Wandering China

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

For Asians, School Tests Are Vital Steppingstones [New York Times]

Maybe the narrative that fewer remember the silver medallists sticks…

A desire for equity, catching up, or a desire for something else?

The question remains however – what about the the other Asians who are not as motivated? What sort of careless blanket agenda is this article setting?

No one will be surprised if Asian students, who make up 14 percent of the city’s public school students, once again win most of the seats, and if black and Hispanic students win few. Last school year, of the 14,415 students enrolled in the eight specialized high schools that require a test for admissions, 8,549 were Asian.

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For Asians, School Tests Are Vital Steppingstones
By Kyle Spencer
Source – New York Times, published October 26, 2012

Ting Shi, at his parents’ laundromat, spent years studying for the admissions test to Stuyvesant High School, where he was accepted. Photo source – New York Times, 2012

Ting Shi said his first two years in the United States were wretched. He slept in a bunk bed in the same room with his grandparents and a cousin in Chinatown, while his parents lived on East 89th Street, near a laundromat where they endured 12-hour shifts. He saw them only on Sundays.

Even after they found an apartment together, his father often talked about taking the family back to China. So, following the advice of friends and relatives from Fuzhou, where he is from, Ting spent more than two years poring over dog-eared test prep books, attending summer and after-school classes, even going over math formulas on the walk home from school.

The afternoon his acceptance letter to Stuyvesant High School arrived in the mail, he and his parents gathered at the laundromat, the smell of detergent and the whirl of the washing machines filling the air. “Everyone was excited,” Ting recalled.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Chinese overseas, Communications, Education, Ethnicity, Finance, Government & Policy, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, New York Times, Overseas Chinese, People, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, U.S.,

Wary of Future, Professionals Leave China in Record Numbers [New York Times]

Headlines and titles may inadvertently seem skewed as it frames thought. Like a mental snapshot, it can oversimplify or at its worst, misdirect (in the wider ecosystem of political rhetoric, this looks part of the inadvertent Sino-US leadership transitional exchange of shaping mind-share). I think if one reads on, this article can be taken rather positively.

The recent movement of these professional, educated Chinese across the world can further help build bridges where mass media glosses over. In others ways, it is not a bad thing it is an educated, professional group that carries Chinese thought extending outwards. Where most of all the previous batches who left largely by push factors or war, the case now is markedly different.

In Singapore’s case, the overarching narrative, its Chinese are largely descended from craftsmen and coolies. As Lee Kuan Yew once pointed out – in response to Deng’s question if China would ever succeed looking at how Singapore successful hybridization of central power with Confucian meritocracy at the forefront and free market capitalism with its socio-cultural tradeoffs.

Indeed, on closer examination, the numbers today who move due to socio-economic pull factors are still small in percentage terms. As reported by this article, even fewer (perhaps few would admit) regard political reasons as the chief factor.

Over millennia of movement the number of overseas Chinese number at 55million . That cumulative number makes it as large as most medium sized countries so they are not insignificant either. Change your lenses change your sight.

Perhaps looking at the bright side can be a decent point of view. I know a few Chinese aged between 19 and 35 now residing in Australia. We have been on camping trips far out in the bush carrying our own water without much fuss, Others I know, by competing against in futsal teams  in the local leagues, many others love dressing up for the Melbourne Cup day.

Some may find it hard to empathize the competition in China because they may not have set foot in China, or met the Chinese on the ground. 9 to 10 million compete for a spot in university a the college examinations each year. Those who don’t make the grade fight for very little. A 2 to 3000RMB monthly salary, hardly enough to cover rent for a decent sized rental home is norm for those striking out.

Have personally known a few bright hardworking of China’s digital natives who just couldn’t make the grade despite sometimes seemingly overboard preparations. Such is their reality. Many have integrated well here, Melbourne thrives with a former mayor who is Chinese, and many live just like the Aussies do adding to the multicultural social fabric down under.

In monetary terms, they automatically make six times the amount due to the strong Aussie dollar with far less working hours with plenty of time for family and other pursuits. Many of them make efficient workers who get things done so promptly it is hard for work to keep up. This is not representative across the board of course. For every one that excels there potentially is another who just wants to get by. But I digress.

