inside thoughts on China and beyond

Posts tagged “news

Cosmetic News

Just after 6 this morning I was awakened by a soft but surprisingly inviting sunlight that pushed its way through the curtains of our bedroom. And by a sound that was equally astonishing: the sound of silence. Take it from me; this is a rare combination in these parts. Truly a day to remember! It was the last day of the holiday and I suddenly fell fresh and energized. It happens. And if you’re like me, you will understand; it is like the excitement that tickles somewhere deep in your belly just before departing on a long anticipated holiday, all on a Sunday morning. Surely a day to take the family out and about!


Earthquake Expert

There are those days you will never forget. They stay with you forever. Not that we always want to, but they do. Just take a second. While reading this, I’m sure something is popping up in your head ‘while we speak’ so to speak. And for your sake, I surely hope so. No life can possibly be so boring that it has not one moment of deep hardship or glorious fortune, not one moment of lonely obscurity or unbridled fame; not one moment that you will always remember. All that to say: today was just one of those days. (more…)

Red Alarm


(Monday 174 red)  The sun is shining -though somewhat watery. The sky is blueish and the temperature is just right. The peach trees in front of our kitchen window are blossoming -spring is in the air! These are those rare days that I just can’t stop myself from running. Running my lazy winter sweat out. Loosening my stiff muscles. Pumping blood through my vessels and spring air into my lungs. Reason to rejoice, was it not that there is more in the air. More than meets the eye. It’s called pollution. (more…)

Monitoring Mystery

A few days ago my daughter and I were researching options for her study in Holland, freely surfing away over the world wide web from our small and cozy little cabin deep in the endless wild Dutch forest, when we came across the following remark of an anthropology student in Utrecht: “China is a large and mysterious country”. Now that gave us a good laugh! He surely hadn’t done a thorough study or had slept through the lectures and obviously had missed the last developments in China or he is one of those bookworm nerds that never leaves queen or country. Not to mention what all this tells us about his lecturer or at least the university’s marketing head. China is large, sure, but mysterious? (more…)

The Ideal State

Did you know –and you could have known, if you follow the news- that Singapore is Utopia? But let me specify. With ‘if you follow the news’, I meant Murdoch’s news. As we now know, he has his own ways of getting information, so when he says that Singapore is The Ideal State, I’m sure he knows where he is talking about. It is quite ironical, if you think about it: the boss of thousands of journalists and many broadcasting companies and other news clubs, basically the boss of everything that represents freedom of speech, the symbol of Western democratic liberty; this boss admires a state that imprisons journalists who write beyond their cup of teh tarik. Murdoch reasoning, by the way, is that Singapore’s leaders get paid so much that it lifts them above corruption. It seems then that not all news reaches him or his papers.

It just makes you wonder how free our reporters and news researchers have truly been all this time, when we entrusted this so important aspect of our society to the likes as Murdoch with his power to make and break politicians in benches or in bed, not to mention journalists. God entrusting the devil to safeguard his creation. China chuckles about this -quietly. “Is this not the free press so holy and dear to the free world?” “Is this not the media that criticizes China for curbing journalists, unjust reporting and hacking computers?”

Not that Murdock has ever worried much about this. Since this Aussie married a Chinese factory girl with a Harvard degree, the gates into the Middle Kingdom opened wide for him and his dollars. He found his way and got his way and he knows all too well that business is compromising as good as you can and thus, between the many gan-bei’s of long business lunches, his Sky channel quietly yet quickly removed BBC News from the channel list. But really, who needs the British? China’s CCTV International is now broadcasting across the globe and it is hard to find a hotel that doesn’t have CCTV’s International news. Why worry?

Let’s take an example. The troubles in Xinjiang –the killings in Kashgar and Hotan by Uyghur separatists- has been widely covered in the Chinese media this last week. Terrorists; evil forces trained and financed abroad; Muslim extremists, not unlike the 9/11 boys… according to Chinese press. And who can blame China now for having it’s own Guantanamo prison? In Western media one will pick up different sounds: suppressed people seeking liberty; a folk with deep wounds of mistreatment and deceit. Horrible! But what is the difference – to you? The commercials are  the same and isn’t that all we remember before we turn of the light and worry about tomorrow morning’s meeting while we have no hard time falling asleep?

