Tags: china

caonima, censorship

voices of chinese democracy

Reading chinaSMACK makes me lose faith in the Chinese Internet. Reading the China Digital Times helps me regain it.

Neither voice is truly representative of Chinese public opinion--both are run by foreigners with agendas. (Pot, kettle, black, I know.) But oh, how good it feels that someone over there is able to look through the gilded lens of China's unsustainable economic growth, and say, on their own merits, without any of the Western influence China is all too willing to blame every time it faces dissent, "This is really fucked up. Something's got to give."

Li Chengpeng, a blogger and well-known political writer, has the audacity to challenge the Chinese Communist Party as an independent candidate for congressperson of Chengdu Province. He's not going to win--it's an open secret that the elections are rigged by the CCP. He knows this. It won't stop him from running anyway:

Some claim that Chinese do not deserve a democratic election. It reminds me of the fact that I used to consider myself an elite and liked to say things like they have been kneeling down for so long that they don’t remember the benefits of standing up. I thought what I said made me look cool and profound. But now I start to realize that they kneel down because the ceiling is too low; they have no choice. On the other hand, we kneel down as well–we just do that and pretend to be high-end. The reality is that if one has never tasted an apple, how can he/she have the knowledge of how good an apple can be? Once a person experiences the good taste of an apple, he/she will look forward to the sweet taste of all apples.

[....]Some of my close friends have been skeptical of what we can achieve by participating in this election considering the current situation in China. My response to that is as least we can let many people see what a real ballot looks like for the first time. I’ve often heard people claiming they are Chinese citizens–but how can you prove it? A national identity card can only prove that the cooking knife belongs to you so it’ll be easier for the police to track you down for murder. A real estate title can only prove that you’ve rented the world’s most expensive but fragile housing. A birth certificate can only prove that you’ve been abandoned by the world’s largest human resource organization and need to pay high educational expenses, medical bills, and gas prices till the day you die. What? A death certificate? Sorry, but you can only rest (peacefully) underground for 20 years. You cannot prove you belong to this country for the 70 years you live above the ground, and you cannot even be a ghost of this country for 20 years of resting underground.

[....]An anonymous Internet user has a very good point here: If you really perceive ballots as decorations, then they will be.

A dialogue between Cao Tian, independent Guangzhou mayoral candidate, who is running under the same pretenses, and a friend who is a CCP official:

For the nation’s progress, [I] am willing to pay any price, including my life. The future of China’s reforms is uncertain and filled with challenges. If there are [figurative] land mines, then let those of us [born] after the 60s should go forward first and set an example for the post 80s and 90s [generations][...]there is one thing that I still want. It’s what the Mafei county chief said in the movie “ Let the Bullets Fly.” He said that his government was there in Echeng to ensure three things: fairness, fairness and f**king fairness....

If I die before accomplishing my objective, then I will tell my young daughter: after I am dead, burn a ballot on my grave.

From Han Han, China's most popular blogger and legendary smartass, on CCP propaganda shills:

Every government has a mechanism for propagating their perspective, [so] that is excusable. But the Fifty Cent Party is the government’s mistake, before I thought they existed to guide public opinion, but it seems I was wrong, because you wouldn’t, upon seeing a crowd of people eating shit, squeeze your way in to have a bite yourself.

Actually pretty much anything Han Han writes is golden. In a splendid interview with an unnamed Canadian news source:

Question: Do you miss Google? Why?

Answer: Actually, I don’t miss Google at all. Google is just like a young girl. One day she runs up to you and says: “I want to leave you.” I say, “Don’t be like that, sweetheart.” The most hurtful thing is, at the end she still leaves you. But I realized that, actually, when I think of her, I can still always get on her whenever I want.

The only difference is that before, when I got on her, I could get a few carrots out of her. Now when I ask, “What about the carrots?”– she will just disappear instantly.

And, on the detrimental effect of press censorship on Chinese culture, during a speech at Xiamen University:

We can’t forever keep talking about the Four Classics or Confucius’ Analects during exchanges with people from other nations. It’s like when your date asks you about your financial situation, and you say your ancestors several generations ago were really rich. Pretty useless....

Only when we fight against cultural censorship, when we liberate phrases and words from the “sensitive words database“, with the exception of inhumane words, only then will China stand a chance to become a cultural power. Even if your and my name go into that database for a while, I believe there is a ceiling to the number of words the database can contain. Every time a new one goes in, it pushes the whole thing closer to its ceiling until one day, it comes crashing down.

And let's not forget this gorgeous (anonymous) poem about the Great Divide. The events described are modern but the sentiment is timeless.
caonima, censorship

why i am not buying an iphone

So, Foxconn. Taiwanese company, Chinese manufacturer. Makes a large proportion of the world's iPhones and PlayStation 3s.

