Wandering China

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

Does China Have a Soul? [The Diplomat]

From Tokyo-based online current affairs magazine ‘The Diplomat’: Under its China Power: A New World Order section, it poses the question ‘Does China Have a Soul? Here are two interesting comments from readers of the article.

Henry003 February 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm
The western press has been predicting the demise of PRC since the founding of PRC but it never materialized. For the simple fact that for most Chinese live are getting better with every day and only small segment of population known known as dissident would like to follow the west. The majority of the people couldn’t care less. I can never understand why people still beating the dead horse over and over again

Spartan February 5, 2012 at 10:11 am
Whenever someone says that China has a 4000 year history I cringe because the Communist Party did a pretty good job at destroying the previous zeitgeist. Sometimes when taking a taxi in DongBei I’ll run into a driver who wants to talk down to me as the “young American” and tell me that his country has a 4000 year history. Unfortunately, China in many respects resembles a narcissist who was beaten as a child and has to talk itself up to maintain a working degree of self esteem.

While I agree the search for a unifying spirit holds water as the author makes a salient point –

This question must sound embarrassingly racist or, given China’s economic trajectory, increasingly irrelevant. But it’s also China’s most important question because the flip side of this question is: Does China have a future?

I must add that pro-China commentators can tend to harp on the continuity of the Chinese civilisation while the dichotomy also sees the cultural revolution as evidence of its current ‘hypocrisy’ of having Confucius Institutes as a public diplomacy and internal social glue to extend/maintain China’s cultural capital.

Sometimes polarity means neglecting to see the forest for the trees.

The geo-political and territorial institution that is China has never been singular, nor smooth.

Chinese-ness on the other hand, as an identity has not only survived, but seems to have been reinforced (through assimilation or otherwise) all this time.

Witness the dynastic and political strife the China has had to bear to get to where it is today. China was divided for long periods of its history, with different regions being ruled by different groups and for a third of recorded history, by foreign rulers. For about another third of it, it was arguable if there a any single dynasty ruling a unified China.

Perhaps tongue-in-cheek, my take on the argument that China does not have a soul will hold water, the day the Chinese stop using chopsticks.

– – –

Does China Have a Soul?
By Jiang Xueqin
Source – The Diplomat, published Feb 5, 2012

The New York Review of Books blog has posted an Ian Johnson interview with Zhang Ping (who writes under the name Chang Ping), one of China’s most daring writers whom the Communist Party previously hounded out of reporting from China.

The piece is worth reading for both the interviewee and the interviewer.

Inspired by Liu Binyan to become a journalist, Chang Ping has a career that shares many similarities with that of his role model. But there’s one major difference. Liu, with his journalistic exposes of the inept Communist Party political, economic, social, and moral management of China, inspired a generation of disaffected youth to carry the intellectual flame. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Confucius, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Education, Influence, Lifestyle, Mapping Feelings, Modernisation, Nationalism, Peaceful Development, People, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Social, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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

China to maintain its family planning policy: official [Xinhua]

Family planning: China pledges to continue keeping its population in check.

Li Bin, director of the The National Population and Family Planning Commission (国家人口和计划生育委员会) acknowledges over-population as a major challenge to socio-economic development. This other document from 2006 building on its 1994 vision of China Agenda 21, with detailed future goals – defines the mid 21st century as the apex of China’s population growth, tipping what it sees as its optimum ceiling at 1.6 billion.

This is where Chinese planners see its socio-economic system running at its most ‘rational’ with a per capita income at the level of medium-developed countries. It also suggests that the milestone of balance was always a target, a trait synonymous with Chinese philosophy in a societal ideal where harmony and ‘balance will be struck between population and economy, society, natural resources and environment.’ This is when ‘the nation, in short, will have achieved modernization;’ its fundamental goal all along.

Along with that, is an effort visible throughout China in the form of public service messages covering every permutation of media to remind the Chinese to ‘return’ to a more ‘civilized’ society (click for a light-hearted example).

