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June 19, 2010

A private history museum in Sichuan

Frog in the Well, a history blog always worth a read, has a new post with plenty of photos by Alan Baumler on a private history museum in Sichuan:

Recently I went to the Jianchuan museums, which are in Anren, just outside Chengdu. It is an interesting place first because it is huge, financed by mogul Fan Jianchuan, and second because it is a private museum, something not very common in China.

The place is covers a lot of ground, and there are, or soon will be buildings showcasing West Sichuan folk customs, footbinding, traditional houses, and the response to the Wenchuan earthquake of 2008. They are already working on the building for the last of these, and some of the artifacts are sitting outside.

June 18, 2010

90% of South African vuvuzelas made in China

ChinaHush has a post on South African's favorite noise-making tool for football fans, the vuvuzela:

Although the Chinese team did not make it to the World Cup, perhaps Chinese people can feel satisfied to know that 90% of the globally resounding horns are made in China.

Zhang Wuben and the traditional Chinese medicine racket


Zhang Wuben (张悟本), a nutritionist with dubious credentials, advocates a mung bean centered diet. How did he become so popular?

Chinese poetry has come alive again

Robert Hass writes for The Believer on Yu Jian and Xi Chuan:

Listening to their poems on that day two years ago, listening to them talk about the projects of their poetry, I was moved by their intensity and seriousness and playfulness and quick wit, and I found I couldn’t estimate what political and aesthetic valences their writing must have in China at this moment, any more than I could tell what role state censorship continued to play in what I was hearing.

But I could see that questions of this nature were part of what they found frustrating in their situation, and I began to understand why.

Workers at Toyota supplier on strike

From BusinessWeek:

Workers at a Toyota Motor Corp. affiliate in China went on strike, adding to a series of assembly-line walkouts that underscore pressure for higher wages in the world’s fastest-growing major economy...

...The stoppage comes as a Honda Motor Co. unit seeks to prevent workers at a parts factory in the region from resuming a strike after setting a 3 p.m. deadline to reach a pay settlement.

Chinese science fiction

A Sinica podcast on Chinese SF, plus a meaty reading list of English-language resources on the subject.

Southern Daily Group's failed bid for Newsweek

Sincoism looks at the recent failure of a bid by "an investor group led by China’s Southern Daily Group" to buy the failing Newsweek magazine.

June 17, 2010

"I'm not a tolerant guy"

Lonely China Day's frontman is interviewed by Wang Ge of the Beijinger.

Beijing bibliophile

Eric Setzekorn rounds up some of Beijing's bookstores for The China Beat:

The book landscape of Beijing is comprehensive but geographically dispersed, making shopping — particularly for those in town for a short period of time and reliant on public transportation — very difficult. This brief review is designed to highlight noteworthy bookstores and will, in Part II, briefly explore the changing market dynamics for readers in Beijing.

A photographer's eviction from a Shanghai house

Shanghai Street Stories presents photographs taken in a dilapidated building on Yulin Road.

Severe flood warnings following wet weather

More raining yesterday kills more people, with more injured. China Daily reports:

The National Meteorological Center issued a yellow alert on Wednesday morning for heavy rain across parts of China.

A statement on the center's website urges officials in several provinces, including Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangdong, to prepare for "possible floods and geological hazards".

Guangxi flood control and drought relief headquarters said on Wednesday that, as of Tuesday, the death toll from the recent spell of bad weather had climbed to 10 in the province, with 15 missing, and direct economic losses of nearly 400 million yuan ($58.8 million). The rain had also damaged 61 roads, ruined 66 dams and destroyed 1,170 houses.

Rescue workers recovered another three bodies from a landslide in Shuangshang village in Guangxi on Wednesday. Three others remain unaccounted for, Xinhua News Agency reported.

June 16, 2010

CIA shows film about spies captured in China in 1952

In The Wall Street Journal:

The Central Intelligence Agency went to new lengths Tuesday to clarify its role in a botched 1952 spying mission in China by allowing at least one reporter, from the Associated Press, access to the screening of the internal “documentary,” which agency leaders hope will be used as a teaching tool for its next generation of operatives...

...In November 1952, the operatives were on board a cargo plane with covert plans to help pick up an ethnic-Chinese spy, whom the CIA smuggled into the country months before. Downey and Fecteau, along with pilots Robert Snoddy and Norman Schwartz, weren’t aware the Chinese had uncovered the American’s mission. The Chinese shot down the plane: Both pilots were killed while Downey and Fecteau were captured and interrogated before being imprisoned for roughly the next twenty years.