In return as well, for those who work with or live in communities with Aussies, they become a real life conduit for Aussies to understand China in its own terms too. Its cuisine has proven immensely popular here with all 8 major branches of Chinese cooking represented those from all corners of China proving extremely popular – right down to Sichuan hotpot, a regular in winter for many. It then moves onto the locally adapted local favorite the dim sim (does not exist in real Chinese culinary palates I think), to the classy Beijing Hutong themed Xiao long bao restaurants.

I meet many of them at vineyards, organic farms, strawberry farms and fishing spots. About half happily drive the Aussie-made Holden because it feels right to drive a locally made car in Australia. Just the tip of the iceberg. I think it is a great thing. Overseas Chinese who mingle well with host environments naturally make vehicles of the wider Chinese culture and national identity. It also shows like that others, there are those who seek out a balanced life too where work doesn’t dominate all their headspace.

More importantly, they help others see we can all get along, share other ideals and worldviews. Interestingly too, in the field of diasporic identities, that overseas Chinese end up being all too aware of their own Chineseness is common across most other diaporic groups too – from the Greeks and Italians I know here – they celebrate their identity with zeal and vigour.

Not all assimilate or adapt of course. It would oversimplify to say all enjoy life here. Many of them feel the pace of life is a little too slow. I have also known a fair few who can’t wait to return, but do so at least, with a broadened outlook and first hand experience of another way of living.

They return with a first hand glimpse of a rather liberal, western society where the channels to exercise one’s right to voice, its deferences shows other paradigms exist successfully elsewhere. When they enter the work force, they are valued for their more globalised outlook, with a practical experience of using English in school and at work, the culture, history, norms and processes. And this is celebrated in the mass media there in game shows – this comes with Chinese subtitles only.

And 非你莫属 is just one of many state funded shows out there. It features distinctly American style sports commentary and a debate that involves mentors, employers, the host and the job seeker. They reserve the right to say no at the end of their final round offers, and negotiate outside the show. And its the wide range of jobseekers on offer, from the clerk to driver, to partner or director raking in six figure RMB a month.

Cultural capital has been identified as a pillar industry and the production values are apparent, it has taken care to weed out what was deemed low culture reality tv and today the focus on more productive shows like this is ramping up. This employment-seeking show emphasises the need for more internationally minded employees in their midst. This episode talks about it is unavoidable now China has risen that it needs an upgrade in a globalised mindset. It actively advertises for Haigui 海归; pinyin: hǎiguī on foreign television. A fair few of them seem genuinely proud in returning to contribute.

This is highly recommended and it gives a glimpse of how the Chinese are democratising on their own terms, in their unique own way. The adaptations from American and European game shows are obvious at the onset, but their process are far more intricate and involve far more depth of discourse) that see many returning candidates have the right to take questions, present competently, then proceed into the final rounds where they exercise the right to eliminate and haggle salary with interested employers.

As a student of media, it is important to discern the agenda setting potential of media. Although the political economy of the mass media no longer dominate the spectrum of messages as they used to, transnational media corporations remain nevertheless powerful.

As such, we consume, at best, selected, well-informed, well intended, rationalized textual and visual constructions of the macro, but never of the real thing until all five senses are fed. Even then, sometimes the right messages don’t go right through. A lover’s tiff for example, where misreading of body language triggers a chain of cascading misunderstandings is one most can relate with. The primacy of first hand experience is equally,  important to get a full picture – to try to make the best of the information available, to more accurately inform opinion.

The movement is not all one way. With economies stagnant in the West and job opportunities limited, the number of students returning to China was up 40 percent in 2011 compared with the previous year. The government has also established high-profile programs to lure back Chinese scientists and academics by temporarily offering various perks and privileges. Professor Cao from Nottingham, however, says these programs have achieved less than advertised.

