Sunday, February 28, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
According to Nciku, an English-Chinese online dictionary, bei (4) is used in a passive sentence to introduce the doer of the action or the action if the doer is not mentioned.
But now the word is used to express a sentiment deeper than a passive voice -- to convey a sense of helplessness in deciding one's fate.
These days bei is used to reflect dissatisfacton over the abuse of official power.
For example, bei ziyuan -- 被资源 -- to be volunteered or compelled to volunteer actually ridicules government departments that force people to something against their will while alleging they "do it out of their own free will."
bei zisha -- 被自杀 -- to be forced into suicide.
beizengzhang-- 被增长-- to be increased, or to doubt official statistics related to an increase in salaries.
beiwangyin -- 被网瘾-- to be addicted to the Internet. Apparently the official definition of Internet addiction is 40 hours a week, but then that would mean that all office workers who depend on using the Internet for their work would be considered to be beiwangyin-ed.
beigaotie -- 被高铁-- to be high speed rail-ized. As the government builds more high-speed rail networks, this results in higher ticket prices imposed on passengers.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The President met this morning at the white House with his Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. The President stated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People's Republic of China. The President commended the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way" approach, his commitment to nonviolence and his pursuit of dialogue with the Chinese government. The President stressed that he has consistently encouraged both sides to engage in direct dialogue to resolve differences and was pleased to hear about the recent resumption of talks. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and cooperative relationship between the United States and China.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
On the podium, I was a popular teacher, well received by students. I was also a public intellectual: in the 1980s I published articles and books that created an impact. I was frequently invited to speak in different places, and invited to go abroad to Europe and the US as a visiting scholar. What I required of myself was to live with honesty, responsibility and dignity both as a person and in my writing.
Subsequently, because I had returned from the US to take part in the 1989 movement, I was imprisoned for "counter-revolutionary propaganda and incitement to crime", losing the platform I loved; I was never again allowed to publish or speak in public in China. Simply for expressing divergent political views and taking part in a peaceful and democratic movement, a teacher lost his podium, a writer lost the right to publish, and a public intellectual lost the chance to speak publicly. This was a sad thing, both for myself as an individual, and, after three decades of reform and opening, for China.
Thinking about it, my most dramatic experiences after 4 June 1989 have all been linked with the courts; the two opportunities I had to speak in public have been provided by trials held in the people's intermediate court in Beijing, one in January 1991 and one now. Although the charges on each occasion were different, they were in essence the same, both crimes of expression.
Twenty years on, the innocent souls of 4 June are yet to rest in peace, and I, who had been drawn into the path of dissidence by the passions of 4 June, after leaving the Qincheng prison in 1991 lost the right to speak openly in my own country, and could only do so through overseas media, and hence was monitored for many years; placed under surveillance (May 1995 – January 1996); educated through labour (October 1996 – October 1999), and now once again am thrust into the dock by enemies in the regime.
But I still want to tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom, I stand by the belief I expressed 20 years ago in my hunger strike declaration – I have no enemies, and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested and interrogated me, the prosecutors who prosecuted me, or the judges who sentence me, are my enemies. While I'm unable to accept your surveillance, arrest, prosecution or sentencing, I respect your professions and personalities. This includes the prosecution at present: I was aware of your respect and sincerity in your interrogation of me on 3 December.
For hatred is corrosive of a person's wisdom and conscience; the mentality of enmity can poison a nation's spirit, instigate brutal life and death struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and block a nation's progress to freedom and democracy. I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes in understanding the development of the state and changes in society, to counter the hostility of the regime with the best of intentions, and defuse hate with love.
I firmly believe that China's political progress will never stop, and I'm full of optimistic expectations of freedom coming to China in the future, because no force can block the human desire for freedom. China will eventually become a country of the rule of law in which human rights are supreme. I'm also looking forward to such progress being reflected in the trial of this case, and look forward to the full court's just verdict – one that can stand the test of history.
