Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Wandering China: Taiwan Day 1

In this age of media tsunamis and the resultant information famines, nothing beats the primacy of first-hand experience to be informed of the ways of the world. Taiwan is the next stop in my travels around Greater China, after having breathed in the cities of Beijing, Chaozhou, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Xi’an, along the SARs of Macau and Hong Kong.

Each city has imbued in me valuable lessons of the Chinese mind, and Taiwan is no different.

Taiwan quite simply can be seen as a case study of a democratised and liberalised Chinese people that were never colonised by western powers – a must visit to widen my understanding of the Chinese spectrum.

Formerly known as Formosa, Taiwan was rather unfairly (like arguably all the treaties during China’s century of humiliation) ceded to the Japanese Empire by the weakening Qing Empire of China (Treaty of Shimonoseki) after the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895. Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Bob's Opinion, Taiwan

Trade tensions may increase: economists [China Daily]

Economics: The Chinese recognise there has to be a better way to manage trade tensions between the participants of the world’s most important bilateral relations.

“If trade tensions (between China and the US) grow I am afraid this will further dim the already gloomy economic outlook,” Li Daokui, policy adviser of China’s central bank and director of the Center for China in the World Economy at Tsinghua University

Is it even possible to devise a path ahead that protects the rest of us from the cyclical collateral damage of a strategy (or lack of) that lets election politics and military-industrial complexes cloud prudent and longer-term economic judgement?

– – –

Trade tensions may increase: economists
By Fu Jing
Source – China Daily, published Jan 30, 2012

DAVOS, Switzerland – Trade tensions between China and the United States may be exacerbated by the global financial outlook and US election politics, economists said.

“What I worry about are trade tensions between China and the US,” Stephen Roach, senior research fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, told China Daily in Davos during the World Economic Forum.

Roach did not elaborate on who was to blame for growing trade tension. But he described China as his “favorite economy” because it has weathered economic challenges without sacrificing the interest of other economies. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, China Daily, Chinese Model, Economics, International Relations, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, The Chinese Identity, Trade, U.S.

Glitzy new AU headquarters a symbol of China-Africa ties [Reuters]

Strategic update: While the US ‘patently’ denies its intentions to build a military base in Philippines (see US Seeks Military Ties, Not Base, in Philippines, ABC News Jan 27 2012), China solidifies its position in Africa by funding the symbolic $200 million AU headquarters.

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Glitzy new AU headquarters a symbol of China-Africa ties
By Yara Bayoumy
Source – Reuters, published January 29, 2012

A traditional dancer wearing a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic flag performs during the inauguration of the new African Union (AU) building in Ethiopia”s capital Addis Ababa, January 28, 2012. photo – Reuters

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Standing on what was once Ethiopia’s oldest maximum security prison, the new African Union headquarters funded by China is a symbol of the Asian giant’s push to stay ahead in Africa and gain greater access to the continent’s resources.

Critics point to an imbalance in what they see as the new “Scramble for Africa”. But the prospect of growing Chinese economic influence is welcomed by African leaders, who see Beijing as a partner to help build their economies at a time when Europe and the United States are mired in economic turmoil.

And Africans are hoping for more Chinese largesse. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Africa, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Economics, Influence, International Relations, Media, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Reuters, Soft Power, Strategy, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), Trade, U.S.

English in Decline as a First Language, Study Says [National Geographic]

The idea that the entire world would one day homogenise by way of English as a a ‘world language’ is arguably as aged as the vehicles of imperialism and colonialism.

The updated forms of the former and latter converging into its modern equivalent – a dynamic global village with the English language leading the charge of business and utility; suggest that this ideal ‘world language’ is also driven by the same rule makers.

This report by National Geographic back in 2004 was one of the earliest to highlight the relative decline of English as a first language. Statistics gleaned from Ethnologue in 2009 on first-language speakers indicate Mandarin as the top-used language with 1,213 million speakers. Spanish comes in second with 329 million speakers and English is third with 328 but firmly established as science’s lingua franca.

Rankings aside, perhaps it is prudent during this irreversible and continuing rush towards globalisation that we note the disparity between mean size of languages and median size.