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Wary of Future, Professionals Leave China in Record Numbers
by Ian Johnson
Source – New York Times, published October 31, 2012

Lee Yangang and his wife, Wang Lu, emigrated to Sydney, Australia, from Beijing last year, saying they felt insecure in China. Source – New York Times, 2012

BEIJING — At 30, Chen Kuo had what many Chinese dream of: her own apartment and a well-paying job at a multinational corporation. But in mid-October, Ms. Chen boarded a midnight flight for Australia to begin a new life with no sure prospects.

Like hundreds of thousands of Chinese who leave each year, she was driven by an overriding sense that she could do better outside China. Despite China’s tremendous economic successes in recent years, she was lured by Australia’s healthier environment, robust social services and the freedom to start a family in a country that guarantees religious freedoms.

“It’s very stressful in China — sometimes I was working 128 hours a week for my auditing company,” Ms. Chen said in her Beijing apartment a few hours before leaving. “And it will be easier raising my children as Christians abroad. It is more free in Australia.” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Back to China, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Finance, Government & Policy, Greater China, Influence, International Relations, Lifestyle, Mapping Feelings, Media, New York Times, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Social, Strategy, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), The Chinese Identity, Trade, Yuan, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader #China [New York Times]

As a student of the media, it is hard to ascertain intention from simply reading off representative lines of text in articles. Unless one has a direct face-to-face interview with the author and amongst other things, a complete understanding of the editorial process,  political economy of the transnational media institution involved, it’s at best, an informed guess. Interpreted by Chinese communities I am in touch with as part of a continuum of China gesturing in a time of Sino-US leadership transition, the consensus seems to be one of 顧全大局 – keep the eye focused on the big picture, general situation and present conditions.

New York Times: From David Barboza, correspondent for the NY Times based in Shanghai since 2004. Fact illuminating or complicating the Chinese fog of war ahead of the  leadership change scheduled to take place on Nov 8 at the 18th National Congress? I don’t think the Chinese people are overly concerned for the wider Chinese socio-economic headspace has other priorities, but for a non-Chinese audience this may take some deliberating.

Will this diminish Wen’s residual power as the Chinese central authority reconfigures itself? Also – this comes at a time when questions are being asked if Hu Jintao will step down from his chairmanship of the Central Military Commission (see Hu Jintao likely to quit as head of China’s military: analysts by the Want China Times, October 15, 2012)

The article scarcely reveals the methods behind their investigations, based on ‘[a] review of corporate and regulatory records‘. Incidentally, this story is repeated all over Australia’s state broadsheets via the agencies and was trending on Twitter when news broke. Below is what I found on my feed.

Screen capture from my Twitter Feed. Hashtag #Wenjiabao is trending at the moment. David Barboza who wrote the article was ‘credited’ by FT’s David Pilling as bringing the NYTimes website down in China.

In response, China’s Great Firewall was cranked up with a retaliatory posture, with its 500m plus  internet users now unable to search for keywords relating to Wen and NYT (save for those who utilise proxy servers to ‘tunnel’ through the wall – China condemns NY Times Wen Jiabao wealth story ‘smear’ (BBC, October 26, 2012)

On China’s Twitter-like weibo platforms, keywords such as Wen Jiabao and the New York Times are blocked. Mr Wen’s name, like most other Chinese leaders, has always been a screened keyword.

Some netizens did manage to post the article despite heavy and rapid censorship. A Sina Weibo user tweeted about the article from Kawagoe city in Japan, but his post was removed after 11 minutes.

Here’s an interesting comment on the NY Times article which piqued my interest. Fair comment, or victim of  information intertextuality and access gone wild?

It looks like ousted Chongqing leader Bo Xilai has eventually got to fight back. Revelations about Wen Jiabao family’s hidden fortune have been timed to coincide with expulsion of Bo Xilai from top legislature that stripped him of his MP immunity, which means he’s now facing a biased trial and harsh imprisonment, if not worse. With the revelations Bo Xilai and his supporters landed a devastating blow straight at the top of China political establishment. Adding to the drama the long awaited change in China’s secretive and closed leadership is looming only few days away. Wondering whether this is just the first and last retaliatory blow from someone who has given up all hopes and deems to be doomed. I would bet that Mr. Bo Xilai keeps ready some more bunker-busting ammos in store and signaled loud an clear that he’s now ready to use all of them in his last-stance fight. If my bet is right things in China in the very near future will get quite interesting. Comment on article by Mario from Italy

