Posted by Joel Martinsen on Monday, March 19, 2007 at 10:58 AM
Ye Yonglie, a science fiction writer and mainstream biographer, has kicked up a storm by defending He Zhili on his blog and in print over the last few weeks. He Zhili (何智丽), a world-champion pingpong player, left the Chinese national team after refusing to throw matches to teammates. She went to play for Japan in the 90s under the name Koyama Chire (小山智丽), adopting her husband's surname.
He Zhili and Hu Ziwei
She's been attacked as a hanjian, and Ye has been attacked as well for defending her. Quoted in YWeekend (translation via ESWN), Ye remarks on the controversy:
But it's not just angry young men making a fuss online. Hu Ziwei, a Beijing TV program host, echoed similar sentiments in an op-ed that ran in yesterday's Mirror:
Should we pardon Koyama Chire?by Hu Ziwei / Mirror
Recently, a former science fiction writer wrote a few articles about Koyama Chire, bringing this controversial figure of the past back into a swirling argument. As for whether this author is truly acting out of a desire to give Koyama Chire a place to spend her waning years, or if he has some other motive, I will not be so rash as to speculate here. However, I believe that Koyama Chire should not be pardoned.
Koyama Chire is different from Jenny Lang Ping [current coach of the US national volleyball team]; Lang Ping is a professional athlete who has coached many clubs overseas. She handles volleyball and coaching overseas with an even mind and a spirit of true sportsmanship, but Koyama Chire acted out of self-interest and a mind for personal glory, and caused heartache for her compatriots through her defiance and betrayal. Bluntly put, victory over Chinese competitors became the motivation for her to vent her personal vengeance. She contintually lets loose with shouts of "Yes!" on the court, as piercing to our ears as "bakayarou."
Some might say that throwing games violates principles of openness, fairness, and justice in athletic competitions. But actually this interpretation is superficial.
Think for a moment: suppose Koyama Chire was a famous football player, and the coach said, you must feed the ball to a forward and let the forwards shoot. Would Koyama Chire say, "I can shoot, too. Why are you letting them score and get all the glory?" Much of sportsmanship is an experience of teamwork and cooperation.
Some people might say that this is a product of the system at the time, but think for a moment: it was precisely that system that gathered the strength of the nation to train you, so how can you take the skills that the Chinese people spent their money to teach you, and then turn around to defeat Chinese people to wreak your vengeance?
You could say that to get revenge, Koyama Chire steeled herself for hardship, and after six years of painful waiting finally struck back. To some degree you could say that this exceeds the bounds of sportsmanship. And we have yet to see an apology from her for those events. The name Koyama Chire is still being used today.
Our tolerance is conditional. Some things cannot be forgiven, and history cannot be forgotten.
* * *
This piece assumes a certain degree of familiarity with the situation on the part of the reader; Hu Ziwei never calls He Zhili by her Chinese name. He's decision to keep the surname Koyama even after her divorce has rubbed some people the wrong way, as Hu notes in her piece. Here's Ye Yonglie's explaination from his Xinmin Weekly article:
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.