10-star, and civilized

The autonomous region blog presents a rating system for families:

The “10-star, civilized household” (on yultuzluq medeniyetlik a’ile or shixingji wenminghu) is a rating system used mostly on the local level to monitor the life of individual families. Its origin isn’t immediately clear to me (probably a pre-1980s creation). You rarely find it in big cities today, yet the system is still popular among local governments in remote areas and smaller towns. Each family is given a plate with 10 aspects of family life deemed desirable, and a red star will be awarded (and fixed on the plate) if you get a pass on that aspect of family life.

Local languages

bezdomny ex patria muses on how Shanghainese and other local languages are or are not being transmitted to younger generations.

June 15, 2010

What do China's workers want?

Commentary by Leslie T. Chang, Cindy Fan, Huang Yasheng, Zhang Lijia and Mary Gallagher in The New York Times, reflecting on worker unrest, strikes and suicides in China.

Baby-kissing American politicians

Jamil Anderlini in The Financial Times:

US lawmakers are “baby kissing” incompetents who risk “poisoning the atmosphere” with China with their proposals to force Beijing to increase the value of its currency, according to Chinese official state media.

In this latest evolution of Chinese official insults one can clearly see the signs of a rising superpower. Gone are the accusations of imperialism and plaintive cries that US actions have “hurt the feelings” of 1.3bn Chinese people.

Inner Mongolian cop goes postal

From The Global Times:

A policeman was detained after alledgedly shooting dead three civilians and seriously injuring a police chief in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Saturday, the latest in a series of police shooting incidents in recent years.

June 14, 2010

The stabbing of director Yan Po

On ESWN, a summary of the confusing tale of the stabbing on film director Yan Po in Beijing.

RAF soldiers learning Chinese, 1951-1962

A review by Michael Rank of a new book Mandarin Blue, RAF Chinese Linguists in the Cold War, 1951-1962, a record of the experiences of several hundred British Royal Airforce soldiers who were drafted and sent to learn Chinese to listen in on radio signals from mainland China.

June 13, 2010

Some Honda employees go back to work

The New York Times reports:

Three workers said in separate telephone interviews that the strike continued and had not been settled. But one of the three, an activist in the strike, said that “four or five workers” had gone back into the factory and restarted the equipment for one small assembly line.

One of the strike’s leaders was so intimidated during a meeting on Saturday morning with management, local authorities and representatives of the national, government-controlled union that he immediately stopped participating in the leadership of the strike and has gone into hiding, the activist added.

The 1,700-employee factory manufactures locks, rear and side mirrors and many other low-value auto parts for Honda assembly plants all over the world. The sprawling, two-story white building houses many different short assembly lines.

Flooding kills 155

The Associated Press reports:

Virtually all of the country's major rivers were swollen, while water levels in lakes along the mighty Yangtze River were higher than in 1998, when catastrophic flooding killed about 4,000 people.

The office said 140,000 houses had collapsed and more than 1.3 million people had been moved to temporary shelter. Overall losses were about four times what they were last year, it said. Heavy rain has been falling since April, with 13 torrential storms on record already this season.

Flooding strikes along the Yangtze almost every summer, although authorities had claimed that construction of the massive Three Gorges Dam along the river's upper reaches would help modulate water levels and prevent major losses.

Student ambassadors at the USA Expo pavilion

At Shanghai Scrap, Adam Minter interviews two of the student ambassadors who get crowds warmed up after waiting in line at the Shanghai Expo's USA Pavilion:

My first visit to the USA pavilion happened a few days after it officially opened. It was a quiet evening, and the large crowds of recent weeks hadn’t yet materialized. I didn’t have to wait long in line, and after only a few minutes I was ushered into the lobby where I watched two young Americans make announcements – and joke – to a Chinese audience transfixed by their linguistic and cultural fluency. A few minutes later we were ushered into a movie theater where – just as in the lobby – a young American warmed up and joked with the crowd. The last theater was home to the true star of the show (if you ask the Chinese audience), a stocky young American, no more than twenty-three, I think, who worked the five-hundred audience members like a stand-up comedian. After the film, they rushed up to him with cameras, questions, and curiosity.

Yang Jisheng: Starvation in the Great Leap Forward

In The Financial Times, an excerpt from Richard McGregror's new book The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers:

Tombstone took its author, Yang Jisheng, nearly two decades of painstaking research to compile. In two volumes, it gives a minutely chronicled and irrefutable account of the death by starvation of 35-40 million Chinese between 1958 and 1961. It details a tragedy the ruling Communist party has long sought to cover over.