Ask me what has been my most fortunate experience of the past two decades, and I'd say it was gaining the selfless love of my wife, Liu Xia. She cannot be present in the courtroom today, but I still want to tell you, my sweetheart, that I'm confident that your love for me will be as always. Over the years, in my non-free life, our love has contained bitterness imposed by the external environment, but is boundless in afterthought. I am sentenced to a visible prison while you are waiting in an invisible one.
Your love is sunlight that transcends prison walls and bars, stroking every inch of my skin, warming my every cell, letting me maintain my inner calm, magnanimous and bright, so that every minute in prison is full of meaning. But my love for you is full of guilt and regret, sometimes heavy enough to hobble my steps. I am a hard stone in the wilderness, putting up with the pummeling of raging storms, and too cold for anyone to dare touch. But my love is hard, sharp, and can penetrate any obstacles. Even if I am crushed into powder, I will embrace you with the ashes.
Given your love, my sweetheart, I would face my forthcoming trial calmly, with no regrets about my choice and looking forward to tomorrow optimistically. I look forward to my country being a land of free expression, where all citizens' speeches are treated the same; where different values, ideas, beliefs, political views ... both compete with each other and coexist peacefully; where, majority and minority opinions will be given equal guarantees, in particular, political views different from those in power will be fully respected and protected; where all political views will be spread in the sunlight for the people to choose; [where] all citizens will be able to express their political views without fear, and will never be politically persecuted for voicing dissent.
I hope to be the last victim of China's endless literary inquisition, and that after this no one else will ever be jailed for their speech.
Freedom of expression is the basis of human rights, the source of humanity and the mother of truth. To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity and to suppress the truth.
I do not feel guilty for following my constitutional right to freedom of expression, for fulfilling my social responsibility as a Chinese citizen. Even if accused of it, I would have no complaints.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Friday, February 12, 2010
However, many people including Ole Schereen, one of the main architects of the CCTV project say that the burnt out hotel is not structurally sound and should be pulled down.
Nevertheless, some 1,000 workers have been hired to renovate the building, by knocking down the exterior walls.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Investigators are discovering now that milk producers took back powdered milk laced with melamine from store shelves, but then put it back on the market or re-purposed it into things like popsicles.
The Associated Press is reporting that 170 tons of tainted milk powder were found in places like Shanghai, as well as Shaanxi, Shandong, Liaoning, Guizhou, Jilin and Hebei provinces in a 10-day crackdown campaign. China's Health Ministry says at least five companies are suspected of reselling the tainted milk that should have been destroyed.
However, the crackdown ends on Wednesday, which means companies that have hidden these melamine-laced milk products could put them back on the shelves again. What good does a 10-day campaign do? Everyone knows it's all for show.
Meanwhile this has again led to a further erosion in confidence not only in the country's food products, but also the government's ability to protect its own people from dangerous products that are domestically made. It would have been all too easy to blame other countries for this mess, but when it's an inside job, it only reveals the failures in the government's food safety program, especially after it pledged to streamline processes to make sure this would not happen again.
Why didn't the government do more thorough investigations? Understandably there are thousands of milk producers, most of them small, but a strict system of inspection needs to be put in place to prevent bad milk from reaching the general public. It's reported that many of these small milk producers do not have the technology to test for melamine, so why doesn't the government subsidize the equipment or at least conduct their own inspections on a very regular basis. This also shows the government's inability to get the job done properly, and only makes its citizens more skeptical of officials, wondering if they are acting in the public's interests.
And what about the milk producers themselves -- don't they even care about their own consumers? Obviously it shows profits are more important than actually giving consumers a good product. When you have people intentionally hurting or even killing others for money, it just shows morals have gone out the window. And it seems shocking that the government isn't earnest enough to want to solve this problem once and for all, as most of the people who drink these milk products are babies and children.
This has obviously led to a spike in imported milk products, driving up demand and prices. The government is considering limiting the amount of imported milk powder, as it's hurting domestic dairy companies.
China is desperate to build its own brand, to look like it is an innovative leader, and through this become a legitimate world power.
But how can it even do this when proper standards and quality control mechanisms are not in place or not even enforced. Why not try to make good quality products first before trying to invent new ones? That way you'd have more buy-in from your own people that yes, China is great.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
While there are a few farmers who have struck it rich, buying up tractors to help them make their food production more efficient, there are still many more especially in the central and western regions who are still literally dirt poor.
That's why many give up their agricultural livelihoods and turn to becoming migrant workers.
However, they aren't necessarily big spenders, as they find things expensive in the city, and want to save as much as possible to bring back to their families.
According to the January 2009 journal Chinese Social Science (Zhongguo Shehui Kexue), there was a study of 56,000 households in 2006.
It found that a migrant worker living in a one-person household spent 7,872RMB ($1,152) that year, while an urban person with an average salary only spent slightly more at 7,905.41RMB ($1,157).
Those in the lowest income bracket only had an annual expenditure of 2,953RMB ($432).
As an expatriate living in Beijing, I cannot even begin to fathom how they manage to spend so little every year; obviously food quality is not a priority and neither is clothing.
It makes you realize not only how hard these people work, but how much they want to save in order for their families and their next generation to have better lives.
Aren't these numbers enough to convince President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao that the majority of the population -- farmers and migrant workers -- need a better social safety net?
If they were given better access to education, health care and pensions then maybe they wouldn't hold on so tightly to their money. But most of all they would feel that the government cared about them and wanted to reward them for their invaluable contribution to the country.
Friday, February 5, 2010
And Dr. Richard Levin, president of Yale University thinks this may happen in the next few years as China spends 1.5 percent of its gross domestic product on higher education. The goal is to narrow the gap between Chinese universities and the top ones in the world within a generation.
However, the country has been pledging to make this happen since 1998 through market-oriented reform in the post-secondary sector. But universities got greedy, expanding too quickly, and so they had to accept more students, which led to very large class sizes. This of course impacted students the most, who felt like they weren't really learning anything relevant to their future careers.
This also led to widespread corruption and plagiarism, as many students must publish a paper as a graduation requirement, and so many will pay journals to print their papers, as these journals are state-funded and hardly get enough money to support themselves. There are also many services where students can pay for a thesis to be written for them. There is no strong punishment for those who plagiarize and so it continues, even in the workforce, where some foreign friends of mine have complained that articles they edit have had paragraphs lifted directly from western publications.
What is also interesting is that Wen admitted that a lack of independent thinking and freedom of speech, not the shortage of money was what impeded Chinese universities' development.
"Only independent spirit makes good universities," he said. "[The current] stereotyped development method doesn't work. Universities should be given decision-making power in administration and curriculums."
He says this because Chinese post-secondary institutions are required to strictly follow the government's education requirements that include Marxism and Deng Xiaoping theories. So is Wen hinting that it's time to do away with these and perhaps loosen government supervision over education?
This seems to be a contradiction to what is happening now because students who have different opinions or are considered to have radical ideas are often given counselling or punished.
Professor Shi Yigong, dean of the School of Life Sciences at Tsinghua University agrees. "[Overseas] universities are always the most creative places, filled with academic contention, but China's rigid system has long hindered undergraduates' creativity," he said at a recent Beijing conference.
Ideology aside, free thinking is the only way China as a country will progress, and its young people need to have the confidence and even the ambition to dare to think differently. Right now China is only good at coming up with methods of stealing other companies and countries' intellectual property instead of trying to innovate and create a product that sparks the imagination.
While some may argue that copying comes from the traditional rote-learning method, this is no excuse. China is proud of its achievements of having invented gun powder, paper and silk thousands of years ago.
So why can't it continue to innovate now?
If Wen cannot answer this question, he obviously doesn't know what his government is doing.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
As the first generation of only children, they are realizing now that they have to study hard to get into university to get a good job so that they can afford an apartment, get married and support their parents in old age.
But financial burdens aside, they can also be the most shallow people on earth.
There's a Reuters story today coming out of Shanghai where a 21-year-old woman wants to have extensive plastic surgery so that she can look like American actress Jessica Alba in order to win back her boyfriend.
The young woman, who gave her name as Xiaoqing, said she was devastated after her boyfriend, who is a fan of Fantastic Four and Into the Blue, broke up with her.
