Wandering China

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

China expels a correspondent [New Yorker]

New Yorker: Soviet-era strategy sticking out like a sore thumb? Amidst China’s peaceful development message, it has kicked out a foreign correspondent for crossing ‘unspecified out of boundary markers’. Al Jazeera reporter Melissa Chan has been kicked out of China, the first journalist to be made to leave since 1998. Check out Melissa Chan’s Twitter account here to verify her position. Also, for a state media perspective see the Global Times (in Mandarin) commentary on the matter here.

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CHINA EXPELS A CORRESPONDENT
Posted by Evan Osnos
Source – New Yorker, published May 8, 2012

China is moving backwards. In fifteen years of studying and writing about this place, I’ve rarely had reason to reach that conclusion without one qualifier or another dangling off the end of the sentence—qualifiers that leave room, for instance, for “halting progress” or “mixed signals.”

But this week the evidence is unambiguous: for the first time in thirteen years, China has kicked out a foreign correspondent. In doing so, it revives a Soviet-era strategy that will undermine its own efforts to project soft power and shows a spirit of self-delusion that does not bode well for China’s ability to address the problems that imperil its future.

Melissa Chan, an American citizen who had been the longtime correspondent for Al Jazeera English, was scheduled to board a flight out of Beijing on Monday, after the foreign ministry did not renew her visa. It has also rejected Al Jazeera English’s applications to appoint a new correspondent, so the network is closing its China bureau. It’s not entirely clear what prompted the government to eject Chan from China; the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, where Chan was the secretary this year, said the government had “expressed unhappiness with the general editorial content on Al Jazeera English and accused Ms Chan of violating rules and regulations that they have not specified.” Chinese officials were also angered by a documentary aired on the network last year, the club said; that program had investigated labor camps in which prisoners were said to be producing goods for sale around the world. (The Club says Chan played no role in producing the piece.)

Among China watchers, there is no shortage of praise for Chan’s work. “She served as a voice for the voiceless, often putting herself in dangerous positions to get stories of injustice out in the open,” Charlie Custer wrote on his blog, ChinaGeeks. Her peers know her as passionate and intrepid in covering stories that Chinese authorities do not want covered. When police put the wife of Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo under house arrest (she has never been accused of a crime), Chan documented efforts to make contact. She has covered corruption and unrest and the central government’s persistent failure to close illegal “black jails” set up by local police to silence critics. The Times says Chan is believed to be the first accredited correspondent to be kicked out since the expulsion of a Japanese reporter in October, 1998.

What’s more, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club says that Chan’s case is part of a trend in which twenty-seven foreign reporters have been made to wait for more than four months for visa approvals in the past two years. In six cases, the club said, foreign reporters were told that their applications had been rejected or delayed “due to the content of the bureaux” or the applicant’s previous coverage of Chinese affairs.

Over that same two-year period, China’s Xinhua news agency has opened a state-of-the-art newsroom at the top of a skyscraper in Times Square, for CNC World, the agency’s twenty-four-hour news channel, which seeks to “present an international vision with a Chinese perspective.” That vision just got a lot harder to sell.

Filed under: 52 Unacceptable Practices, Al Jazeera, Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Democracy, Education, Government & Policy, Human Rights, Influence, Mapping Feelings, Media, New Yorker, Overseas Chinese, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity

Letter from China: A collage of Chinese values [New Yorker]

From Evan Osnos, a New Yorker staff writer living in Beijing: an interview with British photographer Adrian Fisk as he maps out a collage of Chinese values with his iSpeakChina project. What an endeavour traversing China’s peripheries with visual sociology – it has certainly sown some seeds in my head. I agree to a large extent that it will keep getting harder – this act of defining Chinese values as the divides of China’s peripheries just seem getting wider and wider; or, better represented.

For more on iSpeakChina, go here.

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Letter from China: A collage of Chinese values
Posted by Evan Osnos
Source – New Yorker, published March 21, 2012

Avril Lu. Photo: Adrian Fisk

I’ve been spending time with young Chinese people recently, talking about their beliefs and priorities (more on that soon), which has reminded me just how difficult a task it is to define Chinese values these days. So I was struck when I came upon these photos by the British photographer Adrian Fisk. The project, iSpeakChina, evolved, as he puts it, from a twelve-thousand-five-hundred kilometer journey through China, meeting people aged sixteen to thirty and giving them a paper on which they could write anything they chose. Fisk told me it has inspired his next project, iSpeakGlobal, which is supported by the United Nations Population Fund. I asked him some questions:

Which picture from the China project stays with you most? How did you meet?

It is hard to pin down the one image that made the deepest impression on me—as many of them did. But if I had to pick one, I would say the photograph of Avril Lui (above) taken in Guangxi Province. Avril had recently graduated from university in Hunan Province, and I met her when my translator and I went to a place teaching English as a summer course. Her statement was: “We are the lost generation. I’m confused about the world.” This photograph seems to have struck a chord with many of the young Chinese who have viewed it. I think the pace of change has been so rapid in China in these last two decades that many of the young are in a spin which has left them somewhat confused. Their parents’ generation had a clear idea of what their identity was and the better life they were struggling for. Now that that better world has arrived it can be argued that life for the Chinese youth might have more opportunity but has in turn become more complicated with difficult career decisions, an increasingly materialistic society, and a complex relationship with the West. All this contributes to a sense of confusion. Avril is also referring to the fact that her parents generation rarely talks about or acknowledges the Cultural Revolution that had so much impact on Chinese society at the time—or for that matter any history, particularly, of more recent times. There is a sense amongst some young Chinese that they have arrived; but, where from, and has it been worth it? I also like this photograph because of the classic building in the background and the traditionally dressed man in blue on the bicycle. These visual keys are a nod to the world from which China has so recently arrived from. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Chinese Model, Culture, Democracy, Domestic Growth, Government & Policy, Human Rights, Mapping Feelings, Media, New Yorker, People, Social, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

Letter from China: China scolds the U.S. over debt [New Yorker]

This is the Beijing Consensus manifesting on very real terms, signalling a very significant paradigm shift. Three years ago, China publicly ‘scolding’ (read this or this)’the U.S. on the global media platform would not have been plausible (murmurs yes, but not outright criticism like this)  –  ‘When we can expect a scolding from Xinhua, and a dismissive write-up from Dagong, it’s fair to acknowledge that the world has changed.

In other news, Michael Pascoe, business editor at the Age in Australia openly declares

‘ONE more time for the dummies: we are not part of the US economy. