Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Dash of News for Today

I am not an expert on the South China Sea territorial disputes, but I feel safe saying this is big:
An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, from the construction of artificial islands to interference with fishing, and ruled that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.

The tribunal also said that Beijing had violated international law by “causing severe harm to the coral reef environment” and by failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered sea turtles and other species “on a substantial scale.”
The website for the Permanent Court of Arbitration is down at the moment. Andrew S. Erikson has helpfully posted links to download the full award and the more compact 11-page press release.

There are now many questions about what happens next. Given some of the rhetoric currently coming out of China, I wonder if I will soon be sharing more experiences like the one four years ago of a Japanese mother living in Shanghai during a time when another territorial dispute stirred up China.

I am going to digest this all more before possibly saying anything further. For now, here are some relevant tweets (possibly not fully viewable in an RSS reader and better to view on the blog) made after the announcement:

Friday, April 29, 2016

Assorted Links: People's Daily's YouTube Rant, Taiwan's Principles, Delhi's Pollution, and Composer Chou Wen-chung

Some links for today:

1. China's People's Daily is upset about its YouTube account. No, People's Daily isn't advocating for YouTube to be unblocked in China. It is mad because thousands of its YouTube subscribers suddenly disappeared, and it is letting people know about it:
On Wednesday, Ren Jianmin, managing director of People’s Daily Online USA, penned an English-language online column about the paper’s YouTube channel losing thousands of subscribers in two days. Mr. Ren, who also oversees the newspaper’s social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and other foreign sites, concluded that “YouTube did not show a bit of respect to our 3,552 subscribers by removing them from our channel without any reasons.” . . . .

Naturally, the People’s Daily took to another blocked social media network, Twitter, to voice its indignation.
As explained, one possible innocuous explanation for the disappearance is that they were simply accounts for artificial users. There was no word on Ren's thoughts about this. The article ends with a question one can only hope Ren will also address.

2. I am in Taiwan at the moment. And Taiwan's status is an especially fascinating topic. So here is some recent news:
Taiwan President-elect Tsai Ing-wen said she will maintain the status quo in the island's relationship with China, but that her policy will be based on democratic principles and transcend party politics, a nuance likely to be lost on Communist Party leaders in Beijing.

3. An article titled "What It’s Like to Live in the World’s Most Polluted Place" isn't about any city in China. Instead, it is about Delhi, the capital of India. But the two sets of photos featured reminded me of similarly polluted scenes I have seen in China. The caption for the tenth photo in the first set especially caught my attention:
A dairy farm sits between a massive construction project and a garbage dump. Livestock are regularly in contact with waste, increasing the risk of contaminated dairy products
I thought back to some questions I recently had after seeing fresh goat milk sold and a goat eating outside in Jieyang, Guangdong.

4. Finally, a story about a composer whose teachers included Edgard Varèse and Bohuslav Martinu shares how 91-year-old Chou Wen-chung doesn't identify himself as a "Chinese composer" even though he grew up in China. Yet he doesn't deny his experiences there have had an influence:
But the sternest teacher of all was war, which swept over Mr. Chou’s native China in 1937, and which, over the next eight years, forced him to flee from one town to the next and often brought him face to face with death. In Shanghai, he practiced Bach and Mozart on the violin to the sound of artillery fire. Later, he trained his hearing as a university student in Guilin, where he learned to identify the flight path of Japanese warplanes by their sound. During a recent interview in his West Village townhouse, Mr. Chou recounted many harrowing war stories.

“This is the kind of thing we don’t want to experience,” he said after describing a traumatic escape from Guilin in 1944, moments before Japanese forces entered the city. “But if you do experience it, use that. We have to learn from life.”

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Small Survey in Jieyang, China, on the U.S. Presidential Candidates

This morning I felt inspired (not sure that's the right word) to watch the Fox News GOP Debate. I tuned in after the "hands moment" but was able to watch most of the debate on the live stream both with and without using a VPN (useful for jumping China's Great Firewall to reach blocked sites). The only exception was towards the end when I could only watch it without the VPN, I suspect due to increased local internet traffic.