Xiaoqing said that during their 18-month relationship, her 28-year-old boyfriend was obsessed with Alba, putting up pictures of the actress everywhere in their apartment and talking about her constantly.
While he didn't say outright that he wanted Xiaoqing to look like Alba, he had hinted he wanted her to look like Alba and even bought her a blonde wig to wear.
This was too much for Xiaoqing who broke up with him a month ago, but now she wants him back.
"When I broke up with my boyfriend, I was very sad," she told Reuters. "My friends... kept consoling me but it didn't work, so they suggested I do plastic surgery to look like her (Alba)."
The Shanghai Time Plastic Surgery Hospital has agreed to perform the operation, but hospital director Jiang Shan has talked to Xiaoqiing and asked her to think more clearly about what she is doing.
"If she wants to look much better than she does now, for example if she wants her skin to look smoother and her overall facial facade to look more beautiful, I think we are able to help her fulfill her wishes," Jiang said.
"But if she wants to totally look like Jessica Alba, I would think she is still not confident of herself and that she needs to solve this problem psychologically."
"I have never been able to let him go," Xiaoqing said. "If in the end he still does not accept me after I undergo the plastic surgeries, I will give up. I will then choose to let go, start afresh and live life by myself," she added.
So if she spends all this money and time and not to mention physical pain in going through these operations and her boyfriend does not want her back, does she realize that she's going to look like the Chinese version of Jessica Alba for the rest of her life? That she can't undo what she's done?
To radically and physically change oneself just for acceptance from someone why may not even love you is absolutely ridiculous. It reveals how insecure and pathetic desperate people can be.
But it also shows how sad her boyfriend is in his obsession over a Hollywood starlet and even goading Xiaoqing into looking more like Alba.
This story reveals the low self-esteem young people have; many in China do not have much experience when it comes to relationships and so they think it is literally the end of the world when they are rejected by someone they think they are in love with.
That's because their parents have tried to shelter them as much as they can from life's hardships, but instead that has made any surmountable challenges or obstacles impossible.
Xiaoqing has said that she will consult with her mother on whether she should go ahead with the plastic surgery when she goes back to her hometown in Hubei Province for Spring Festival. Hopefully her mom will be able to persuade her out of this pitiful move.
One also wonders if Alba thinks this kind of imitation is flattery... or not.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
There were complaints at the time that Obama didn't speak out enough about human rights violations in China or push the Middle Kingdom to revalue the renminbi.
However, the Obama administration is beginning to strike back, starting first with Google threatening to leave China due to censorship issues. While the world's largest search engine is still operating in the country, the issue has raised a lot of questions, from complying with the communist government when it comes to censorship and how this goes against Google's philosophy, as well as the perils of doing business in China.
Then the offensive continued with the recent decision to sell $6.4 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan. The US is legally bound to supply weapons to Taiwan in a bid to defend itself after the Chinese mainland vowed to take back the "rogue province" even if it has to militarily.
However, the package, the first sales proposal under the Obama administration, is considered relatively modest compared to other years. This sale includes 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters, 12 Harpoon missiles, communication equipment and 2 Osprey mine-hunting ships.
As expected, the Chinese reacted angrily. "The US side is fully aware that the Taiwan issue is related to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and involves China's core interests and the national sentiment of 1.3 billion Chinese people," according to the Xinhua News Agency.
Chinese state media continued the attack, spewing vicious and nationalistic rhetoric and warned that if the sale went ahead, this would seriously damage Sino-US relations.
Obama didn't let this deter him and fired yet another salvo, this time announcing that he would meet with the Dalai Lama.
While he purposely avoided meeting the spiritual leader before going to China in November, White House spokesman Bill Burton said that Obama had told Chinese leaders he would visit with the Dalai Lama.
"The Dalai Lama is an internationally respected religious and cultural leader, and the president will meet with him in that capacity, Burton said. "To be clear, the US considers Tibet to be a part of China,' Burton said. But he added, "We have human rights concerns about the treatment of Tibetans. We urge the government of China to protect the unique cultural and religious traditions of Tibet."
