stop and refused and was escorted out of the stadium.

Discussion on fan BBSs centers around what happens when free speech runs into the desire to conduct a "friendly" game free of disruptions DN reports:

Coker admits that he displayed the flag partly to distract and annoy the visiting team, but he said it was mostly a "form of expression about the plight of the people of Tibet."

Both articles have links to video clips of the incident.


Trend-spotting in online fiction

Daniel Dan, architect of bestsellers.
In mass-market fiction this year, grave-robbing stories and palace romances are still hot, while fantasy and wuxia fiction are in decline. So says Daniel Dan Fei, the editor behind popular titles like Stories from the Ming Dynasty (明朝那些事), Notes on Grave-robbing (盗墓笔记), and most recently, Palace Harem (后宫).

Stories from the Ming Dynasty found an audience in the intersection of popular history with the current enthusiasm for things Ming, while Notes on Grave-robbing and Palace Harem belong to two genres currently white-hot: tomb raider stories and palace romances.

Many of the titles that Dan has shepherded to market originated online. This is nothing new; what is notable is the controversy that several of these books have generated.

In March, the online version of Stories from the Ming Dynasty was the focus of accusations of click-fraud: the book was promoted as a "million-hits-a-month" forum post, which some online detectives decided was an inflated number (story at ESWN).

When an unfinished online novel is acquired by a publisher, the author might stop updating at the publisher's request (given how widely things are copied on the Chinese web, taking down the original is usually not an option). Readers typically do not do much more than grumble, but earlier this year, one group of fans took action - they launched a boycott of Palace Harem following the print publication of the first volume in February. In their opinion, author Liulianzi was reveling in her fame while ignoring the people who made her famous in the first place. Some fans were particularly incensed that she never gave a firm date for the release of the concluding volumes, resulting in fans compulsively refreshing her web-page and giving her clicks that she didn't deserve.

The publisher, Xiron, apologized to readers while simultaneously blaming rampant piracy for their decision to keep the story's conclusion off the Internet.

In the following interview (translated from the Mirror), Dan Fei acknowledges the positive effect that such a vocal opposition can have on sales. He also discusses the process of creating a bestseller, and offered his predictions of this year's hottest book trends.

Book designer favors newcomers

Manuscript's success or failure determined in an instant
An interview with Dan Fei by Qin Yuchun / Mirror

Mirror: What's your usual standard for choosing novels? Will you look at how they do online?
Dan Fei: I basically don't care about whether or not they are popular online, and I don't care about click numbers. I only care about my first impression. The authors are all clear about my predilections in selecting novels. In an instant I can decide whether a novel will live or die. If it has become popular in a small area, I'll perhaps pay more attention to it, for example, among white collars or students. I place emphasis on effective responses from netizens - quality responses.


Taihu lake pollution: Net frenzy and government response

Florescent algae and dead fish
On May 30, someone using the Net name Thin Cute Girl (Xiao Xiniang - 筱细娘) posted a series of photos of the waters of Taihu Lake (more properly Tai Lake - 太湖) at Wuxi in Jiangsu Province - one of which is reproduced here. The photos were accompanied by a short explanation: the author is a student in Wuxi who felt the "terrible" (可怕) effects of pollution as the sulphurous slime stank up the town for two days.

Today there are already eight pages of comments, and the photos have been widely circulated on blogs and other BBS on the Chinese Internet.

The original post added a summary of online reactions:

These are suggestions from netizens who are concerned about the Wuxi water pollution issue:

- Algae has infested Taihu Lake, Wuxi's water supply is polluted. 

- What's happened to my home? ... Wuxi's drinking water is polluted. 

- Who stank up the lives of Wuxi's citizens?

Newer comments left on the original post run the gamut from outrage to frivolous:
- We must absolutely avoid the corrupt capitalist early developer countries' old road of developing first, cleaning up later.
- Let's just make a big fuss and have fun!
- This is bullshit! This is just the price of development!

Perfectly drinkable old chap!
The government has been responding. The photo to the left was published on Taihu Pearl website, and shows 'city leaders' drinking water from Wuxi's faucets, proving that it is safe.

The same website today published a photo of a gushing hydrant accompanied by a short article explaining that the city was flushing all the polluted water out of the system.

Xinhua also published a report titled Diversion of Yangtze river to tackle Wuxi water crisis. Excerpt:

China has stepped up the diversion of the Yangtze River to dilute water polluted by blue-green algae in a lake that provides drinking water for millions of people in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi, Jiangsu Province.
Jiangsu Province is a hotbed of commerce and industry, and the land surrounding Taihu Lake is highly industrialized. Pollution of the lake has long been a problem, and the government is well aware of it. Linked below is an article from September 2001 titled 'Chinese Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao Tuesday called for effective measures to further curb the water pollution in Taihu Lake'.

Update: The Standard has an AFP story about the lake: Polluted lake spurs race for water.

Update 2: Found via Virtual China, this is an English language video about the pollution problem, which also mentions the Xiamen PX chemical factory.