Folks at the Foxconn plant in China, many of them around my age, are offing themselves like lemmings. Yesterday's was the 15th (of 17 attempted). It was bound to happen, really--Taiwan's corporate culture of overachievement, China's wanton disrespect for human life, and the global market's obsession with the bottom line cut both down the street and across the road like a three-bladed Gillette.

It's been happening so often, it turns out, that folks are beginning to suspect that at least some of them aren't really suicides, but deaths from overwork. Which might explain why a 20% pay raise, a bizarre "stress room", a suicide hotline, and the installation of bouncy safety nets have done little to stem the rising tide of reported jumpers. An undercover reporter sent by China Weekly to work in the plant found an unending purgatory in which there was no solace in anything but death.

And you thought your tech job was hell.

Official state sources, of course, are fraught with anecdotal evidence, pseudo-academic bullshit, and blaming the victim. (Not that there'll be much more word from state sources, considering that the Chinese government has recently put in a gag order.)

It's funny how Western bloggers try to peg this tragedy on American neocolonialism, calling Steve Jobs a murderer and whatnot. Oh, white guilt, you so silly. Apple has no fucking clue what their suppliers are doing. (Though they really should, you know, switch to a less evil supplier.)

Last time I visited my father, he said to me, "Kevin, no matter what you do, I respect your decision, but I think there are good opportunities for you in China. The tech sector over there is growing. Maybe you should come and work on the mainland and I can find you a job." What, so I can be a slave driver like the rest of the Taiwanese technocracy? Our family tree already has enough tyrants in it, thank you.

Mao promised his followers a China for the workers--workers like these people. What a fucking joke that dream has become.

(edit) Taiwanese news coverage on the suicides is ridiculous, as well, but for entirely different reasons. Way to let Foxconn's PR department dictate your investigative journalism, Taiwanese cable news stations. Just like Taiwanese PR hounds to try and convince people that newly built swimming pools and Internet cafes are somehow going to mitigate 70 hour workweeks for China's national minimum wage (sorry, minimum wage plus 20%), plus copious mandatory overtime...

(second edit) Thank God, at least some Taiwanese people still remember how to do the right thing and exert pressure via protests. Love that 成語 on the bottom sign, which reads, rather elegantly, "At what price flesh and blood?" And, of course, the Hong Kongers, who never forgot, are burning paper iPhones. +200 public relations damage!
caonima, censorship

china gets ballsy

For those of you who haven't heard already, computers in China launched a large-scale attack on Google, Adobe, and a number of other large web companies last month. Google has reason to believe that this attack was orchestrated by the Chinese government and not a private group of hackers. The target was apparently the Gmail accounts of human rights activists in China, only two of which were compromised. In response, Google senior vice president David Drummond announced in a post to the company's official blog that Google is going to lift the censorship filters at Google.cn (imposed as a concession to the Chinese government when Google.cn began in 2005), and is threatening to cease its operations in China entirely. Not just google.cn, mind, but also YouTube, Blogger, Gmail, Picasa, all the others. Word on the street says the attacks were launched from Google.cn itself in an attempt to gain access to source code for the rest of their network, and Google is cutting off its China operations to protect its intellectual property. Which is not as crazy as it might sound; the extent of China's cyberespionage program elsewhere is already an open secret.

This, as I see it, could mean one of two things.

1) The PRC believes Chinese human rights activists are planning something absolutely huge in China, and the Chinese government is desperate enough to expose a significant proportion of its cyberespionage resources in an absolutely unsubtle attack on the world's biggest, best-defended web company in order to stop it.
2) The PRC is acting like a superpower. Repercussions? Fuck your repercussions. We're the Middle Kingdom, damn it. Whatcha gonna do, rest of the world? Huh? Huh? Whatcha gonna do? Give us your best shot.

Neither of these bodes well for anyone except the Machiavellian overlords at the CCP.

A plethora of perspectives:

it is human trafficking awareness day

A global problem with domestic implications, for virtually every country in the free world. As one of America's few simultaneous first- and second-generation immigrants, this is an issue that hits pretty close to home for me. The experience of being moved to a far-off foreign country against your will is upsetting enough when you have legitimate resident alien status, travel as comfortably as you can reasonably afford, will enjoy moderate affluence in your new country, and are guaranteed return to your homeland in a few years. I can barely imagine what it would be like to make the journey across the ocean in a fucking metal shipping container, only to be sold into debt slavery and/or prostitution the moment you get off the boat. And that's in America. They tend to go to the more geographically proximate countries first, like Australia, and dear goodness you don't want to know how they treat illegals over there.