I certainly hope the dominance of Mandarin does not impede or diminish other languages. I have seen first hand the diminishing of many Mandarin dialects in China and in overseas Chinese communities. One on hand on the social and cultural level,  one can recognise that languages come and go. As surely as flux is the constant with continued people movement; each loss still feels like a pity especially since we have the means and technology to keep them alive, or on record, at least.

Languages, like cultures are each a unique window in seeing the world and they deserve to be accorded their time, space and utility. As it ‘turns out… 389 (or nearly 6%) of the world’s languages have at least one million speakers and account for 94% of the world’s population. By contrast, the remaining 94% of languages are spoken by only 6% of the world’s people.’ Source –  Ethnologue, 2009

 – – – 

English in Decline as a First Language, Study Says
Stefan Lovgren
Source – National Geographic News, published February 26, 2004

It may be time to brush up on your Mandarin.

According to one new study, the percentage of the global population that grew up speaking English as its first language is declining. In addition, an increasing number of people now speak more than one language.

In the future, English is likely to be one of those languages, but the Mandarin form of Chinese will probably be the next must-learn language, especially in Asia. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Confucius, Culture, Education, Greater China, Influence, Mapping Feelings, Media, Peaceful Development, Social, Soft Power, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

Barack Obama confronts the China challenge [BBC]

Familiar refrain. Election time = need to identify where the us and them lines lie, clearly.

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Barack Obama confronts the China challenge
Damian Grammaticas, Beijing correspondent
Source – BBC, published Jan 25, 2012

A year ago US President Barack Obama was holding up China as an example of what a country can achieve if it invests in infrastructure, education and innovation.

But, at the start of this election year, his State of the Union address has painted a wholly different image of China, as a place that does not play fair, that steals intellectual property and gives huge handouts to its manufacturers.

America, President Obama said, is not going to stand by while that happens, and he has promised to take action. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: BBC, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Economics, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Strategy, Trade, U.S.

Davos 2012: Who’s afraid of China? [BBC]

It certainly piques my interest that three odd years after China helped lift the global and regional neighbouring economies during the GFC (with a RMB 4 trillion stimulus package 扩大内需十项措施), scepticism toward their economic intent still remains.

Critics then levelled accusations that China was compounding an already hyper-inflated and overheated global economy. Ulterior political intentions and self-determinism  aside, the fundamental truth for the Chinese remained – there was little for the bottom-lined focused Chinese to gain in an unstable economic environment.

It seems from the initial salvos at the Davos 2012 World Economic Forum Meeting that the lens in viewing China is still one of skepticism. Internally, is China going to have a hard or soft landing, will its economy overheat, does it have the right balance of investment and consumption? And the number of cynics of what China does overseas seem to be growing. See – Chinese overseas investment draws Davos scrutiny (New Zealand Herald, January 27, 2012)

The problem in non-Chinese public opinion is that there’s a Chinese official behind every Chinese business person,” World Trade Organization director-general Pascal Lamy.  

This,  Lamy argues is a question of perception that needs to be tweaked by developing a ‘better’ grand narrative. See  also – China’s reality lost in translation, Davos told (Channel News Asia, Jan 26, 2012).

What is also particularly interesting is the question of timing of the Davos meet. Pegged squarely during the Chinese Lunar New Year period, the top Chinese leaders were always going to give this meet a miss. See – China Dials Back Its Davos Presence in Holiday Week (Wall Street Journal, Jan 26, 2012).

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Davos 2012: Who’s afraid of China?
By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website, Davos
Source – BBC, published January 26, 2012

Many in the West worry about being overwhelmed by the sheer size and strength of the Chinese economy. Photo – Getty Images

So, who’s afraid of China’s economic power?

Mention the topic in polite conversation, and chances are that you’ll hear complaints about dumping cheap products, stealing jobs and grabbing resources.

If you talk to politicians and economists, you may hear complaints that China is keeping its currency undervalued. There are worries about the size of its foreign currency reserves – currently approaching a massive $4tn (£2.55tn). Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: BBC, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Domestic Growth, Economics, Government & Policy, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Trade

Hello America, China TV reporting [Straits Times/Washington Post]

China makes a pronounced soft power move to effectively convey its point of view. So here we witness the commencement of a fight for global mind share through the proxy of English-language media control. That said, ‘experts say the country’s lofty media goals may collide with the communist government’s long history of official censorship and propaganda.’