Links and Sources

Note: The original Chinese of the comments translated above is below:

China and foreign relations

Surveys: global opinions on China's rise

Here is some data from two recent surveys about people's attitudes towards China's rise:

UPI/Zogby Poll of American attitudes to China

- 75% of respondents said China is top U.S. economic rival, with Japan coming in a distant second at 14%
- 60% said they view China as an economic threat to the U.S.
- 22% believe China is a threat to U.S. national security
- 6% said they would describe China as an economic partner and an ally

The survey, conducted nationwide from May 16-18, 2007, included 5,141 adult online respondents. You can read a full report on the survey on Zogby's website here.

Chicago Council on Global Affairs and WorldPublicOpinion.org poll

From Newsweek

[This survey was] conducted among 18 countries over the last year and ... finds that a majority of citizens in 8 of 14 countries surveyed expect that China will eventually catch up with the United States economically—and are utterly unconcerned by the prospect. Yet surprisingly, the survey also reveals that a majority or near majority of respondents in most countries don’t trust China to act responsibly beyond its borders. China’s score on trustworthiness is virtually the same as that of the United States, which has seen its popularity slide precipitously since the 1990s.

Some of the results are below. It's interesting that the French respondents, whose government makes far fewer noises about China's rise than that of the U.S., seem to fear China the most, while respondents in Israel, usually accused of being too close to the U.S., seem more confident of China than the U.S. when it comes to acting responsibly.

Do You Trust the United States to Act Responsibly in the World?

(Percentage of Respondents Who Answered "No, Not At All" and "No, Not Very Much")

Philippines 85%
Israel 81%
Australia 59%
Poland 51%
Ukraine 49%


Net scandal: student hits teacher video

Screen shot from a mobile phone video
From Roland Soong:
At 4pm on May 25, a video was posted on the Internet. In this video, there were more than 20 students in a classroom for a geography lesson. The students were napping, talking, horsing around and one of them was roaming around filming. One student said: "This is the geography lesson. Watch the show." Then he walked up to the teacher and removed the teacher's white hat. The class roared in laughter. Later, that student went up to the teacher and made for a physical confrontation. Another student threw a water bottle at the teacher while the first student yelled: "That stupid c*nt! Kill him!" The teacher just kept on with his lecture. The video was apparently posted by a female student in the class. Within three hours, there were 5,000 visits and 100 angry comments. The video was deleted at 7pm, but it has already been copied and distributed across the Intenet.

Soong goes on to explain how an online campaign on the Tianya and MOP BBS websites unleashed "human flesh search engines" (人肉搜索引擎) — i.e. motivated BBS users with time on their hands — to search for information about the school and its unruly students. A Tianya netizen "noted that the blackboard had the national flag of Uzbekistan with words of welcome for the friends from there" so he searched for visits by Uzbekistan groups and finally identified the school as "Art School in Haidian District, Beijing".

According to a report in Beijing Daily Messenger (娱乐信报), the school's website has since been hacked (you can see Baidu's cached copy of the website here). Searching for the school's name (海艺学校) on Google or Baidu results in hundred of links to outraged BBS posts and commentary on the affair. The school 's website is not currently working, and apparently the fingered institution denies that the video was shot on its campus.

Youtube and Youku still have copies of the video. To some older Chinese people, the scenes played out in this video may evoke some unpleasant memories of the brutish years of the Cultural Revolution. Or is this just a kid with what they would would call ADD in the U.S., captured unfortuitously on a mobile phone?

UPDATE:Global Voices has translated some of the online commentary about the affair. They ranger the gamut from blaming the system to calling this generation of children rubbish to criticism of teachers and schools.

UPDATE 2: ESWN has translated two extensive stories about the case from Southern Weekly.

China and Africa

China and Africa: the hypocrisy of the West

Botswana's Festus Mogae - "Bugger all I can do about it"
Two weeks ago, China hosted the board meeting of the Africa Development Bank (ADB) in Shanghai. Economist Jeffry Sachs attended the meeting and wrote an opinion piece for about it contrasting China's initiatives with the failure of the World Bank in Africa: China's lessons for the World Bank. Excerpt:
I had the chance to participate in high-level meetings between Chinese and African officials at the ADB meetings. The advice that the African leaders received from their Chinese counterparts was sound, and much more practical than what they typically get from the World Bank.

Chinese officials stressed the crucial role of public investments, especially in agriculture and infrastructure, to lay the basis for private-sector-led growth. In a hungry and poor rural economy, as China was in the 1970s and as most of Africa is today, a key starting point is to raise farm productivity. Peasant farmers need the benefits of fertiliser, irrigation, and high-yield seeds, all of which were a core part of China's economic takeoff.

Two other critical investments are also needed: roads and electricity, without which there cannot be a modern economy. Farmers might be able to increase their output, but it won't be able to reach the cities, and the cities won't be able to provide the countryside with inputs. The officials stressed how the government has taken pains to ensure that the power grid and transportation network reaches every village in China.