The Chinese Foreign Ministry replied back on its website that Beijing strongly opposed any form of meeting between American leaders and the Dalai Lama.
"We urged the US side to fully realise the high sensitivity of the Tibet issue and cautiously handle the concerned matters, so as to avoid causing further damage im the Sino-US relations," the statement said. "We oppose any attempt by foreign forces to interfere in China's internal affairs using the Dalai Lama as an excuse."
The US and China are now engaged in a battle of words, but the rhetoric has ratcheted up several notches, making one wonder how this will turn out.
It will be interesting to see how hard Obama will be pushing China out of its defensive mode and at the same time continue to engage it on a productive level. China has already threatened some kinds of economic sanctions, including penalties on the companies that are providing the arms to Taiwan.
But despite the flurry of words, both sides need to cooperate on a certain level, so China can't completely shut out the US -- it needs customers for its exports. While the US is taking the risk of infuriating China, someone needs to stand up to the Asian giant. With the talk of "China rising", this is all getting to the country's head and it needs to know that jumping up and down like a selfish spoiled child is hardly constructive for the world.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Wang, once the richest woman in Asia, was chairwoman of Chinachem. Her nickname was Little Sweetie as the eccentric businesswoman usually wore her hair in pigtails and dressed in short skirts. She also claimed to live cheaply, buying cheap clothes and eating fast food.
She died in 2007 of cancer and after her death, her feng shui master and lover claimed he had her latest will that entitled him to her enormous wealth.
Tony Chan claimed he had her will dated in 2006 that would have given Wang's entire fortune to him that was estimated between $4 billion to $13 billion.
However, today Justice Johnson Lam ruled that the "feng shui" will was invalid, saying that he had forged her signature, and instead her estate would be handed over to the Chinachem Charitable Foundation from a will that was written in 2002. Her siblings manage this foundation.
She and her husband, Teddy Wang had set up the charity in 1988.
Her life with Teddy was also an epic drama. The pair were childhood sweethearts who married in 1955. They set up Chinachem Group, a real estate and development conglomerate and their wealth attracted a lot of attention. In 1983, the couple was kidnapped, but she was let go so that she could arrange Teddy's ransom.
However, in April 1990 he was kidnapped again. Nina gave half of the $60 million ransom demanded, but he was never seen alive again. There were stories that his body might have been dumped in Victoria Harbour, but it never surfaced.
She had a long protracted battle in the courts over ownership of Chinachem which she finally won in 2005 in Hong Kong Supreme Court after two lower courts had sided with her father-in-law Wang Din-shin. He had Teddy legally declared dead in 1999.
Nevertheless, the most recent court fight involving the feng shui master though seemed even more salicious than the previous one.
Chan had a spotty career as a former bartender, waiter, machinery salesman, market researcher, and computer parts exporter before becoming a feng shui master.
During the trial, a lot of information was revealed, how Nina and Chan met at a dinner in 1992 and how she hoped he could help her locate her husband. But then it led to them having an intimate sexual relationship to the point which he testified they were practically husband and wife. He claimed that she even gave him her signature pigtails were a sign of their intimacy, as well as digging holes in Chinachem sites around Hong Kong that had gems, statuary and ancient coins buried in them.
This not only revealed how gullible Nina was, but also the shameless manner in which Chan tried to get as much access to her wealth as posible. He testified that he was having a sexual relationship as his wife was pregnant with their first son.
But Wang's sibilings saw him as a boytoy -- who was 20 years younger than Nina -- or a eunuch in the court of an empress dowager.
In the end the court sided with her family.
"The court does not believe that their relationship was such that Nina was prepared to give him her entire estate irrespective of her other commitments and responsibilities," said a summary of Judge Lam's judgment.
"Giving him gifts or even large sums of money during Nina's lifetime when he made her happy is one thing. Making him her sole heir in respect of her entire estate is quite different."
Lam also added that Chan was not a credible witness and even lied in the court.
Chan's lawyer Jonathan Midgley says he will appeal.
So this may not be the end of the story, but perhaps the start of more stories of how gullible some wealthy people can be and how there are many schemers who will go to any lengths to get access to their wealth.