This afternoon I looked for a place in Jieyang, Guangdong, to do a small survey, and Monkey Noodles seemed like a good choice. There I presented three people in their 20s photos of the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates still participating in the televised debates. In short, nobody recognized Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, or Bernie Sanders. Two people recognized Hillary Clinton and one of them recognized Donald Trump as well. I didn't hope to draw broader conclusions from this small sample, but the results mapped reasonably well with what I would expect for a larger similar sample.

The person who recognized two candidates described Trump as a man who became rich through real estate. His first comment about Clinton was he thought she was very pretty. When I asked which would make a better president for the U.S., he immediately said Clinton. He felt she had stronger management skills. He described Trump as extremely egotistical and having strange ideas.

I didn't ask about hands.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ten Assorted Taiwan 2016 Election Tweets

I will keep things simple on an historic night in Taiwan and just share some recent tweets (photos in tweets may not appear if viewed through an RSS reader):

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hong Kong Media Not Steering Clear of Politics

Despite an increasing number of similarities, Hongkonger's ability to freely express themselves at yesterday's rally speaks to how Hong Kong remains different from cities in mainland China. Two stories on the front page of today's South China Morning Post speak to the same issue.

Front page of South China Morning Post with headlines "Steer clear of politics, Shanghai media told" and "Thousands Rally For Missing Booksellers"
"Why can't the police solve this problem? Because it is a political issue."

A Quick Comment About Today's Rally for the Missing Booksellers in Hong Kong

man bounded with a noose in front of him and the word "kidnapped" in Chinese

I have much to say and share about today's rally / protest in Hong Kong regarding the missing booksellers. Unfortunately, I expect to loose internet access any minute (unexciting maintenance issues) and may not have it again until morning. And tomorrow I expect to be heading elsewhere, so I'm not sure when I will be able to post next. For one look at today's events, check out a piece by the Hong Kong Free Press here.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

"Hong Kong is Dying": People Power's Demonstration for the Missing Booksellers

When I stopped by Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong this afternoon, not much had changed since yesterday's visit to the currently closed store yesterday. The sign at the building's entrance warning of mainland Chinese police was gone. Most of the same notes for Lee Bo and the other still-missing booksellers were on the store's still-locked door. I did not see the man who reminded me of Zhou Yongkang. Instead there was a different person nearby. I wasn't surprised when he took a few photos of me while I stood in front of the door. After I asked, he confirmed he was a press photographer. He soon joined several other photographers waiting outside who appeared bored.

When I returned to the area in the evening on my way to the nearby MTR station I saw a demonstration was about to start, so stayed around. It was led by People Power, a familiar political group in Hong Kong I have seen before, including at a Hong Kong fair half a year before the beginning of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. Photos of today's demonstration appear below along with a video of one of the demonstrators who spoke in both English and Cantonese.

The video would be more effective in some ways if shorter, but I have left it unedited to offer a look closer to what one would have experienced there. The speaker passionately expresses his concerns. Some people stop to listen. Many others in the busy commercial area simply walk by. Demonstrators hold signs and pass out informational flyers. There are even jokes.

I'm still digesting the events, so for the moment just a few informal points. The speaker in the video expressed a clear desire to reach out not only to Hongkongers but the rest of the world as well. This desire could also be seen in how another demonstrator made a point of speaking with foreigners, including me. I roughly estimate there was somewhere between 50-100 people watching at any moment while I was there. Uniformed Hong Kong police were present in an nonintrusive manner at the beginning but soon became less visible, if they were around at all.

Notable English comments made by the speaker in the video include (some paraphrased):
  • Lee Bo felt that if he stayed in Hong Kong and did not go to mainland China he would be safe. Lee Bo was wrong.
  • How can this happen in Hong Kong? It is very dangerous in Hong Kong nowadays.
  • They are trying to kill Hong Kong. Hong Kong is dying.
  • Why can't the police solve this problem? Because it is a political issue.
Finally, People Power is just one of many voices in Hong Kong. Others will make themselves heard as well. They can still do that in Hong Kong.