Of course, the African leaders were most appreciative of the next message: China is prepared to help Africa in substantial ways in agriculture, roads, power, health, and education. And the African leaders already know that this is not an empty boast. All over Africa, China is financing and constructing basic infrastructure. During the meeting, the Chinese leaders emphasised their readiness to support agricultural research as well. They described new high-yield rice varieties, which they are prepared to share with their African counterparts.

Sachs is a controversial figure. This opinion piece is again treading on controversial ground. You can browse the comments at the bottom of Sach's piece (linked above) or the comments on this Peking Duck post about the article to get an idea of typical Western reactions.

Your correspondent can't get rid of the feeling that Westerners, smug because they recently granted their African colonies independence after hundreds of years of exploitative colonialism, may not have the right to lecture China on how to behave in Africa.

China and Africa

Africa Day in Beijing

May 26 is Africa Day, commemorating the signing of the charter document of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in 1965. The OAU was succeeded in 2002 by the African Union (AU), but Africa Day is still celebrated on May 26 (and sometimes May 25) by Africans around the world.

To celebrate, you can read a speech by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, given at the signing ceremony.

If you're in Beijing, you can go to Yugong Yishan on Saturday night: starting at 5pm there will be an art exhibition showing works by African artists. From 9pm there will be live music from Beijing resident Africans Mitabe, and by FineWine Quartet from Zambia. Then DJs S-Press, Sinvu and OP will spin African tunes until the wee hours.

Tickets are 50 yuan at the door; proceeds go to the artists, DJs and musicians, and to Afrika United football club. Call 13717640747 for information.

On the subject of Africa, below is a Hard Hat show made during the 2006 Africa summit in Beijing: African Billboards of Beijing.

For more about Africa on Danwei, see our China and Africa category.

Trends and Buzz

Superstitious cadres?

In the last two weeks, both the Southern Weekly (南方周末) and the South China Morning Post have published stories about an official survey that revealed that a high percentage of civil servants (i.e. cadres) believe in feng shui, physiognomy and other superstitions that members of the officially atheist Party are supposed to stay away from.

Guest contributor David Drakeford spoke to one of the researchers of the report, whose worry about the superstitious cadres in earlier interviews has been replaced with worry about the report being misconstrued.

Superstition governs civil servants?

by David Drakeford

Southern Weekly charts the superstitions (click to enlarge)
A survey of county-level civil servants in 17 provinces and autonomous regions intended to gauge the scientific knowledge of its respondents has revealed that more than half believe in fortune telling, dream interpretation or other superstitious practices.

The study was conducted by the China National School of Administration, a body responsible for training mid- and high-level government officials and policy makers. According to Cheng Ping, a researcher in charge of the project "As civil servants, most of them are members of the Communist Party. Party members are supposed to be atheist."

They may not believe in God but 19 percent of the 900 government officials polled were shown to have faith in ancient philosopher Zhou Gong's spiritual explanation of dreams. Only six percent advocated the use of I Ching divination but 28 percent believed in physiognomy, a method of determining character from the form and features of the face. This last figure was higher even that than representing the general population.

A bimonthly Party magazine Seeking Truth (求实) published a criticism of the trend in its May 1 issue. "At present, a small number of party members are wavering in their loyalty towards the Party and they are gradually weakening...some Party members believe in gods and ghosts instead of Marx and Lenin." This backlash was only to be expected, president Hu Jintao's Eight Honours and Disgraces includes the unambiguous instruction "follow science; discard superstition."

Superstitious civil servants may be viewed as even more damaging to the state than people who have merely lost their faith in Marxism-Leninism. According to an article published in Southern Weekly (南方周末) on May 17, Tai'an county former party secretary Hu Jianxue re-routed a section of an expressway over a reservoir because a fengshui master advised him that the lack of a bridge was all that was holding him back from the position of vice-premier.

The vice-premiership was not his destiny though as he was eventually convicted for corruption charges and given a suspended death sentence.

Trends and Buzz

Fanning the flames of interracial romance

Ad for wedding photos.jpg
Qingniao Photos ad, south of Lama Temple in Beijing
Attention laowai men! If you've got a Chinese girlfriend, Qingniao Photos has the secret to your domestic bliss: get that girl a set of wedding photos.

China's craze for wedding photos — with or without the wedding — is well known (and documented by Su Fei in this Sexy Beijing episode). Up until now, however, dressing up to snap kitchy glam shots in romantic locales was the domain of Chinese couples. But Qingniao Photos apparently has its finger on the pulse of a profitable Beijing trend: there are enough rich laowai guys with Chinese girlfriends — and sufficient social acceptance of interracial couples — to make a market.

The Qingniao Photos ad below literally says, "the most beautiful scenery + the happiest lovers = the most enchanting memories," but what Qingniao Photos really wants laowai men to remember is: foreigners may never be able to assimilate in China, but that doesn't mean you can stint on the wedding photos.

Jobs in China