I am however unsure how this can be carried out in practice as the Chinese become more affluent and with the one-child policy progressively being relaxed.

It may have had its criticisms, tragedies and consequences (For every 100 girls born in 2010, 118 boys were born) but Li argues China’s population would have breached 1.7 billion otherwise, creating ‘more difficulties for society’. Perhaps the overarching political goal had a utilitarian insight carried out in a ‘hard way’, fingers crossed that the 21st century ruling party adapts to its evolved citizenry, and continues bettering and building a ‘favorable environment for the country’s economic development and social stability’.

– – –

China to maintain its family planning policy: official
Editor: Tang Danlu
Xinhua, published October 30, 2011

Photo taken on July 19, 2011 shows people queuing for visiting at the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China. The world’s population will reach 7 billion on October 31, according to the United Nations. (Xinhua/Wan Xiang)

BEIJING, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) — China will adhere to its family planning policy so as to maintain a low reproduction rate, said the country’s family planning chief on Sunday, expected to be the eve of the world’s population reaching seven billion.

“Over-population remains one of the major challenges to social and economic development,” said Li Bin, director of the State Population and Family Planning Commission in an exclusive interview with Xinhua, adding that the population of China will hit 1.45 billion in 2020.

Li said maintaining and improving the existing family planning policy and keeping a low reproduction rate, along with addressing the issues of gender imbalance and an aging population, will be the major tasks in the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Confucius, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Education, Health, Human Rights, Influence, Infrastructure, Modernisation, Politics, Population, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Social, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, xinhua

90 years, 80 million strong [Straits Times]

As China sets up scaffolding to allow for a stable ascent back into a great power, Wang Gungwu makes a poignant remark here as he ponders on the CCP’s 90th anniversary; and it is a point I fully agree with – ‘China today has returned to the leading position in the world that it enjoyed at the end of the 18th century. But that powerful position did not save the country then from succumbing too quickly to division and ruin.’

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90 years,80 million strong
China’s Communist Party needs fresh ideas to engage the young
by Wang Gungwu
Source – Straits Times, published July 15, 2011

Students painting logos and slogans for the Chinese Communist Party’s 90th anniversary celebrations on a wall along a street in Beijing last month. The party, which has prided itself on the strength of its ideological appeal, will need fresh ideas to bring it into its 10th decade. To do so, it needs to attract and motivate talented young people and induct them into its socialist heritage. Photo – ST

THE Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrated its 90th birthday on July 1. There is joy but also soul-searching in China. Many are incredulous that the party can claim “four generations under one roof” and is 80 million strong.

The party insists that people are its primary concern. It even goes further, in arguing that China’s future and progress depends on the people. Thus, it is the Chinese people who make the country admired or feared. They can make China an advanced country that evokes admiration and respect. Or they can attract attention to themselves as being concerned only for wealth and power, at once self-centred and arrogant.

The emphasis on support from the people was part of the party’s earliest history. The CCP began in 1921 with men of ideas who were inspired by the Russian revolution four years earlier. The Chinese had an earlier revolution in 1912, but that faltered badly, with its ideas criticised for being incoherent and its leaders hobbled by elitist tradition. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Communist Party 90th Anniversary, Confucius, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, Modernisation, National Medium- and Long- term Talent Development Plan, Nationalism, New Leadership, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Social, Soft Power, Straits Times, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

China and America: Rising Dragon, Bleeding Eagle [American Thinker]

A diagrammatic comparison between the ‘bleeding eagle’ and ‘rising dragon’. Such visualizations are becoming commonplace. Indeed, America’s decline seem to be in the forefront of mass media and citizen journalism, but I beg to differ. America still possesses still the largest talent and most diversified pool to get problems fixed, and to think ahead. Whilst China is growing yes, but it is also leaking some of its best once they are exposed to the West’s ‘still-more-appealing’ alternative paradigms of thinking about individuality and statehood.