If found true however, will this fall under the list 52 “unacceptable practices” (不准 – 中国共产党党员领导干部廉洁从政若干准则 in full)? Introduced in 2010 to fight widespread corruption after an initial trial that started in 1997, the code of ethics has a special emphasis on indirect corruption – when officials abuse power to benefit not themselves directly, but their relatives. The code explicitly names ‘spouses, children, in-laws and other relatives’ as unacceptable beneficiaries depending on transaction.

According to a Shanghai cable in 2007 that Wikileaks got its hands onto – “Wen is disgusted with his family’s activities, but is either unable or unwilling to curtail them.” Swimming in a sea of driftwood collateral corruption, if you will.

For a wider perspective – check out A rising pitch against corruption [Straits Times, March 8, 2010] – that examined China’s ever-lingering problem – corruption. The issue has brought down many Chinese institutions in the past – 3% of the GDP being siphoned off sounds like no small number. Back in 2010, Wen Jiabao spoke at the National People’s Congress, stressing that failure to ‘check corruption will have a ‘direct bearing’ on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) grip on power.’ This article then argued that it is not China’s modern capitalist leanings that have fueled today’s problems. Rather, it feels that it was Mao who “created a privilege-based political system that lies at the heart of China’s contemporary corruption woes.” Beyond that the fine line between guanxi and gifting as a significant cultural paradigm Chinese, diasporic or not, subscribe to makes the western interpretation of corruption hard to impose.

 And here’s a two-year rewind with Inflation, corruption could hurt China: Wen (The Age/AFP, October 3, 2012). In an interview with Fareed Zakaria on GPS, he said, “I do have worry for the management of inflation expectations in China… And that is something that I have been trying very hard to manage appropriately and well, because I believe corruption and inflation will have an adverse impact on stability of power in our country.”

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Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader
by David Barboza
Source – New York Times, published October 25, 2012

Many relatives of Mr. Wen became wealthy during his leadership. Source – New York Times, 2012

BEIJING — The mother of China’s prime minister was a schoolteacher in northern China. His father was ordered to tend pigs in one of Mao’s political campaigns. And during childhood, “my family was extremely poor,” the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, said in a speech last year.

But now 90, the prime minister’s mother, Yang Zhiyun, not only left poverty behind — she became outright rich, at least on paper, according to corporate and regulatory records. Just one investment in her name, in a large Chinese financial services company, had a value of $120 million five years ago, the records show.

The details of how Ms. Yang, a widow, accumulated such wealth are not known, or even if she was aware of the holdings in her name. But it happened after her son was elevated to China’s ruling elite, first in 1998 as vice prime minister and then five years later as prime minister. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: 52 Unacceptable Practices, Beijing Consensus, Bo Xilai, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Corruption, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, Finance, Government & Policy, Great Firewall, Influence, Internet, Law, Maoism, Media, New York Times, Peaceful Development, Politics, Poverty, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Social, Soft Power, Strategy, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, U.S., , , , , , , , , , ,

When Growth Outpaces Happiness [New York Times]

New York Times: Richard Easterlin weighs in on the China debate with twenty years of data. Is happiness in a rapidly developing socio-economic sphere such as China’s a moving goalpost? His research focuses on the relation of economic growth to happiness, happiness in the transition from socialism to capitalism and life cycle happiness amongst others. Will things get better with the current five-year plan set on spreading more equitable wealth as iron rice bowls, a feature of central planning are being phased out? Restructuring its SOEs for example, some still cumbersome relics from a past era is not going to be complete overnight.

Also – having spent time travelling through twelve different cities in China I’ve come to realise much of the problems lie in the local level of government – my ancestral city of Shantou, despite being one of the first to open up, for example seems in disarray compared to the farmers in a primary industry region I saw in Jiangsu province who live in multi-storied mansions across the board.