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Hello America, China TV reporting
CCTV’s new US set-up aims to boost Beijing’s ‘soft power’
Washington Post
Source – Straits Times, published Jan 19, 2012

Hello America, China TV reporting. –ST ILLUSTRATION: MANNY FRANCISCO

WASHINGTON: In a downtown D.C. office building, China’s most ambitious effort to become a global power in English-language TV news is literally taking shape.

In a few weeks, China Central Television (CCTV), the nation’s state-run international broadcaster, intends to originate news broadcasts produced by a staff of more than 60 journalists hired in recent weeks from NBC, Bloomberg TV and other Western news organisations.

The new Washington operation, its managers say, will be a hub of CCTV’s global news-gathering operations as the network launches a major expansion outside China to compete with international broadcasters such as CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Culture, Democracy, Influence, International Relations, Media, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Straits Times, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Washington Post

China firms splurge on year-end parties [Straits Times]

Prosperity in China over austerity elsewhere in the global climate?

Chinese New Year parties have been a traditional part of business life, but they have arguably like many facets of Chinese-ness, changed with the times.

China’s wealthy firms are now seen milking more mileage with from their corporate year-end parties (nianhui). Evidenced by a growing number of increasingly wealthy companies as platforms to boost their public image and relations with government officials and suppliers, perhaps it is only natural some of them try to push the envelope to outdo one another.

In the spotlight: we start to see porn stars despite pornography being banned in the country (A quick VANCL: Porn star Sora Aoi pops by clothing seller’s AGM, Want China Times, Jan 18 2012). China’s top search engine Baidu notably held their European-themed party at a Beijing stadium on Jan 7 with 15,000 staff from across the country in attendance. Veteran rock singer Chyi Chin also appeared.

– – –

China firms splurge on year-end parties
But controversial guests, obligatory performances attract rising criticism
By Kor Kian Beng
Source – Straits Times, published Jan 25, 2012

Baidu co-founder and chairman Robin Li (centre), dressed in European court attire, performing with employees at the Chinese online search giant’s year-end party recently. — PHOTO: CHINA DAILY

WHEN China’s top search engine Baidu started holding Chinese New Year parties after its launch in 2000, they were cosy banquets for its staff to mingle and have some fun, much like the dinner-and-dance events in Singapore.

But this year, the company’s party was anything but simple. Held at a Beijing stadium on Jan 7, the glitzy affair was attended by 15,000 staff from across the country, and featured performances by Taiwanese singer Chyi Chin.

Such transformations of China’s corporate annual year-end parties – called nianhui in Mandarin – are becoming common, as a growing number of increasingly wealthy companies turn these events into platforms to boost their image. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Chinese Model, Culture, Domestic Growth, Lifestyle, Modernisation, Social, Straits Times, The Chinese Identity

China No Match for Dutch Plants as Philips Shavers Come Home [Bloomberg]

Is China’s longer-term sustainability as the world’s factory seeing signs of a reversal; or is there more to this move by Philips to bring its top-priced shaver production back home? Is the Chinese model showing cracks or are other countries repositioning against the ‘over-bearing’ success of the Chinese model? Is this a case of simple economics or an embedded strategic move of self and regional-determinism?

This article presents a few likely scenarios.

“A product engineer in Shanghai now is just as expensive as in Drachten… in China, the headcount turnover is high. That is not sustainable.” Rob Karsmakers, factory manager for Philips Asia.

– – –

China No Match for Dutch Plants as Philips Shavers Come Home
By Maaike Noordhuis
Source – Bloomberg, published Jan 19, 2012

Philips, which also lights the Eiffel tower and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, employs a total of 14,000 people in the Netherlands. Photo: Ralph Orlowski, Bloomberg

Royal Philips Electronics NV (PHIA) workers in the Dutch town of Drachten who expected to be fired were astonished when the site manager said the company was bringing production of its top-priced electric shavers home from China.

Rob Karsmakers, the factory manager who returned from four years working for Philips in Asia, told the baffled crowd that the consumer-electronics company would boost investment in Drachten, where it employs 2,000 staff.