What then? Is openness the measure of trustworthiness? It is so much common knowledge that the Chinese media is largely the government’s mouth piece, that it can be considered as transparent: we know who it represents. Call it journalism with Chinese characteristics. Western media is different. It is independent and gifted with the highest moral standards and practices, and Murdock is their boss. Where does that leave us?

The first smiles here in the local tea house just around the corner came after the economic collapse of many democratic European state and the hijacking of Obama’s government by a Tea Party, juggling with a budget of about the size similar to Steve Job’s Apple Inc’s reserves – or less then that. Freely chosen leaders, all unable to act firm and fast. “So this is your beloved democracy; your holy grail that the rest of the world should follow and adopt??” That’s when the smiles appear. You will not hear loud laughs that would reflect true feelings and thoughts or judgments. Just a smile. “We’ll see; we’ll wait.” (I have to admit that this local tea house is somewhat more of a figurative representation of what I read in between the lines here, not a physical truth. Those who have time for tea tend to be more busy discussing their choice of tomorrow’s cars from today’s newspaper ads rather than yesterday’s politics. Life is hard if you have to choose between Mercedes or Lamborghini. And those who don’t have time for tea, ah well, they just don’t have time.)

But back to my point. (And don’t worry, I’m not exactly sure what my point is either, but it does look good saying that here.) You see, here, leaders have all the time in the world. No need to hurry. China plans its political direction in periods of 15 years. Give it time. “Don’t do today what can be done tomorrow!” seems a widespread Chinese characteristic. (And that’s why my office is still not clean!) Leaders in the West are constantly in a rush and fighting. They -especially US presidents, and feel free to ask them if you don’t believe me!- are fighting for time, since  about half of their 4-year duty is taken up by endless shouting of empty promises and shameless threats in the hope to be granted another 4 years of ruling in what has already been characterized as corprocracy rather than democracy. And they are fighting of attacks of their opponents whose primary mission it is to undermine and corrupt in order to weaken the leader and take over by the next election. Then it is their turn… and the game is on again, but in reverse. And while the West is digging itself deeper and deeper in its own debt-and-never-really-finish-the-job-hole, China’s leaders Hu and Wen can lean back and relax. No need to hurry. No need to show real feelings or intentions. Take your time. Let’s have some more tea and a good nap, another aircraft carrier, some more tea and good naps and then the South Chinese Sea. Way to go!

As Wang Qishan, high ranking Politburo member and vice-premier of some sorts, radiated during a conference in Beijing in 2008 facing a fine selection of the world’s biggest bankers: “You have your way. We have our way. And our way is right!” He didn’t say the last part. But I’m sure he smiled.

News and Other Secrets

A young fellow came and sat down with us. He looked fresh from college, smartly dressed in the newest sportswear. Smelled as if he had just taken a dive in a bottle of cheap Adiddas aftershave. We were to discuss the use of his swimming pool -not his, of course, but the one he manages for his boss – who was reported to be 40 years old and hopefully more matured. We were close to making a deal when Adiddas boy asked: “Do you have any Japanese students?” It came to me as a surprise and the essence of this question didn’t dawn on me until after I said, “Yes, some; and Americans, Dutch, French, Taiwanese, you name it! All great kids!”
“You can’t bring the Japanese. They are bad.” He didn’t say that last sentence but I clearly heard it. When he realized how ridiculous this must have sounded from one  still wet behind the ears and surely barely out of his split pants – the Chinese environmental friendly and cheap solution to the early-years diaper need; you can literally see them peeing all over the place – he added quickly that his boss had stipulated this. “I’m just doing my job, sorry.” That was the end of the deal and my first encounter with the result of a government’s effectively stirring-up of a collective anger as if the Japs had left only yesterday, fueling the people’s emotions and increasing need of national unity, political distraction and a common pride. This was one year ago.