See the paper China’s life sastisfaction: 1990 to 2010 here with data collected from five survey organisations, with one of them Chinese as it studies the trend of subjective well-being (SWB) of the Chinese population in transit from socialism to capitalism.

More on Professor Easterlin here.

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When Growth Outpaces Happiness
By Richard A. Easterlin
Source – New York Times, published September 27, 2012

Source – New York Times, 2012

CHINA’s new leaders, who will be anointed next month at the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress in Beijing, might want to rethink the Faustian bargain their predecessors embraced some 20 years ago: namely, that social stability could be bought by rapid economic growth.

As the recent riots at a Foxconn factory in northern China demonstrate, growth alone, even at sustained, spectacular rates, has not produced the kind of life satisfaction crucial to a stable society — an experience that shows how critically important good jobs and a strong social safety net are to people’s happiness.

Starting in 1990, as China moved to a free-market economy, real per-capita consumption and gross domestic product doubled, then doubled again. Most households now have at least one color TV. Refrigerators and washing machines — rare before 1990 — are common in cities. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: 52 Unacceptable Practices, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Collectivism, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Economics, Education, Environment, Government & Policy, Human Rights, Infrastructure, Mapping Feelings, Migrant Workers, Migration (Internal), New York Times, People, Politics, Population, Poverty, Property, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Social, The Chinese Identity, , , , , , , , , ,

The Inconvenient Truth Behind the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands [New York Times]

From the New York Times: putting the knee jerk to rest?

The right to know is the bedrock of every democracy. The Japanese public deserves to know the other side of the story. It is the politicians who flame public sentiments under the name of national interests who pose the greatest risk, not the islands themselves. Han-yi Shaw

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The Inconvenient Truth Behind the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands
Comment by Nicholas Kristof
Article By Han-yi Shaw
Source – New York Times, published September 19, 2012

Source – Han-yi Shaw 2012
Diaoyu Island is recorded under Kavalan, Taiwan in Revised Gazetteer of Fujian Province (1871).

I’ve had a longstanding interest in the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, the subject of a dangerous territorial dispute  between Japan and China. The United States claims to be neutral but in effect is siding with Japan, and we could be drawn in if a war ever arose. Let me clear that I deplore the violence in the recent anti-Japan protests in China:  the violence is reprehensible and makes China look like an irrational bully. China’s government should reign in this volatile nationalism rather than feed it. This is a dispute that both sides should refer to the International Court of Justice, rather than allow to boil over in the streets. That said, when I look at the underlying question of who has the best claim, I’m sympathetic to China’s position. I don’t think it is 100 percent clear, partly because China seemed to acquiesce to Japanese sovereignty between 1945 and 1970, but on balance I find the evidence for Chinese sovereignty quite compelling. The most interesting evidence is emerging from old Japanese government documents and suggests that Japan in effect stole the islands from China in 1895 as booty of war. This article by Han-Yi Shaw, a scholar from Taiwan, explores those documents. I invite any Japanese scholars to make the contrary legal case. Nicholas Kristof Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Back to China, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Diaoyu Fishing Boat Incident 2010, East China Sea, Economics, Government & Policy, Influence, International Relations, japan, Mapping Feelings, Media, military, Nationalism, New York Times, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Taiwan, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), Territorial Disputes, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, U.S., , , , , , , , ,

[Singapore’s Lee Hsien-Loong in dialogue with senior Chinese party officials in Beijing] China ‘faces challenges within itself’ [Straits Times]

Greater China sphere: In China to affirm bilateral ties, Singapore’s prime minister left Beijing Friday September 7th after a six-day official visit. During his stay, he met with China’s top leaders Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Vice Premier Li Keqiang and top legislator Wu Bangguo. On top of Beijing he also visited Sichuan Province to the southwest and Tianjin Municipality up north. Of course, the symbolic gesture has been the arrival of pandas from China as token making Singapore the seventh recipient of panda diplomacy.

Here’s a broad sweep of state media coverage on Lee’s visit.