– – –

China and America: Rising Dragon, Bleeding Eagle
By Anurag Maheshwari
Source – American Thinker, published May 22, 2011

China’s return as a superpower concomitant with rapid American decline is evoking a variety of sentiments around the world. While Latin America, Africa, and Greater Middle-East are largely welcoming this shift in power with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and an aging and dissipated Europe is watching it with bemused anxiety, in America it is causing an epic dilemma.

This dilemma is rooted in the impending demise of America’s reign as the world’s leading economy for last 120 years, the titanic scale and speed of China’s ascendancy, and the vistas and vulnerabilities of Sino-American security and economic intercourse. The international repercussions of this evolving strategic equilibrium are yet to fully unravel until China attains the highest plateau of its power.

To put it in context, consider how rapidly the balance of power between China and America has altered over the last 20 years. At the end of 1991 when Soviet Union had formally dissolved, United States stood as the sole colossus on global stage. Its economy was then 6 times that of China. In 2010, China’s continental economy was 70% that of US, and by 2016 — in 5 years — China (including Hong Kong and Macau) will rush past United States to become the leading economic power. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: American Thinker, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Chinese overseas, Communications, Confucius, Corruption, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Education, Environment, Ethnicity, Finance, Greater China, Human Rights, Inflation, Influence, International Relations, Media, National Medium- and Long- term Talent Development Plan, Nationalism, People, Politics, Population, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Resources, Social, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, U.S.

Ferguson vs. Kissinger on the future of China, and what it means for the rest of us [Foreign Policy Mag]

Kissinger and Ferguson are spot on in this review by Foreign Policy magazine. Kissinger’s perception is that China will revive itself to resume its position as middle kingdom in maintaining harmony, drawing steadfast values from both its indigenous schools of thought –  Confucian and I would add, the Tao. Ferguson’s revelation of China’s downloading of the ‘killer applications’ of the West also makes a lot of sense. A must read in first, understanding the Chinese mind and second, that the West is truly beginning to make sense of China.

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Ferguson vs. Kissinger on the future of China, and what it means for the rest of us
By Patrick M. Cronin
Source – Foreign Policy magazine, published May 17, 2011

Best Defense department of the mandate of heaven

Historian Niall Ferguson likes to think big. If most Washingtonians are satisfied with shaping a discrete national policy issue, Niall Ferguson isn’t satisfied unless he can challenge the global conventional wisdom of a generation.

Ferguson’s most recent strategic expository centered on the geopolitical implications of China possibly eclipsing American and Western power, reflections he recently shared at Chatham House in London [published as, “The West and the Rest: the Changing Global Balance of Power in Historic Perspective,” May 9, 2011]

His compelling if provocative analysis built not only on his latest tome, Civilization: the West and the Rest, but also the much-anticipated sweeping history, On China, written by the Henry Kissinger, and published today. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Confucius, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Foreign Policy Magazine, Great Wall, Greater China, History, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

China offers bitter lessons for success [Straits Times]

The schooling wisdom in vogue these days seems to be that Chinese teaching methods are superior.

I am uncertain (through conservations with friends from the mainland) if the teaching methods are indeed superior.

However, what can be easily established is that each student has to battle it out with at least 9.5 million others (a figure from 2006) for the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (known as Gao Kao 高考) and that, is revealing. In comparison, there were less than 30,000 others in the Singapore equivalent when I was in high school. Will a pool of more than 9.5 million competitors necessarily yield a tough-er and better breed of performers?

– – –

China offers bitter lessons for success
Life in the country provides an education in how nothing can be taken for granted
By Grace Ng, China Correspondent
Source – Straits Times, published Feb 06, 2011

Beijing: Two Chinese friends who work overseas recently told me that they want to bring their children back to be schooled in their homeland.