People Power demonstration in front of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong

Sign with photos of the five people missing from Causeway Bay Books

Signs at the People Power demonstration in front of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong

"Missing Impossible" sign at People Power demonstration in front of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong

Imitation of a street sign reading "Bookstore Five people WHERE they"

"Missing Impossible" sign hanging form the Causeway Bay Books sign

People Power demonstrator speaking to foreigners

People Power demonstrators holding signs

Speaker next to a woman holding a sign reading "Sometimes it's a short step from banning to burning" at the People Power demonstration in front of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Few Perspectives on the Chinese Government's Strength

In the essay "China After the Reform Era", Carl F. Minzner argues China has taken significant steps back from many of the reforms it made during the post-Mao era. Some examples he mentions include:
The crackdown on public-interest lawyers has tightened. Social-media sites have been subjected to tighter controls. Even those used to a degree of immunity have found themselves targeted. Foreign businesses have been alarmed by stepped-up corruption probes into pharmaceutical companies, dawn raids by antimonopoly regulators on firms ranging from Microsoft to Mercedes-Benz, and proposed antiterror rules that would require foreign software companies to hand over their encryption keys. New civil society laws have tightened restrictions on foreign NGOs. As of early 2015, central CCP organs had begun to speak of the need to “rectify” higher education, purge “Western values” from textbooks, and redirect art and architecture back toward traditional Chinese forms.
In "Is Xi Jinping Losing Control of China?" J. Michael Cole argues that recent changes indicate a decline in power:
All of this—the new stricter laws, the crackdown on non-governmental organizations, lawyers, bloggers, web sites, and journalists—is indicative of a government that does not have the situation under control, a situation that is unlikely to be helped by the recent stock market crash. Rarely is authoritarianism a signal of strength; instead, it stems from fear, paranoia, and panic . . .
But not everyone is convinced these are all signs the Chinese government is losing control. In the ChinaFile conversation "China’s ‘Rule by Law’ Takes an Ugly Turn" Keith Hand suggests quite the opposite:
I think we need to consider a different possibility. Together with China’s assertive posture in territorial disputes, the adoption of a broad national security law, and proposed legislation that would place strict new limits on the Internet and activities by foreign non-profits, the mass detention of rights lawyers suggests to me that China’s leaders are so confident in their strength that they no longer need to maintain the pretense of limited engagement and tolerance.
For now, I simply recommend the above three pieces. They offer plenty of food for thought.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Was Hong Kong Lawmakers Missing an Important Vote Really an Accident?

Hong Kong's Legislative Council has spoken and did not pass a Beijing-backed government reform package which would have given Hongkongers the ability to choose their leader from a set of Beijing-approved candidates. The Chinese government has already indicated it will simply disregard the results and expects its plan to be implemented nonetheless. In other words, it appears China will force Hong Kong to have a "democratic" vote that Hong Kong's legislative council has now voted against due to the successful efforts of the pro-democracy camp. Yes, these are special times.

Making the times extra special was a walkout which lead to a number of lawmakers who were expected to support the reform package missing the historic vote, which did not effect the outcome except for causing the numbers for the defeat to appear all the worse. The Hong Kong based South China Morning Post described it as a "botched" effort resulting from a "miscommunication". The Wall Street Journal reported a similar story while providing other details. The New York Times called it an "embarrassing political misstep". None of these accounts question whether the lawmakers truly intended to vote. The same holds true for much of the other reporting and commentary I have seen, including on Twitter.

However, it is easy to think of plausible reasons why these lawmakers may not have wanted to vote for the bill but also not have wanted to displease the Chinese government with an explicit "no" vote or abstention. Perhaps the event was staged so the lawmakers had an excuse to miss the vote, and everything went as planned. On this note, James Pomfret and Clare Baldwin reported some intriguing details for Reuters:
Political analyst Johnny Lau, who has close ties with several pro-Beijing politicians, said a few had expressed privately to him they were considering abstaining to bolster their prospects in the next city-wide legislative polls.