In 1993, a merchant ship called the Golden Venture ran aground off Queens, dumping its hidden cargo of 286 illegal Chinese immigrants into the sea. Ten drowned trying to swim the last 300 yards to shore; many of the rest had to be rushed to local hospitals for hypothermia and malnutrition (they were literally starving to death). For over four years the remainder were held in prisons throughout the East Coast, in accordance with aggressive legislation meant to keep Mexicans from sneaking across the border into the U.S., while the courts processed their petitions for asylum. (Why haven't you heard this story before? Well, aside from a couple of ethnic communities and a handful of bleeding-heart liberals, no one in America gave a shit, because frankly, those illegals had snuck into our country to Take Our Jorbs and those minimum-wage Chinese restaurant jobs belong to Real Americans!) President Clinton eventually had them released at the end of his first term in 1997. The release gave them their freedom, but not asylum. 110 were deported, one of whom was given a forced vasectomy by local Chinese authorities on his return because of the One Child Policy (he had three kids).
A few of them reentered America illegally, and are again facing deportation.

In 1961, Elaine Chao, the eight-year-old daughter of a prominent Shanghai businessman, would be brought in the passenger cabin of a merchant ship to Long Island, a subway ride away from where the Golden Venture would end its ill-fated voyage 32 years later, to accompany her father as he expanded his business into America. She would enjoy a life of incredible privilege, buying her way through one of New York's most expensive private schools, going to Mount Holyoke and later Harvard, and ultimately becoming the trophy Asian wife of a prominent U.S. senator. A familiar face among the Republican old-boys club, it surprises no one when she becomes Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George H.W. Bush and later Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush. Her contributions to the people of the United States as Secretary of Labor at the beginning of the 2008 recession include photo ops with her husband, fudging the numbers on the cost of outsourcing government jobs to private contractors, and twiddling her thumbs while the unemployment rate breaks records. In 2008, the year the recession hits, Chao gives an incredibly banal speech about how you white people can't possibly understand how hard it is to be a Chinese immigrant in America but how you too can be an American By Choice (tm) if you learn to make the same difficult sacrifices her incredibly wealthy, legally immigrated father made for her. Liberal commentators in academia cry foul with accusations of white privilege, inexplicably. (Perhaps they take the concept of racial color-blindness too literally? Or perhaps they have forgotten that "white" is an actual American ethnic identifier as well as a synonym for privilege, so that the dissonance required to separate those concepts outside the neatly color-coded Western sphere of racism discourse would cause their heads to explode. What an adorably domestic way to look at an international problem. But I digress.)

In 1996, 14-year-old Deng Chen works off the debt of his passage to America at a series of Chinese restaurants, lost and alone, without money, family, schooling, immigration papers, or even a rudimentary grasp of the English language. Several times the triad gangs that brought him over let him talk to his parents, only to have them anxiously beg him to pay off the debt quickly because the triads have threatened to kill them off if he does not comply. Nine years, special attention from a U.S. senator, and a heart-wrenching article in the New York Times later, he is still wandering across the East Coast from Chinese restaurant to Chinese restaurant, trying to pay off his debt.

In 2009, I overhear an elderly (wealthy) first-generation Chinese immigrant on the subway talk to his son in Mandarin about the illegals trapped in debt slavery by the international triads in Chinatown, and aiyaaah loudly, see, son, this is what happens when you are too lazy to fill out your papers. The two Fujianese guys (not wealthy) in restaurant smocks across the train pretend they don't understand him, and whisper sadly to each other in Cantonese.

Later that year, I bring a visiting Chinese immigrant acquaintance to Chinatown, and she harrumphs and says, "No, show me where the real Chinese people are. These are all peasants and migrant workers..."

Guys. We've got an awful lot of work to do.

in which kevin singlehandedly invades china

For those of you who didn't already know, I am going to be out of the country visiting my parents between Oct 1 and Oct 21. For most of that duration I will be in Taiwan, though for a week in the middle I will be accompanying my parents on a guided tour of China's southeastern provinces. I confess that as much as I will be happy to see my parents again, and as much as I look forward to seeing those of you who still live in that part of the world, I am not enthusiastic about returning to the land of judging stares.

Every time I board a plane to Taiwan or think about boarding a plane to Taiwan I have this deep, irrational fear that I will never come back. It's not Taiwan itself that bothers me, as my folks have long since moved out of Hsinchu and their new neighborhood is actually quite pleasant. It's the mental state of being there: that feeling of no escape, of Kafkaesque powerlessness. I know it is silly to worry (my parents are not jerks, I'm a U.S. citizen, I'm financially independent for the time being, my bank account is in my name and I have a return ticket and everything) but the experience of being whisked away at a young age has left its mark on me. You'd think I'd be over it, having flown to Taiwan dozens of times, but it never gets better. If anything, it gets worse.