Chinese state media

Xinhua – Chinese vice premier meets Singaporean PM (September 7, 2012)
Xinhua – China’s top legislator [Wu Bangguo] meets Singaporean PM (September 7, 2012)
China Daily – Premier Wen calls for further co-op with Singapore (September 6, 2012)
Global Times – Chinese premier calls for further cooperation with Singapore (September 7, 2012)
People’s Daily – repeated articles from Xinhua

Singapore state media
Straits Times – China ‘faces challenges within itself
Today Online – From economic ties to traffic management: PM Lee highlights how bilateral cooperation between China and Singapore has evolved at end of official visit

Facing west, however – A report by the two million-readership New Yorker (September 7, 2012) featured the headline Singaporean Tells China U.S. Is Not in Decline. It focused on the Singapore prime minister’s speech (first was in 2005) at the Central Party School under the theme “China and the World – Prospering and Progressing Together“.

BEIJING — In an unusual public airing of strategic problems surrounding China’s rise, the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, warned China on Thursday that it should view the United States not as a declining power, but as a nation with the ability to innovate and bounce back.

Is Singapore in a position to ‘warn‘ China? Many years ago, what Lee Kuan Yew had to say, Deng Xiaoping was stirred to listen.

But at best, it represented a scalable model where authoritarian capitalism (with some room for deliberation) could work in, albeit in a very finite space of just 600+km2. For twenty years since official ties were made the Chinese have been sending its mayors to Singapore for training That is probably one of the few valued contributions Singapore can provide in the mind of the Chinese. Further down the road, does the relationship between the younger Lee and China simply carry the same resonance? Perhaps what is lacking is the interpersonal relationship with key figures that his father had.

Indeed, the little red dot requires a myriad of interlocking regional strategic engagements to keep it safe – it has to stay ‘as neutral as possible’ despite its obvious Chinese-majority population and ruling class while providing the US naval support since the 60s.

Here is a link to the full speech here (in Chinese with the English translation)-
I think the NY Times does stir with fourth estate dyslexia by couching the speech as a warning.

A scan of the speech will reveal the overarching theme is interdependence and some pointers Lee Hsien-Loong sees as necessary bilateral Sino-US ingredients for a stable environment for Singapore to continue to thrive. With a minute domestic market dependent on imports for natural resources, Singapore’s ingredient for survival is to avoid and help manage conflict at all cost. So – Warning, it is not.

It hardly makes sense for Singapore to stand up to, for there is little strategic leverage in, ‘warning’ China. It understands China’s position as it shares cultural traits and arguably a lasting one-party model (China’s from 1949, Singapore’s from 1965). However, by tapping on memories of its long history of western education since 1819, the Singaporean perspective can offer useful pointers on keeping an East-West equilibrium for the region.

Thoughtful Americans, both Democrat and Republican, also understand that any attempt to contain China is doomed to fail. US-China relations in the 21st century cannot be compared to ties between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Trade between the US and Soviet Union was negligible, and nuclear deterrence was the primary stabilising factor. Today, China and the US are profoundly intertwined, and their relationship is stabilised by mutual economic dependence. The US cannot hold China back without hurting itself at the same time. Neither would European or Asian countries join such a misguided effort to contain China. My Foreign Minister stated this view clearly in a widely reported speech in Washington earlier this year, a view which many American officials accepted. Ultimately, both China and the US must develop a new modus vivendi that reflects current realities and benefits both sides.  Lee Hsien-Loong, at the Central Party School

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China ‘faces challenges within itself’
This is an excerpt from a transcript of a dialogue Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had with senior Chinese party officials at the Central Party School in Beijing on Thursday.
Source – Straits Times, published September 8, 2012

China and Singapore started the Tianjin Eco-City project in 2007. PM Lee said Singapore would like its cooperation with China ”to develop into new areas which are relevant to both sides as our societies change”. — ST PHOTO: LIM WUI LIANG

Bilateral ties between China and Singapore are good, but both countries have differing views on some important regional and global issues. How do you think we can communicate and work better on these issues? How do you see the relationship between Singapore and China going forward?

PM Lee: China is a big country growing rapidly. Singapore is a small country also seeking to prosper in Asia. We wish Asia to be stable, and the region to be open and prosperous together.