"Some of them told me that they planned this before. They were thinking about the legislative elections next year," Lau said in a telephone interview. "If they voted for the plan, then the democrats could use this as a reason to attack them, so they didn't want to leave a record."
So at the very least, at this point I don't think it can be said with great confidence that the missed voted was indeed an accident. Instead, it is possible the lawmakers felt it was the best move they could make, even if they felt no truly attractive options existed.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

More Yellow in Hong Kong

Umbrella Movement supporter holding a banner and yellow umbrella while posing for a photograph outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council Complex
Umbrella Movement supporter posing for a photograph outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council Complex

Today in Hong Kong I spent some time observing the relatively small but lively demonstrations either supporting or protesting a Beijing-backed bill that would allow Hongkongers to vote for their city's leader with the catch that candidates would need to be approved by the Chinese government. The Legislative Council began debate on the bill today, and it appears headed for defeat.

I will have more related photos to share later. And at some point I hope to also say something deeper about today's and previous protests in Hong Kong.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Temporary Tiananmen Memorial in Hong Kong

Hong Kong's Kowloon Public Pier offers a stunning view of Hong Kong Island and is a popular destination for tourists, including many from mainland China. When I walked by this past Sunday afternoon on a traditional Chinese holiday, Qingming (Ching Ming) Festival, otherwise known in English as Tomb-Sweeping Day, I saw displays about the violent crackdown which occurred around Beijing's Tiananmen Square nearly 26 years ago. There was also a monument for those who died and posters advertising the yearly June 4 Tiananmen candlelight vigil held in Hong Kong. It was organized by The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. Their website at does not appear to be accessible at the moment, but a Wikipedia entry describes their goals as:
. . . supporting patriotic democratic movements in China, putting an end to the current one-party dictatorship established by the Communist Party of China, and building a democratic China. It has become the largest grassroots pro-democracy advocacy group in Hong Kong, comprising over 200 base-level members from labour, councillor offices, religious, students, women and political commentary interest groups.
While I was at the pier, the displays caught the eyes of numerous passersby, some possibly from mainland China where such information is heavily censored. Here is a bit of what could be seen:

Booth for Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China at Kowloon Public Pier

sign:" Offer a flower to those who died for democracy in China, especially the Tiananmen Martyrs of June 4th 1989 on Ching Ming Festival today when the Chinese people commemorate their deceased dear ones.'

statues and memorial by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China

man and boy reading stories of people who died near Tiananmen Square

men reading information posted by Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China

people reading information about Tiananmen Square

a sign with an image of Tank Man

sign:"Remember June 4 and Spread the Truth, the Tide of Democracy Cannot be Stopped!

young woman reading formation about Tiananmen Square

Young man photographic information post by Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China with his mobile phone

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Yellow Christmas in Hong Kong

When I spent some time in Hong Kong near the end of December, I saw many signs of the Christmas holiday throughout the city.

large Christmas themed band display
East Point City shopping mall in Hang Hau

young women wearing Santa outfits handing out promotional material
Promotion in Tsim Sha Tsui

large angel playing a large French Horn next to a Christmas tree
Cityplaza shopping mall in Taikoo Shing

Like the signs of Christmas I had seen in Fujian province, most were indicative of how the holiday has been embraced by many Chinese in a non-religious fashion.

A few other signs of the holiday in Hong Kong included an unusual theme though. Instead of the usual red and white Christmas colors, they often incorporated yellow, a color commonly used by those seeking fuller democratic rights in Hong Kong and who associate themselves with the Umbrella Movement or Umbrella Revolution. Although some uses of yellow may not have implied a political message, such as in the first photo above, some clearly did.

For example, on a shopping street in Mong Kok I was given a postcard expressing holiday cheer and the desire for "true universal suffrage".

Christmas postcard with message 'We Want True Universal Suffrage #Umbrella Revolution"

Elsewhere, #UmbrellaRevolution stickers with the message "We are everywhere" were handed out.