“A product engineer in Shanghai now is just as expensive as in Drachten,” said Karsmakers, who has overseen the plant since 2009, in an interview. “But in China, the headcount turnover is high. That is not sustainable.” Philips, which also lights the Eiffel tower and the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, employs a total of 14,000 people in the Netherlands. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Bloomberg, Chinese Model, Domestic Growth, Economics, European Union, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Soft Power, Strategy, Trade

HK furore over China prof’s remarks that Hong Kong is a land of ‘dogs’ and ‘thieves’ in thrall of British Colonialism: [Straits Times]

Indicative or divisive?

A row on a Hong Kong MTR train between mainland Chinese and local HK passengers has been escalated by a Peking University professor into a cultural clash.

Arguably, another pertinent reminder that the impression of the cultural and geopolitical homogeneity of Chinese can be quite far from the truth.

No stranger to controversy, the article ‘What has Professor Kong Qingdong done this time?‘ (Peking University, Nov 20, 2011) is indicative of his employer’s recognition that his role has, from time to time, ‘exceeded the premises of freedom of speech while ignoring a teacher’s basic principles’.

That said, the fact that such polarity of views can exist in China does point to an increased diversity of Chinese thought and expression.

A known critic of the free press and China’s more liberal news sources, this suppositional 73rd generation descendant of Confucius is a vocal supporter of Communist orthodoxy. He’s famous for a remark saying if “China’s journalists were all lined up and shot, I would feel heartache for not a single one of them”

A highly divisive statement by calling Hong Kongers ‘dogs’ as such can be reflective of China’s old guard with mindsets shaped by the cultural revolution. On most counts, such a broad value judgement can scarcely be regarded as a scholarly statement. On the other hand, if you watch the video in detail, Professor Kong’s assertion that Hong Kongers can take a ‘holier than thou’ attitude reminiscent of a ‘colonial hangover’ when it comes to dealing with mainland Chinese has been well documented.

In some ways it may be unfortunate this unravels during the Lunar New Year period. The spring festival’s intent is one of leaving the past behind with winter, this event may only serve to dredge up more division.

In our rapidly converging world of global production networks, it can be inadvertent that we find more and more common goals being met by diverging value systems.

It may not be my place to demarcate the role of academia, but as an supporter of the middle path, I think once we start to choose to impose rather than elucidate and illuminate, then such scholarship requires a moment of introspection and reflection.

For more, see:

Beijing professor and descendant of Confucius provokes anger by insulting Hong Kongers (Washington Post, Jan 23, 2012)

On the social media front: Follow Up on Peking University Professor Kong Qingdong’s Anti Hong Kong Comment (Bad Canto blog, Jan 22, 2012)

Catch both versions of the video (with subtitles and sans subs) here – Kong Qingdong: Hong Kongers are bastards, dogs and thieves (Shanhaiist, Jan 20, 2012). Also on the Shanghaiist, catch the original ‘skirmish’ here. Watch: Bitchfight between mainland tourists eating on the Hong Kong MTR with local passengers (Jan 15, 2012)

– – –

HK furore over China prof’s remarks
Academic’s name-calling rant infuriates HK people in the wake of subway train quarrel
Source – Straits Times, published Jan 22, 2012

BEIJING: A row in a Hong Kong subway train between mainland Chinese and local passengers has snowballed into an ugly exchange involving a Peking University professor after he labelled Hong Kongers as ‘dogs’.

It all began on Jan 15, when a Hong Kong man riding the subway chided a mainland family for letting their child snack in the carriage – which is not allowed – according to mainland and Hong Kong media reports.

The subsequent quarrel was videotaped by onlookers and put on the Internet, drawing comments from both sides of the Hong Kong border – the most scathing of which came from Peking University professor Kong Qingdong.

Speaking on a talk show on Internet television site tv.V1.cn last week, the Chinese-language professor repeatedly used the terms ‘dogs trained by colonialists’, ‘worshippers of the West’ and ‘bastards’ as he criticised Hong Kongers. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Education, Government & Policy, Hong Kong, Lifestyle, Media, Nationalism, Overseas Chinese, People, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Social, Territorial Disputes, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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