Nobody wants to see a conflict in the South China Sea, but our position cannot be the same as China’s position simply because China is a claimant-state. Singapore is not a claimant-state. Therefore Singapore cannot take sides or judge the merits of the different claims to the South China Sea. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: ASEAN, Beijing Consensus, Channel News Asia, Charm Offensive, China Daily, Chinese Model, Collectivism, Confucius, Culture, Domestic Growth, East China Sea, Economics, Environment, Finance, global times, Government & Policy, Greater China, Hu Jintao, Influence, International Relations, Media, New York Times, Overseas Chinese, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Resources, Singapore, Soft Power, South China Sea, Straits Times, Tao Guang Yang Hui (韬光养晦), Territorial Disputes, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Trade, U.S., , , , , , , , , ,

Language and China’s ‘Practical Creativity’ [International Herald Tribune Rendezvous]]

Food for thought from the International Herald Tribune of the NY Times: Rote learning = conformist attitude? Does learning Chinese lessen deep creativity by furthering practical, but not abstract, thinking?

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Language and China’s ‘Practical Creativity
By Didi Kirsten Tatlow
Source – International Herald Tribune Rendezvous, published August 22, 2012

Every language presents challenges — English pronunciation can be idiosyncratic and Russian grammar is fairly complex, for example — but non-alphabetic writing systems like Chinese pose special challenges.

There is the well-known issue that Chinese characters don’t systematically map to sounds, making both learning and remembering difficult, a point I examine in my latest column. If you don’t know a character, you can’t even say it.

Nor does Chinese group individual characters into bigger “words,” even when a character is part of a compound, or multi-character, word. That makes meanings ambiguous, a rich source of humor for Chinese people. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Chinese Model, Collectivism, Communications, Culture, Education, History, Influence, Mapping Feelings, New York Times, Social, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, , ,

In Singapore, Vitriol Against Chinese Newcomers [New York Times]

The New York Times takes a look at the paradox of rising ant-Chinese sentiment in Singapore with words like xenophobia being bandied about in the press. More than a third of residents in the globalised port-of-call Singapore are born outside its already population-dense shores while it ranks the third most sort after immigration destination for the affluent Chinese after Canada and the US (final page, see PDF report here) in 2012.

“Mainlanders may look like us, but they aren’t like us… Singaporeans look down on mainlanders as country bumpkins, and they look down on us because we can’t speak proper Chinese… ”quote by Alvin Tan, the artistic director of a local community theater company.

Certainly, cautious steps ahead. See Prickly points of a New York Times article (The Online Citizen, July 30, 2012)

for a glimpse of what one Singaporean Chinese feels about the newcomers.

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In Singapore, Vitriol Against Chinese Newcomers
by Andrew Jacobs
Source – New York Times, published July 26, 2012

Construction workers from mainland China at Renewal Christian Church in Singapore, which offers meals and English lessons to those far from home. Photo – New York Times

SINGAPORE — It was bad enough that Ma Chi was driving well above the speed limit on a downtown boulevard when he blew through a red light and struck a taxi, killing its two occupants and himself. It didn’t help, either, that he was at the wheel of a $1.4 million Ferrari that early morning in May, or that the woman in the passenger seat was not his wife.

But what really set off a wave of outrage across this normally decorous island-state is the fact that Mr. Ma, a 31-year-old financial investor, carried a Chinese passport, having arrived in Singapore four years earlier.

The accident, captured by the dashboard camera of another taxi, has uncorked long-stewing fury against the surge of new arrivals from China, part of a government-engineered immigration push that has almost doubled Singapore’s population to 5.2 million since 1990. About a million of those newcomers arrived in the past decade, drawn by financial incentives and a liberal visa policy aimed at counteracting Singapore’s famously low birthrate. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Chinese overseas, Culture, Education, Government & Policy, Greater China, Nationalism, New York Times, Overseas Chinese, Peaceful Development, Public Diplomacy, Singapore, Social, Soft Power, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, ,

Master of the Media Spotlight Is Now Its Victim in China [New York Times]

It sure is flooding the public sphere as the Bo Xilai saga continues. Perhaps it’s indicative of just how much the party wants him out. On the other hand, it’s probably a good time to find out which influences mind-share more – China’s time tested one-to-many propaganda machine choreographing a damning narrative, foreign media looking for gaps, or social media from within telling us things we don’t know first hand?