#UmbrellaRevolution stickers saying 'Merry Christmas' and 'We Are Everywhere'

And on Christmas Eve, some supporters of the Umbrella Movement were able to take advantage of Hong Kong closing several streets in Tsim Sha Tsui for the holiday, and they brought out the yellow.

young women wearing yellowish Santa hats and carrying Umbrella Movement materials

group dressed in Christmas spirit carrying various Umbrella Movement items

two young men wearing Santa outfits standing under a yellow umbrella

So while Hong Kong's streets are no longer shut down by protests and the commercial side of the holidays predominated, Christmas still offered an opportunity for people to openly express that they have not given up the quest for universal suffrage—a special type of Hong Kong holiday spirit.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The New York Times Responds to Xi Jinping With a Less-Than-Full Account of Its Own Actions

In the past, The New York Times has allowed government requests to impact what and when they publish. For example:
In an unusual note, [The New York Times] said in its story that it held off publishing the 3,600-word article for a year after the newspaper's representatives met with White House officials. It said the White House had asked the paper not to publish the story at all, "arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny."

The Times said it agreed to remove information that administration officials said could be "useful" to terrorists and delayed publication for a year "to conduct additional reporting."
And the Times has itself acknowledged that it "has come under fire in the past for agreeing to government requests to hold back sensitive stories or information".

Yet in a recent response to President Xi Jinping's comments regarding some foreign journalists' inability to obtain visas, the Times' editorial board wrote:
The Times has no intention of altering its coverage to meet the demands of any government — be it that of China, the United States or any other nation. Nor would any credible news organization.
Technically speaking, the White House's requests may not count as "demands", and the Times carefully writes "has no intention". At the very least though, as Bill Bishop wrote, their claim is "a bit disingenuous".

The Times has indeed altered its coverage in the name of U.S. national security — something surely not lost on the Chinese government. Both the U.S. government and the Chinese government desire to limit the spread of information that could negatively impact national security. Yet they differ significantly in how they try to achieve this goal and how they define "national security" — no small matter in the Times' predicament in China.

In painting a misleading picture of its own willingness to alter coverage, the Times does not provide "the fullest, most truthful discussion of events and people shaping the world" but does provide an easy excuse to dismiss their argument or question their intentions. And in doing so, the Times misses an opportunity to make more nuanced points useful for discussing how foreign journalists operating with greater freedom could be to China's genuine benefit, including its national security.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Taiwanese Politician Wants People to "Lean on Me"

While no other political signs in Taiwan have caught my attention as much as Lin Jinjie's (林金結) Barack Obama signs, one set comes in a clear second for their use of a familiar-to-many phrase.

Like Lin Jinjie (林金結), Ye Linchuan (葉林傳) is a member of Taiwan's Kuomintang party and he has his own page on Facebook. Unlike Lin, Ye is a council member in Taipei City and his signs do not include Barack Obama. Instead, at least some include the title of a song from the 70s by American singer-songwriter Bill Withers. Lest there be any doubt about the source of the phrase, the lyrics to the song "Lean On Me" appear in light lettering on the sign as well.

Lean on Me campaign sign for Ye Linchuan (葉林傳) in Taipei City

Lean on Me campaign sign for Ye Linchuan (葉林傳) in Taipei City at night

Not only did I see Ye employing this theme on several signs in Taipei, but I also saw it on the tissue boxes at a restaurant where I sometimes eat Taiwanese-style cold sesame noodles for breakfast.

Lean on Me tissue box for Ye Linchuan (葉林傳) next to a plate of sesame sauce noodles

As I am not familiar enough with Ye or local Taipei politics, I will refrain from commenting on the effectiveness of Ye's campaign tactics.

I will say, though, that the noodles were tasty.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Taiwanese Politician and Barack Obama Want Change

In the Tucheng District of New Taipei City I recently saw a small part of Taiwan's democracy in action. At one location people busily worked for an election campaign.

people working for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) city council campaign

Lin Jinjie (林金結), a member of Taiwan's Kuomintang party, is running for the position of councilor in the New Taipei City Council.

As I walked around Tucheng, I saw some of Lin's campaign signs. Most seemed run-of-the-mill.

sign for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) election campaign

sign for Lin Jinjie's (林金結) election campaign

One sign campaign sign stood out though.

Lin Jinjie (林金結) campaign "We Want Change" sign with Barack Obama

Yes, that is Lin with U.S. President Barack Obama. And the sign makes it clear both of them are full of hope for change.

