Thursday, September 18, 2014

An Animated Taiwanese Perspective on Scottish Independence

Taiwan-based Next Media Animation (NMA) regularly provides entertaining takes on a variety of newsworthy events around the world. Given the debate within Taiwan over the future of its own political status, it is not surprising that NMA expressed one of the many global perspectives on today's Scottish independence referendum. In addition to its usual creativity, NMA's takes a side on the issue. Responding to an offer of more power for Scotland if it remains part of the United Kingdom, NMA recommends skepticism and a vote for independence:
But we here in Taiwan understand that no amount of false promises are enough to sate a people's desire for "FREEDOMMMMMMM". So people and unicorns of Scotland on Thursday vote "YES".
NMA's advice may more reflect its views regarding Taiwan than any deeply held beliefs about Scotland's specific situation, which differs in many key respects. I am not at all convinced that "freedom" per se will have taken a blow if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. There are sacrifices to be made when living in a political structure of any size, and there are reasonable arguments that people in Scotland will enjoy more overall freedom as a part of the United Kingdom. Whatever the best choice may be for Scotland, the people are now able to freely express themselves and vote on an important part of their future. And whatever the result, the status quo will have been changed, and the Scottish people will maintain many significant freedoms.

So for probably the only video on the Scottish independence referendum with backstabbing, casino tokens, people carrying skyscrapers, and, of course, a freedom-loving unicorn, watch NMA's latest creation:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Zhongyang Road in Tucheng

Yesterday on Zhongyang Road in Tucheng District, New Taipei City, Taiwan:

motorbikes and cars on Zhongyang Road in Tucheng District, New Taipei City

Even if you find the above scene mundane, you may be surprised by who makes an appearance on one of the political campaign signs in this area. More on that and other nearby indications of democracy are on the way.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Taiwanese Dog Dozing

Earlier I shared photos of dogs riding a wheelbarrow, sitting in a park, taking a walk, and swimming in a river in Hengyang. In Taipei I have seen many more dogs. So to continue the theme, here is a dog I saw sleeping yesterday evening:

dog sleeping on top of two stools with its leash connected to a parked motorbike

Despite where its leash was anchored, I doubted it would later have an experience like another dog I saw in Hengyang: one running in front of a motorbike.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Two Sunsets in Taiwan

The sun setting in Taipei:

view from Xiangshan of sun setting behind Taipei 101

And the sun setting at Tamsui in New Taipei:

sunset over Tamsui River in Tamsui

These two scenes are my way of saying I am in Taiwan at the moment. More soon . . .

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Variation on a Xiangqi Theme in Hengyang

A couple of months ago, I posted two more photos of people playing xiangqi (Chinese chess) in China. There was a third photo I considered posting, but I refrained because of the photo's similarity to another.

It captured a most joyous moment, though, so I shall refrain no longer:

boy smiling and holding a small plastic stool over his head near men playing xiangqi (Chinese chess)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Compensated Ethnic Assimilation in China

In The New York Times, Edward Wong reports one way China is trying to make the country more "harmonious":
In a policy that appears aimed at soothing violent ethnic tensions in the west of China, officials in the region of Xinjiang are offering cash and other financial incentives to encourage marriages between minorities and Han, the country’s dominant ethnic group.
Why do they think this could this help?
[T]he county director, Yasen Nasi’er, said: “Interethnic marriages are a manifestation of the increased interethnic exchange in a Han-based culture. It is an important step in the harmonious integration and development of all ethnicities.”

He called such marriages “positive energy” and a means by which Xinjiang can realize the “Chinese Dream,” an amorphous term popularized by President Xi Jinping.
Although the policy in Xinjiang is just a trial for now, the idea behind it is nothing new:
Communist officials have long promoted popular tales of mixed marriages to paper over ethnic conflicts.

Many Han talk of how the Manchus from the northeastern forests, who conquered China to establish the Qing dynasty, eventually adopted Han customs and intermarried, citing this as an example of how Han Chinese civilization inevitably absorbs and assimilates other ethnicities.
As a thought experiment to tease apart some issues and add a different perspective, I tried to imagine the response if a minority in the US, a country with its own history of ethnic and racial tensions, was told by the government that one way to achieve the American dream was to marry a White American and that they would be compensated for doing so. Or what would China think if Han Chinese in the US were specifically targeted in this way?

Other thought experiments, even more unlikely to occur in the real world, are also floating through my mind. Most of all, though, I would like to hear the real unfiltered views of some Chinese citizens—in particular, the Uighurs in Cherchen Country who are the targets of the trial policy.

Details of the policy and mention of other related policies can be found in Wong's piece here.

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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Balancing Freedom, Growth, and Risk

two girls in Changde, Hunan, China
Two girls out on their own and having a good time in Changde, Hunan

In "Why I let my children walk to the corner store — and why other parents should, too" columnist Petula Dvorak wrote:
“It’s a different world out there today. It’s not like when I was growing up, and we’d all play in an apple orchard and we were safe. Today, you just don’t know who’s out there,” said a lovely, well-meaning grandmother who was keeping an eagle-eye lookout on her grandchildren at a water park this summer while I let my kids do the water slides by themselves.

Yes, it is a different world. It’s a safer world. It just doesn’t feel like it because we know too much.

Back in the apple orchard and latchkey days, there were plenty of child molesters, killers and pervs lurking around. We simply didn’t talk about them and didn’t hear about what they did.
Dvorak's piece isn't just about raising children but also speaks to the challenges in evaluating everyday risk and how the good old days aren't always as good as people think. And it reminds me of how I have seen children in China in some ways leading far freer lives than many of those in the US. All issues worth pondering . . .

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wassup Hengyang Style

girl wearing a light jacket with the words "WASSUP SHOW OFF" on the back
In Hengyang, Hunan province

If you are wondering "wassup", despite the content of my most recent posts, I am not now in either Yangjiang or Hengyang, although I did briefly stop by Shanghai last month. More substantial and regular posting is on the way, including a mix of old and new topics and of course some highlights from my current location.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Yuanyang Lake Park at Night

A photo I took one evening earlier this year at Yuanyang Lake Park in Yangjiang, Guangdong province:

Yuanyang Lake Park (鸳鸯湖公园) in Yangjiang at night