Feed on Posts or Comments 03 June 2023

Books newlight on 03 Nov 2011

Book review: Henry Kissinger’s On China

My review of Henry Kissinger’s On China for China Today. This was written in Chinese and later translated into English.

2011-06-05. Henry Kissinger On China

On China

Author: Henry Kissinger

608 pages, hardcover


Published by Allen Lane in the UK on 17 May 2011

HENRY Kissinger’s latest book, On China, an ambitious combination of his memoirs as a professional diplomat and his understanding of Chinese politics, culture and history, attempts to fit Chinese leaders’ strategic intentions and diplomatic approaches into a historical and cultural framework. Opening with a look into the deep past, the book discusses the important influence of Confucianism on Chinese politics, then sweeps through the rise and decline of dynasties, the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, moving on to the Korean War, Taiwan Strait crisis, the China-Indian border war, and the geopolitical challenges China faced after China-Soviet relations deteriorated. It is here, in the ninth chapter, that Henry Kissinger appears on the scene.

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Books newlight on 10 Sep 2011

Book review: When a Billion Chinese Jump

My review of Jonathan Watts’s book When a Billion Chinese Jump for China Today. This was written in Chinese and later translated into English.

2010-09-11. When A Billion Chinese Jump

When A Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind – Or Destroy It

Author: Jonathan Watts

496 pages, paperback


Published by Faber and Faber

THE book’s title comes from a childhood experience of its author in the 1970s. On learning the concept of one billion, he was introduced to the nation with a population of that size, and warned: “If everyone in China jumps at exactly the same time, it will shake the earth off its axis and kill us all.” After that whenever he prayed for family and friends at night, he would usually sign off with the plea: “Please make sure everyone in China doesn’t jump at the same time.” Thirty years on, the boy who used to worry about the fate of mankind was a journalist on a respected British newspaper and did come to China.

Jonathan Watts was a reporter for the London-based Guardian, and that newspaper’s correspondent in Japan before being sent to China in 2003. The rocket-fueled economy and dramatic transformation in the social environment attracted him to the country – this was where it was all happening. Living in China reminded him of his childhood fear that a billion Chinese are jumping at the same time, but instead of jumping the fear is now of them embracing Western consumerism. A billion Chinese jumping simultaneously might produce a small earthquake, but if they all followed an American lifestyle, the resources consumed and the ensuing environmental damage would lead catastrophic destruction.

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Society newlight on 14 Aug 2011

Rioting without a cause

Like in many other countries, people in China are fascinated and confused by the sudden riots on the street of London. My comments on the breakout of the violence have been translated into English by Global Voice (although they got my name wrong).

What directly led to these riots was that London police shot and killed the young black man, Mark Duggan. On Saturday, the parents of the deceased held a peaceful protest outside the doors of the Tottenham Hale police station, which by evening turned into incidents of smashing and looting. At the same time, police only formed a human blockade on the street to stop people from getting through, incapable of stopping the criminal activity taking place dozens of meters away. A shot of this played on television the entire night, inevitably encouraging others to join in the following day.
Police were not active in stopping the criminal activity; on one hand, police forces were weak, and on the other, indecisive. London’s police force currently has no-one leading it. Both the chief of police and the deputy chief for anti-terrorism resigned recently in the cellphone voicemail eavesdropping scandal, and the rest of the leadership are on summer vacation. At the same time, London’s mayor, the minister for home affairs, the deputy prime minister and the prime minister himself were also all overseas on summer holiday. There was no preparedness for a sudden incident such as this, and once it did break out, nobody unfortunately moved to deal with it quickly, instead people just hoped that the rioters would disperse by themselves.
The opposite happened, and riots began to spread by the second day. Police were caught off guard and fumbled around, leaving them even more incapable of dealing with the rioters, contributing to even more people taking part in the looting, and then the situation fell apart.
Given the nature of England’s political climate, riots such as this ought to be the strong suit of a conservative government, but the riots instead caught the current coalition government by surprise, and Cameron was a day late in returning to the country, something which has greatly affected his reputation. If he can’t put the riots down and quickly, I’m afraid Cameron won’t remain prime minister for much longer.

Media &Society newlight on 01 Aug 2011

The empire strikes back

Last week I wrote here that China’s twitter equivalent, Weiboc.om, won a small victory over the censors in reporting the high speed train crash at Wenzhou, Zhejiang. Many factors such as the location and time of the crash contributed to the fast-moving reporting from eyewitnesses and the slow response of the censors. In the process Weibo.com became the media of choice for eyewitnesses as well as journalists. One statistics says in the six and half hours after the train crash, over one million mini-posts related to the accident had been posted to Weibo.com. That’s over forty mini-posts every second.

The attention was quickly moved on to the rescue mission. The crash site is in a reasonably populated area, only about 4 kilometres outside the Wenzhou South train station. Besides rescue workers, local residents (many joined the initial rescue) and journalists reached the site fairly quickly. The fiasco of the rescue operation was on full view, live to many eyewitnesses and many many more Weibo users sitting in front of the screen waiting for latest update.

