Feed on Posts or Comments 05 July 2022

Media newlight on 26 Mar 2008

Tibet and beyond

Among many commentaries about what happened in Tibet and what would happen at Beijing Olympics, some groups advocate either boycotting Beijing Olympics altogether or at least the opening ceremony, or encouraging athletics openly demonstrate during the Games, wearing a Free Tibet t-shirt while competing for example. To see what kind of reaction their proposed action may get, one can do worse than checking the response from the eighty thousand or so Chinese students in the UK. Although most of them won’t hesitate to criticise Chinese government’s handling of events, such as a blind ban of the foreign media, many believe the western media are equally biased and untrustworthy. On the overseas Chinese discussion boards, there have been heated debate, mainly among overseas Chinese students themselves, about whether Tibetan are treated well enough, and how strained the relationship between Tibetan and Han-Chinese is, however most of the participants see Tibet as an integral part of China, many also accuse western media as being one-sided or even fabricating in reporting the violence in Tibet. A seven minute video posted onto YouTube (has been viewed near two million times) reflects the feeling shared by many Chinese students.

A new website, anti-cnn.com, has been set up to expose the western media outlets like CNN, German N-TV, as well as BBC and The Times of “manipulation of evidence” and “biased reporting”. It looks many quite a few western news organisations, in the immediate aftermath of Lhasa riot, used the pictures of Indian and Nepalese police taking away demonstrators in their reports as the evidence of “Chinese army used brutal force to crack down protest”. One screenshot of BBC News website shows a picture of Chinese soldiers wearing medic arm band standing behind an ambulance with the caption of “a heavy military presence in Lhasa”. A YouTube video then shows a slideshow compilation of the materials.

In the UK, an open letter to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been circulated among Chinese students in which the author points out the biased reporting by western media and asks Gordon Brown “not to meet Dalai Lama” when he comes to the UK in May. After the disruption of Olympic flame-lighting ceremony and torch relay in Greece, there are also calls on the message boards to “support the Olympic torch” when it tours through the UK.

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Books newlight on 31 Jul 2007

China Road: A Journey into the Future of the Rising Power

Rob Gifford’s China RoadIt is a bit strange to find Rob Gifford’s China Road in the travel section of my local bookshop. Route 312, where the author traveled from end to end, is not exact your typical tourist route. Nor is it associated with some significant historical events, for example, the Long March – which has become popular lately. However, Route 312 does connect Shanghai, the most cosmopolitan city of China, to Urumqi, the provincial capital of the most remote part of Northwest China, two very different social and natural landscapes indeed.

Rob Gifford is not a normal tourist or explorer either. He’s been living in China for many years as a journalist working for BBC and American public service radio network NPR. This trip, which he did just before leaving China for a new job in London, not only reveals a society of huge diversity which is undergoing rapid social and economic changes, but also summaries the author’s understanding of Chinese people, culture and history. The contrasts in terms of cultural and economic development neatly reflect on the way Gifford travels, by train, car, taxi, imported 4×4 and overloaded truck. In one instance, the car he traveled on was caught by police for speeding, resulted in a strange encounter with the law enforcement and hot discussion of English Premier League.

You would be disappointed if you are looking for tourist attraction in the book. What the author attempts to do, however, is to inject his insight of Chinese society into the travel story, which really distinguishes this book from other similar travel logs. The subtitle gives it away: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power. It’s combination of travel writing and commentary of culture and history. The down side of this approach is that the author could not write about one issue for too long, because the journey has to move on. Unlike another recently published book about present time China, Duncan Hewitt’s Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China, the social observation in China Road does look scattered sometimes.

This is a funny and insightful book. An enjoyable read.

Rob Gifford’s China Road

Books &Chinese Culture newlight on 08 Jun 2007

Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China

Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing ChinaIn the introduction of his new book Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China (Chatto and Windus), Duncan Hewitt wrote that when he sat at the cafe of Shanghai IKEA, he can see cars and trucks were rushing around outside the window in the three level elevated roads which also tangled with a light weight train rail. When I was reading this, I was sitting beside a window in a quiet corner of one of the large Waterstone’s in Edinburgh. Outside the window is the cobbled back street, where a pigeon was fighting hopelessly against a seagull for some leftover chips. Incidently, Edinburgh is where Hewitt’s journey started, as one of the students learning Chinese in Edinburgh University who were about setting foot in China in late 80s.

An often heard complaint among the youngests who came to the UK from China is that this place is just a bit dull. People can cite me many things they used to do in China, eating out at a newly opened restaurant, karaoke at a new KTV, or exchanging some latest American tv series are just the common ones. There seems to be endless supplies of new ways of consuming and entertaining. Things are moving rather fast there.

This fits well what Hewitt said, that it almost like the 60 years of post war development in the West has been compressed into 20 years in China. BBC’s Andrew Marr, in his History of Modern Britain, describes the make over of Birmingham in the 60s – the old Birmingham almost completely disappeared while people can’t wait to see a New Britain. Imagine that in a much bigger scale, repeated every five years. That’s what’s happening in China.

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