During earlier primary elections some questioned Lin's use of Barack Obama's image and suggested it improperly implied Obama supported Lin or may raise copyright issues (see articles in Chinese here and here). Others commented on the prominent use of English on the sign. Despite the criticism, at least the above sign remains and an image of the sign posted on what appears to be Lin's Facebook page remains as well. Whatever its merits, that a Taiwanese political campaign believes it could be helpful to reference Obama says something about Taiwan and speaks to America's potential soft power as well.

On a related note, I have seen Barack Obama's image used for commercial purposes in mainland China. But due to differences in political systems and cultures, I doubt I will be seeing any similar Obama-themed political-campaign signs there anytime soon.

Monday, September 1, 2014

"Let's Talk" and "Avatars of Nonviolence" in Hong Kong

While in Hong Kong earlier this year during January, I saw the following signs posted publicly in several locations by Hong Kong's government:

signs in Hong Kong saying "Let's talk and achieve universal suffrage" and "Please participate and express your views"

One sign said the closing date to "express your views" about "methods for selecting the chief executive in 2017" was May 3rd. After yesterday's announcement that Beijing will "filter" the possible candidates for the position of Hong Kong's top leader, some Hong Kong citizens still want to "talk and achieve universal suffrage", but they are "facing tough choices":
In the near future, the protests will achieve nothing, said Brian Fong Chi-hang, a political science scholar at the Hong Kong Institute of Education and a supporter of the democracy movement.

“The most important challenge is that even if they succeed in mobilizing a large-scale Occupy Central movement in a peaceful and orderly manner, they will finally get nothing,” he said. “We cannot change anything.”

But leaders of the movement expect to wage a protracted struggle nonetheless.

“This is a long, long cause,” said Chan Kin-man, an associate professor of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and co-founder of the movement, known in full as Occupy Central With Love and Peace. “Civil disobedience is the starting point. Look at what happened in Martin Luther King’s case.”
The mention of Martin Luther King Jr. is a sign of how some will "look to avatars of nonviolence":
[T]housands of people gathered in intermittent rain to protest a decision by China’s legislature to put firm restrictions on a plan to expand the franchise to allow all adults in the territory to vote for their leader, the chief executive.

The demonstrators, many of whom wore headbands emblazoned with the Chinese characters for “civil disobedience,” said they drew inspiration from thinkers and practitioners of nonviolent protest, including Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Dr. King.
And this reminds me of something else I saw this past January: shirts for sale at Hong Kong's Lunar New Year Fair pro-democracy booths.

"Civil Disobedience" shirt

shirt with Nelson Mandela's quote "It always seems impossible until it's done"

It wouldn't surprise me if the shirts are available again at next year's fairs.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Decision in Beijing, A Response in Hong Kong

As part of upcoming voting reforms for Hong Kong, today Beijing announced it will maintain tight control over the selection of candidates for Hong Kong's chief executive. As The New York Times reports, although most Hongkongers desire more freedom in choosing their leader, much of the response will be guided by multiple concerns:
Opinion polls show that most Hong Kong citizens support the demand for “unfiltered” electoral choice, but also that many have qualms about possible disruption from protests.

The Chinese government and the Hong Kong political establishment have accused Occupy Central and allied groups of recklessly imperiling the city’s reputation for political stability and support for business. And many ordinary Hong Kong residents have voiced worry about any political conflict that could hurt their livelihoods.

But Occupy Central says it will engage in nonviolent civil disobedience calibrated to avoid major disruption. Its organizers have said that they do not plan to plunge immediately into any protests after the Chinese authorities announce their plans.
Beijing's decision was not surprising. What happens next, though, seems harder to predict.

See "Live blog: Occupy Central leader declares 'era of civil disobedience' for Hong Kong" on the South China Morning Post for some of tonight's initial response in Hong Kong.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Assorted Links: Internet Cafes, Johnny Cash, Needing Google, and Discouraging Protests for Democracy

Now seems like a good time for some assorted links. Here we go:

1. One man dreams of a salaried job. Another man never wants one again. They both live in a Japanese Internet cafe as featured in a video by MediaStorm.

2. On a musical note, one man:
had never been a huge music lover. His musical taste was broad, covering Dutch-language songs, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with a preference for the last named. While music did not occupy an important position in his live, his taste in music had always been very fixed and his preferences stayed the same throughout decades.
But as described in a Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience paper, with a bit of technology he "developed a sudden and distinct musical preference for Johnny Cash following deep brain stimulation".