‘Not in decades has such a widespread and finely tuned propaganda campaign been rolled out during the purge of an official. In the last two major purges, in 2006 and 1995, party leaders did not flood the media with nearly so much propaganda. And not since the bloodshed of 1989 have editorials insisting that officials and cadres reaffirm fealty to the party appeared with such frequency and vehemence.’

– – –

Master of the Media Spotlight Is Now Its Victim in China
Edward Wong, Jonathan Ansfield
Source – New York Times, published April 23, 2012

BEIJING — Intimidating and courting Chinese journalists, Bo Xilai, an ambitious Communist Party official, fueled his political career by ably shaping his public image and seizing the spotlight in a way no peer had as he governed a Chinese city. But with his purge from the party’s top ranks this month, Mr. Bo has suddenly found himself the target of the same media apparatus that he once so carefully manipulated, and that now vilifies him in the name of the party’s leaders.

As it announced the purge, the party unleashed the full arsenal of its propaganda machine against Mr. Bo, pressing news organizations across the nation into an extraordinary campaign urging support for the party’s decision to oust Mr. Bo, editors and media executives say. It has arguably been the greatest mobilization to support a decision by the party since the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

The campaign began on April 10, when the state news agency, Xinhua, announced that Mr. Bo had been suspended from the powerful Politburo and that his wife, Gu Kailai, was under investigation in the murder of a British businessman in November. Interviews with editors and media executives offer a glimpse of how the secretive party propaganda machinery has worked at a time of intense political tension. This week, the campaign is entering a more subtle phase as some news organizations veer away, at the behest of top propaganda officials, from running editorials emphasizing party loyalty and start to parse the significance of Mr. Bo’s case. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: 52 Unacceptable Practices, Bo Xilai, Censorship, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Corruption, Government & Policy, Influence, Media, New York Times, Politics, Strategy

Ford to Build Plant in China to Bolster Global Sales [New York Times]

Ford forges ahead on the Chinese automotive bandwagon with the largest factory expansion in 50 years.

This however, comes at a time of increased competition, with Japanese, European and American automakers plus fast-growing, low-cast local manufacturers. Can China’s market handle the intensity? After a decade of double-digit growth, Chinese auto sales rose just 2.5 percent in 2011. The first quarter of this year was the first decline in seven years when indicated sales were down 1.3 percent.

President of Ford’s operations in Asia howver indicates that ‘Ford had forecast in 2010 that the Chinese market would grow at a compound annual rate of 5 percent for the next decade.’

‘Until early this year, Ford had an annual manufacturing capacity in China of 450,000 cars, in what has become the world’s largest market, with annual sales of 18 million vehicles. But by 2015, it plans to have an annual capacity of 1.2 million cars.’

From Ford’s media site, Soundbites: New Hangzhou Assembly Plant in China 

– – –

Ford to Build Plant in China to Bolster Global Sales
Source: New York Times, published April 19, 2012

BEIJING, CHINA — Ford Motor has chosen China for its largest factory expansion program in a half century, announcing on Thursday that it would build a $760 million assembly plant in Hangzhou, two weeks after announcing another $600 million plan to expand an assembly plant in Chongqing and less than six weeks after completing a third assembly plant in Chongqing.

Ford is late to China’s party, and its new factories will open in a slowing, increasingly competitive Chinese market. Rapid factory construction in China is a throwback to the company’s last big factory building campaign in the 1950s, when models like the Thunderbird captured the hearts and wallets of young Americans and when Ford was racing to increase capacity in postwar Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Auto sales in China rose just 2.5 percent last year, after a decade of double-digit annual growth. Sales were down 1.3 percent in the first quarter of this year from a year earlier, the first quarter to show a decline in seven years, according to official figures. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Automotive, Chinese Model, Domestic Growth, Economics, Finance, Influence, Infrastructure, International Relations, New York Times, Soft Power, Transport, U.S.

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