‘US schools are too soft, they don’t teach the kids that life is tough and that it will get even tougher once China takes over the world,’ said Ling, whose four- year-old daughter Alice was born in the United States.

The other Chinese mother, whose eight-year-old son grew up in Singapore, wants to send him to school in Shanghai, where her parents live. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Confucius, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Education, Environment, Influence, Mapping Feelings, Media, Nationalism, Population, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, Straits Times, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior [Wall Street Journal]

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

excerpted from “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua

– – –

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior
Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?
By Amy Chua
Source – Wall Street Journal, published January 8, 2011

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Back to China, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Confucius, Culture, Education, Nationalism, Overseas Chinese, Social, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Wall Street Journal

Peace prize furore stirs China reformists [The Age]

Peace prize furore stirs China reformists
John Garnaut, Beijing
Source – The Age, published December 10, 2010

TONIGHT in Oslo an empty chair will show how China has inadvertently achieved its Nobel peace prize dream by sentencing the 2010 recipient, political reformer Liu Xiaobo, to 11 years in jail.

For Dr Liu’s supporters, the security crackdown and propaganda blitz before the award ceremony have exposed the Communist Party’s crisis of legitimacy.

“The regime looks so powerful but also so weak,” said Pu Zhiqiang, a leading Beijing civil rights lawyer who was in Tiananmen Square with Dr Liu on June 4, 1989. “It depends on force to maintain itself but force itself is in fact powerless.” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Communications, Confucius, Education, Human Rights, Influence, International Relations, Media, Nationalism, Nobel Peace Prize, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

SINOGRAPH – Stillness conquers heat (on Lao Zi) [Asia Times]

This is a great read if one wishes to delve deeper into the Chinese mind.

Although Confucianism (more facets than the complete teachings) has been arguably chosen as contemporary China’s public face, Tao (as first expounded by Lao Zi and pre-dates Confucianism by a century) helps explains the Chinese fascination with harmony, good form, and ultimately balance – leading to the middle path.

I must note though that this alludes to Tao in its original form, a set of wisdom passed down from the ages; not popular Taoism as we might see today in its religious form.

In history, however, Lao Zi’s teaching have been known to be embraced by anti-authoritarian movements in Chinese dynastic history. So.

In a world growing in the export of Chinese cultural capital, the current set of self evident cross-pollination are locked into Confucianism and its meritocratic emphasis on hierarchy, Fengshui (a component of Tao), Zen, Kung Fu and of course, a voracious work ethic capable of offering good margins. If practicing what one preaches is good measure, I am not sure if Tao institutes are the way to go. But what is evident from China’s rise is a tilt towards polarity – economic growth alone, and having a say in the conditions for that growth, is arguably the Chinese imperative today. The Chinese have to remember what Tao is first, before they share and pass on the word.

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SINOGRAPH – Stillness conquers heat
By Francesco Sisci
Source – Asia Times, published September 2, 2010

BEIJING – Laozi parts ways with Confucius, as they have different interests in the world and in their thinking. Laozi moves west from the great plains of central China to the borders of the Chinese civilization, and to the state of Qin, because “if the sun rises from the East, people came from the West”, reasons Laozi.

In the state of Qin, where customs and manners are still not as corrupted as in the smaller and more ancient states of the central plain, the local people are struck by Laozi, a man with white hair but still with the face of a boy, untouched by the passing of time. They talk with him and then are sure that this man can help them to be great.

So starts Laozi’s Biography, a quasi novel by Yu Shicun that deals with the other half of the Chinese soul, the darker and more ethereal side of the Chinese binary system of yin and yang. On one side sits the Confucian method and practical mind, and on the other towers the fascination with nature and mysteries harkened in the ancient cryptic verses of Laozi, a central figure in Taoism, who, according to Chinese tradition, lived in the 6th century BC. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Asia Times Online, Chinese Model, Confucius, Culture, Environment, Greater China, Influence, Lifestyle, Population, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, Tao

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