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Society newlight on 25 Jul 2011

A small victory for weibo

I learned in Saturday afternoon the news of a train crash in China’s Zhejiang province from weibo.com, China’s equivalent of Twitter. There are quite a few twitter copycats in China but Sina’s Weibo, literally means ‘min-blogging’ is the most influential one. It’s since became the primary source for me to follow the development.

Suddenly the crash became the most discussed subject, and weibo.com added a special section for the discussion of this accident. It does not escape censorship though. Many tweets have since been deleted ‘by the original poster’, so the site claims. But it helps that this happened in a Saturday evening when perhaps the censor’s response wasn’t fast enough. According to China Digital Times, a directive was indeed sent to various news organisations later, stopping them from reporting anything out of the official line. But it was too late to stop this accident became the hottest discussion on weibo.com.

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Fun newlight on 20 Apr 2010

General election in one tweet

Ok I admit it’s over simplified and not fair. But since all parties have seemingly embraced social media, I guess it’s not too unfair to squeeze put them in on tweet.

UKIP: I hate Europe!
BNP: I hate foreigners!
SNP: It’s English’s fault!
Cameron: No more Brown!
Clegg: Look at me!
Brown: I agree with Nick

Chinese Culture newlight on 04 Feb 2010

Year of Tiger begins

Today is the beginning of the Year of Tiger. Hold on, I hear you say, isn’t the 14 Feb this year’s the Chinese New Year Day?

Well, you are right. Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar, which means the date of new year’s day in relation to western calendar always changes. And this year it falls on Valentine’s Day, when the Chinese 庚寅 (geng1 yin2) year starts.

However, a common mistake is to think the Year of Tiger starts on the Chinese New Year Day. Indeed, a press release from the Great London Authority confidently states, “The Year of the Tiger begins on 14 February”.

It’s easy to think Chinese only use lunar calendar. Actually, the Chinese zodiac, the 12 animals that represent each year in cycle, is associated with the Chinese agricultural calendar, which is a solar calendar. A year begins at the day of Spring Commences (立春), the first of the 24 solar segments of a Chinese solar calendar year. Since the Gregorian calendar is also a solar calendar. The date of Spring Commences doesn’t change a lot each year, always being 3 Feb or 4 Feb, unlike the Chinese New Year’s Day which changes widely, for example from last year’s 26 Jan to this year’s 14 Feb.

There is an online calendar that will show you the Chinese calendar along side the Gregorian calendar, plus common eastern and western holidays.

Media newlight on 02 Feb 2010

Mary-Jess Leaverland interview on BBC Chinese

If you want more Mary-Jess Leaverland vidoes, now you can watch her interview with BBC Chinese. It started in Mandarin but most part of interview were conducted in English. And she sang, in Mandarin.

Media newlight on 19 Jan 2010

Mary-Jess Leaverland videos

OK, for those of you wondering what’s the fuss about, here are the vidoes of Mary-Jess Leaverland, who is on the front page of today’s Guardian. Her victory in a “Chinese X Factor” competition is reported by several papers (Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Sun).

The TV singing competition is called Min Ge Chang Fan Tian (民歌唱翻天, literally means “stars from ordinary people singing over the heaven”), organised by a TV channel in Jiangsu Province.

The vidoes show the final round. At the begining the first video, three competitors were presented, then the second runner-up was out, followed by the duel between the last two who each sang the final song, before the phone-in results were announced (in the second video). Mary-Jess Leaverland was called by her Chinese name Li Meijie (李美洁) throughout.

This video shows the round before that, begining with the “grand entry” of the last three competitors. Mary-Jess Leaverland spoke Mandarin in her intro video (at 6’30”), but it looks when it came to singing, she still preferred English songs.

Media newlight on 13 Jan 2010

Will google.cn die?

On Twitter many people dismissed Global Times’s survey that 70% of its visitors support Chinese government against Google, who had just abandoned the self-imposed censorship on Google.cn and threated to close its business in China altogether.

The sad truth is that those who have made the effort of climbing over the GFW in order to access Twitter and like are belong to the 30%. In the same survey, over half the participants said their online activity won’t be affected by Google’s leave. This figure looks to increase if nothing happens.

Shanghaiist’s has a good summary of the Google v. China standoff. On the Guardian website, Tania Branigan has canvassed the opinions of some bloggers and media insiders. Whether Google decided to end its self-censorship purely out of moral reasons I’m not sure. I agree with some of Evgeny Morozov’s analysis. I guess it’s more likely they are fed up with the restraint and criticism while not seeing much gains in Chinese market.

Anyway, what Google has done is to blow it into the open, burn the bridge, making the stakes incredibly high. Now Google.cn is not censored, will the servers be forced to shut down, or moved out of China? And then what? Will Chinese government have to block Google.com as well?

Among the multinationals in China, Google is the one who has the power, influence and resources to make a clear stand on censorship. And now it has the will too. For that it should be praised.

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