3. Several years ago I spoke to a student in Guiyang, Guizhou, who was concerned if Google "left China" that her academic research would suffer. With most of Google's services now blocked in China, Offbeat China shares that others in China are expressing similar pragmatic concerns.

4. Finally, but definitely not least . . .

Many Hong Kongers seek a level of democracy that Beijing has indicated it won't allow, regardless of any past promises. In response to plans for large-scale protests in support of more democracy, the international Big Four accounting firms decided to pay a leading role and placed public ads in Hong Kong.

They basically say, "please don't protest for democracy, it could hurt business".

Good to know where Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte Kwan Wong Tan & Fong (Deloitte's Hong Kong unit), and PricewaterhouseCoopers stand.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Seven Tiananmen Tweets

Much has been recently expressed and shared regarding the events at Tiananmen Square 25 years ago and their lasting impact in China today. Below are seven people's tweets I retweeted (shared) last week during my moments on Twitter (if no images automatically appear, viewing this post on the blog (not in a reader) and / or enabling javascript may do the trick). The tweets are brief and only a small piece of the picture, but they say much.

Friday, June 6, 2014

An Expiring Deal with a Changing Chinese People

In "For Tiananmen leader, a permanent exile" Ananth Krishnan's interview of Chinese dissident Wu’er Kaixi touches on a deal the Chinese government made decades ago:
Despite the two decades of unprecedented growth in China since 1989, [Wu’er Kaixi] believes the Party will face growing calls for political reform and anger against rising corruption — the same two demands that propelled protests 25 years ago.

“They struck a deal with the Chinese people in 1992 to give people a certain degree of economic freedom in exchange for political submission. That was a lousy deal because both economic freedom and political freedom is something that, to begin with, the Chinese people are entitled to. But this deal is also expiring. Once you give people economic freedom, they will become a little bit more powerful and they want more freedom. Because they want to be able to protect the money they made, they want rule of law, fair competition.”
In "Tiananmen, Forgotten" Helen Gao shares what it has been like for some to grow up under that deal:
[In] the post-Tiananmen years, life was like a cruise on a smooth highway lined with beautiful scenery. We studied hard and crammed for exams. On weekends, we roamed shopping malls to try on jeans and sneakers, or hit karaoke parlors, bellowing out Chinese and Western hits.

This alternation between exertion and ennui slowly becomes a habit and, later, an attitude. Both, if well-endured, are rewarded by a series of concrete symbols of success: a college diploma, a prestigious job, a car, an apartment. The rules are simple, though the competition never gets easier; therefore we look ahead, focusing on our personal well-being, rather than the larger issues that bedevil the society.
And in "The economic backdrop to Tian'anmen" Rob Schmitz highlights how even though people may want a new deal, whether because they feel "left behind" or a "little bit more powerful", people whose life has been more "like a cruise on a smooth highway" can have concerns about possible changes:
University of California’s Jeffrey Wasserstrom says 25 years later, with China’s economy now slowing down, there are signs the Chinese people want to renegotiate this deal – it’s no longer clear that making more money is an option. "Now I think there’s a sense that if you’ve been left behind, maybe you’ll be permanently left behind," says Wasserstrom. "And also, with the rising concern with issues like food safety, and heavy polluted air and water, I think it’s not so clear to people anymore that they can assume their children will live better lives than they did."

"People are angry, but people are worried that if something changes, would anything get better?" asks University of Michigan's Mary Gallagher. "I don’t think people in China have much confidence in democracy right now, and looking around them they may feel particularly people in the cities and people in the middle class may feel that democracy could end up even worse. It’s a much more segmented society, and people who are wealthy and who are middle class have much more to protect. And when they think about democracy, they think about majority rule. And I think majority rule is scary to them."
These excerpts together tell a story which resonates with what I have learned in China. In the future, I will share some thoughts on some of the seeming contradictions and important issues they raise. But for now, I simply recommend reading the pieces by Krishnan, Gao, and Schmitz. They each have their own story to tell about China 25 years after June 4, 1989.