Here, you will never find these stories in the newspapers. Ah, newspapers! One of the pleasures I really miss here in China. The sensation that comes from unfolding a newspaper after a days long work. Letting the world go by knowing that there isn’t really anything you can do about it. Drought in Africa while you sip your coffee. But the emotion it stirs up in you creates a sense of belonging and self righteousness and is worth the paper and time.

Well, that’s what I miss. And so, even the China Daily will do. Kind of China’s paper version of the Voice of America; freely printing away anything the party allows and keeping out what is not good for the people. Not that there is any choice: the China Daily is in most of China the only English paper available. But the time has past that China had just as much papers as it had provinces. Magazines and periodicals were in thin supply and printed on even thinner recycled paper made to look unattractive as befits the communistic era. That was the time that cars were small and rusty from day one; villas were unknown and the apartment blocks were joyless gray with blue windowpanes and prison bars sticking out as monkey cages in front of it. Back then, all that was OK because there was no competition, no one who cared and no one who dared. These magazines are still there – just as some of the gray living quarters that still stand in the shadow of high skyscrapers; as prehistorical bones found around Chengdu, small reminders of a time that no longer exists- but on the shelves they are now overshadowed by glossy magazines of all sizes and topics. The publishing market is exploding and so tempting for western media empires that Murdock married his way into the Middle Kingdom and Maxwell gave up trying.

The content is improving though. Global Times – never heard of it before, but there it is- from 2010-09-30 mentioned a survey among China’s city and provincial governments about transparency. China has a “transparency watchdog”. That alone is good news! Only 2 of the 43 government bodies barely made the open-information requirements set by Beijing as did only one-third of the cities. Tibet and Taiwan were not included. You wonder why. Nor was the USA. Maybe next year. At the bottom of the list was Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Luckily that only the facts were out and no analysis or possible explanation or solutions were given. Just the naked facts; true transparency untroubled by irritating and irrelevant opinions. And most Chinese seems OK with it. “Don’t our leaders know better?” They don’t wonder. Whether this willingly blind submission is due to their so tempting and yearly increasing pay-check or the patriotic urge to beat Japan and conquer USA or behavior ingrained in the Chinese culture over many centuries of imperial rule or a recovering Confucius awareness or all of this together, one must admit that the party’s approach to developing and modernizing China has been very effective. Some confuse it with democracy.

The West should be happy. They are not. Like the older brother that jealously disposes the success of the younger brother, or a big bully that sees its victim outgrow him and awaits trembling in cold sweat what is to come. After a century of slicing up, drugging, humiliating and even massacring China and it’s people, the powers of old can all but wait. The child we once beat is now the adult we so desperately need to stop us from going down the cliff. Will he want to hold our hand, and honestly, why should he?

If the present is a window to the future, let’s face it. For several weeks now, the first Chinese Nobel Prize winner is locked up in the cold north; the South China Sea islands and every drop of oil in-between and underneath are claimed by China causing clashes with Vietnam, Japan and the Philippines; Churches are built with government support but 400 Christians ready to attend a conference in Singapore were forbidden to leave the country. These are the enlightened days to get rich and shut your mouth. And you’re fine as long as you don’t mention ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ or ‘Tiananmen Square’ in one sentence.

And once again riots against Japanese companies and expats have stirred the cities. The police and military that otherwise are so quick to suppress are now playing mahjong on the side of the road. Two Chengdu girls wearing traditional Chinese dresses from a famous Chinese dynasty of long ago; a period of time when China greatly influenced the Japanese culture, were forced to undress because the gowns were thought to be Japanese by the mob, mostly students. So much for the historical knowledge of this future generation of intellectuals. But then, you can’t really blame them in a land where history is rewritten every other decade.

At the end of the day, no matter who and where you are, it is not the hurt from the past that will move us forward, but the never ending opportunities of the future. And maybe it was for that reason that my daughter said: “Dad, can we eat at the new Japanese restaurant tonight?”