Imagine, if you will, flipping through channels and coming to a rest on this: a Chinese, an Arab, and an African man are facing off in a contest of English. The next question: “A _____ by any other name would smell as sweet?” *BZZT* “Frower!” says the Chinese guy. The audience groans in disappointment. Next up: the talent portion. The African announces proudly that he will sing the classic American ballad, “Love me Tender” by Elvis Presley. Thunderous applause follows his rendition, despite being slightly off-key. The Chinese follows up with an enthusiastic, if not entirely professional, banjo ditty. Not to be outdone, the Arab launches into a comedic routine with a passable southern accent, featuring words like “varmint” and “hightail.” The camera pans to a packed audience of white faces, grinning broadly and applauding madly.
Does this show sound surreal to you? Well, frequently in the evening, that’s exactly the kind of show that’s on prime-time Chinese television—foreigners paraded on television for all to watch, showing off their skills in Chinese.
In the South China Sea there are a group of tiny, uninhabited islands known to the western world as the Paracel Islands (Quan Dao Hoang Sa in Vietnamese and Xisha Qundao in Chinese). The archipelago lies roughly 200 miles from the nearest mainland shore, equidistant from Vietnamese and Chinese coastlines, and is delineated into two groups: the Amphitrite group in the northeast and the Crescent group in the southwest. In total the geographic region consists of over thirty islets, sandbanks, and reefs.
Four Uighur detainees from Guantanamo Bay who were cleared for release will not be moving to America. Although a large Uighur community in Northern Virginia has offered to accept the former detainees, elected officials from Virginia refused to allow the Uighurs to resettle in Northern Virginia.
The Premier in Bermuda, a British protectorate, agreed to accept the Uighurs without consulting the Foreign Ministry in the U.K. This unilateral move led to large protests across the island calling for his resignation that coincided with the arrival of the Uighurs. 13 other Uighurs have been moved to Palau. None of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay who have been cleared of the charges against them has been released into the United States.
On June 3, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a message to the Chinese government, asking them to remember and recant on the 20th anniversary of the events at Tiananmen Square, saying: “A China that has made enormous progress economically, and that is emerging to take its rightful place in global leadership, should examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal.” Toward the end of the memorandum she dangerously advised: “This anniversary provides an opportunity for Chinese authorities to release from prison all those still serving sentences in connection with the events surrounding June 4, 1989. We urge China to cease the harassment of participants in the demonstrations and begin dialogue with the family members of victims, including the Tiananmen Mothers.”
There is a Chinese idiom about a man who buried a sum of silver underground and, worried that passersby would find it, placed a sign next to the plot that read “ci di wu yin san bai liang,” or “There is not 300 liang of silver here.” Needless to say, the next day his silver was gone.
I wonder if the censorship bureau understands this parable because one thing everyone in China should know by now is that if you ever come across a website that terminates your Internet connection, start digging.
For anyone that remembers, YouTube was blocked in late March and, sadly, shows no sign of returning. Luckily, a friend linked me a working proxy for the site: http://www.ensa.info/. Usually proxies can’t stream videos but this site uses their own player. It’s not perfect, and there are spasms of pop-ups but it’s something.
I popped out just a few minutes ago to the convenience store to get a bottle of water, and saw a convoy of tanks roll by right beside the second ring road.
About 5 months ago, I posted an article, The Loss of Soft Power, about how China’s rise in soft power would eventually meet the same problems that the United States had to deal with decades ago. Namely, that in times of duress, China would come first, and that Chinese companies would either have to back out of their riskier investments, or China would have to send in military forces.
Well, a recent Department of Defense study entitled “Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2009” says that China does not have the capacity to send troops abroad anytime within the next decade, so China won’t be sending soldiers in to protect their investments anytime soon. Because of that, Chinese companies are starting to back out. Here are some key sentences:
China has backed away from some of its riskiest and most aggressive plans, looking for the same guarantees that Western companies have long sought for their investments: economic and political stability.
The most recent cover of The Economist was quite an interesting one: an homage to Saul Steinberg’s iconic New Yorker cover in which a distorted map of the world showed the streets of New York dominating the environment, with the rest of the United States an afterthought and China (along with Russia and Japan) mere blips on the horizon.
The Economist‘s cover does not have the United States as a corresponding blip—instead it’s depicted as a ruined land, with Wall Street a sinkhole, the Statue of Liberty a beggar, and swaths of homes foreclosed. The blips for China are Africa (land of natural resources) and Europe (land of designer handbags).
The weakness that the global supply change has displayed will surely mean changes for the world. As Thomas Friedman has argued, the world has become much flatter in the past few decades. The growing trend of pursuing a first-world living, the globalization of commerce, and the export of certain cultural icons worldwide has had startling implications. But as the global economy, for the first time in decades, begins to shrink, one wonders if this means the end of other trends as well.