不準回去. 不準! 少囉說. 沒面子, 不是華人嗎. 哈? 我們讓你呆在美國夠久了. 小孩子不懂事, 我們不照顧你,誰會照顧你? 哈? 說! 你說阿!

什麼? 啊? 聽不懂你英ㄤ英ㄤ的火星話. 拜託. 不會講國語? 不會講, 或笨得不可講? 哈? HELLO? AM I LISTEN TO YOU?

臭小子, 這麼多話說. 真丟人臉.

(Before anyone gets the idea that I'm insinuating my parents are abusive, bear in mind that, God bless them, they've never said this to me and they likely never will. Virtually every other adult I encountered in Hsinchu, on the other hand...)

大家 can go fuck themselves.

Nor, as you might presume from the pressurized jet of diarrheal bullshit that spews ever forth from this journal, am I enthusiastic about visiting China. My parents are presenting it to me as just a vacation, but I know from previous times they've talked to me about visiting China that there's an undercurrent of nationalism to it--they always bring up a potential China trip whenever I have something critical to say about the Chinese way of doing things. And, you know, they've got a point. It does feel outrageously ignorant to be talking about Chinese history, culture, and sociology when, much as I've been reading about those subjects, I've never been there myself (Hong Kong doesn't count, and despite China's protests to the contrary, Taiwan definitely doesn't either). I mean, yeah, going there once isn't going to make me an expert, but at least I'll be just a little more than the mute foreigner who lives in quiet indignity in a former province for six years and then spends the rest of his life bitching how about how everyone over there is an asshole. If I'm going to be talking shit about the standards of Chinese culture I was held to in my adolescence, I might as well learn more about where it began--just as it would do an American legal reformer well to visit a courthouse in England, or a Palestinian activist to visit Israel. I'm always talking about how I'm not proud of how racist I am against my parents' people; well, this is an opportunity for me to do something about it. And though I realize it may be impossible considering how deeply personal my prejudices run, I'm going to try my best to keep an open mind. Who knows, maybe I'll come out of it feeling more sympathetic to the Chinese way of life. At least I'll have a clearer picture of the best face of China (which, let's face it, is what any self-respecting tour group is going to focus on exclusively).

Will be back on the 22nd, give or take a day. If I'm not back by the 23rd, 反攻大陸. (殺朱拔毛 optional.)
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Report: Growing Ranks Of Nouveau Poor Facing Discrimination From Old Poor

For years, the Onion has absolutely nailed the tone, style, and mannerisms of print media. It's about time the Onion News Network lived up to that legacy for cable news as well.

Oh man. This is just like Crossfire, except without Tucker Carlson's stupid bow tie. (And, not canceled due to pwnage from Jon Stewart.)

Police Still Searching For Missing Productive, Obedient Woman

And this...omg, this is just absolutely perfect. This is exactly what watching American news on a Taiwanese news channel feels like. Some of the parts that are supposed to be parody aren't even parody.

China’s Andy Rooney Has Some Funny Opinions About How Great The Chinese Government Is

As for this...this is, unintentionally, the most accurate portrayal of CNN International I've ever seen.

Why am I still feeling residual culture shock twelve years after first arriving in Taiwan, and six years after coming back to America? Why is my sleep still haunted by nightmares about NEHS, and Hsinchu, and that feeling that escape will never come? All those wasted years should be a fading memory by now. And yet, they just won't go away.

Maybe it's because I'm going to visit my parents next month, and every time I think about flying the wrong way over the Pacific I feel this awful anxiety...

why do we still put our faith in revolution?

When it comes to populist revolutions, it seems, America is the exception and not the rule.

Five generations ago, a little Chinese-American boy returned to China from several years of schooling in America and saw an opium-addicted, economically dependent, technologically and ideologically backward mess. He thought, "This is terrible. I need to make the world a better place," and he overthrew China's last emperor and led a glorious, American-inspired democratic revolution, the Kuomintang revolution, where all men were created equal and lived in friendship and peace. That revolution ultimately collapsed into corruption, anarchy, and warlordism. Surviving family members: about 50.

Four generations ago, my great-grandfather saw the fruits of the Kuomintang revolution and thought, "This is terrible. I need to make the world a better place." So he started a school for the instruction of English, so that Chinese people could bring Western knowledge and technology back to their country and modernize it into a civilization in more than name. A mob of communist revolutionaries, high on Maoist/Leninist hysteria and dreaming of a society in which all men were created equal and lived in friendship and peace, called him a foreign Western-sympathizing hegemonist, a capitalist, and a race traitor; they destroyed his school, burned his books, beat him, stripped him naked, and paraded him around the town square wearing nothing but a sign with "CAPITALIST PIG" scrawled on it. Their revolution abandoned its ideals to greed, corruption, the promise of power, and, ironically, capitalism; they would enslave his daughter as an indentured servant, destroy the village where his family had lived for generations by putting it in the reservoir site for a dam, and hunt down and kill his (rich, noble) family to near extinction. (To this day, my mother's surname is no longer common in China, because of the systematic violence wrought upon it due to its association with power.) Surviving family members: 7.

Two generations ago, when the people of Taiwan were finally fed up with martial law under the KMT government-in-exile, there was a quiet ideological insurrection among students. "This is terrible," they thought. "We need to make the world a better place." So they decided that the way to go this time was through peaceful, nonviolent resistance. The KMT answered with typical fascist brutality, hunting down intellectuals all over the island in the dead of night, dragging them out of their homes to prison, and sometimes executing them on the spot. Rioting and massive civil unrest ensued--many people were killed, many homes and businesses were destroyed. My grandfather lost his job as police chief of a small town, my aunt was born during the riots; members of my mother's family would suffer from anxiety, PTSD, and panic attacks ever since. My uncle was disowned and one of my aunts committed suicide. The quiet revolution actually worked, and Taiwan's new government would form the first Chinese democratic state in history...but Taiwan, too, would fall prey to nepotism, corruption, and the influence of organized crime, which for decades would hinder its ability to join the modern world. Surviving family members: 3.

This isn't even the entire story. So shameful is the entire story that I'm not allowed to tell it.

This generation, I look at all the bullshit that's happening in China, and the rest of the world, and I think, "This is bullshit. I need to make the world a better place." But I look around, and it's just me, my mom, my aunt, and my cousin. We are all that's left of my mother's family--a twig in a once massive family tree. Everyone else is dead. With at least six suicide attempts between us four, it's a miracle we aren't already extinct.

Everyone in my mom's family, save us four, was killed by or had their lives ruined by a revolution, a counter-revolution, or by a revolutionary state turning against its ideals. Only one of those revolutions achieved what it was trying to achieve. The rest left China in either brutal totalitarianism or complete anarchy, both at the cost of atrocious, horrifying bloodshed. None of us live in the country where our ancestors were murdered for the greater good. And not by governments, but by ordinary people like you and me--their friends, neighbors, and colleagues. "Patriots," if you will. "Heroes." The kind that folk build statues of, and name streets after.

The tree of liberty must, from time to time, be watered with the blood of patriots. But what happens when we run out of patriots?

All this blood spilt for nothing.

Viva la Revolución!

It's validating, in a masochistic way. When I see followers of Mao, Che, all these other great dreamers, preaching a vision of unity and equality they can't even imagine, I have the right to spit in their faces and say, "My mother's family was decimated by your ideology, Stalin. And you will achieve the opposite of what you want." When I see the McCarthyists, the ones whose hair stands up at the mention of Mao, Che, all these other threats to freedom and democracy, spout bullshit they don't genuinely believe about how the socialists are taking over, I have the right to spit in their faces and say, "My mother's family was decimated by your ideology, Chiang Kai-shek. And you, also, will achieve the opposite of what you want."

Cold War my ass.

Why do we glorify revolution? As necessary as it sometimes is? Is it because we see the dreams, and not the fulfillment? Is it because, deep down inside, we don't really believe we'll get what we're fighting for--and so we never ask what would happen if we actually got it? What utopia is not a nightmare? No matter how peaceful, how noble, how high-minded--what crusade in the name of freedom doesn't result in atrocity, totalitarianism, and a new pair of shackles? Is it because when we say, "Nothing could be worse than this," some disgusting, inhuman part of us takes that as a challenge?

Ideologies change with hearts and minds, not with governments. When has violence ever begotten anything but violence?

It is beautiful to imagine a brick hurled through the windshield of the oppressor, until one day you wake up and you're the oppressor, and the brick is coming through your windshield. And then you realize that the people you've been lynching, raping, murdering, torturing, bombing all along were never the people who oppressed you to begin with. So go ahead, wave those signs, see how far you can push the limits on your First Amendment rights. Just don't be surprised when you finally succeed, and someone points a gun at your temple in the name of your own ideals.

Idealism? There is no idealism. There is only the egregious, pointless massacre of innocents by the powerful and the powerless.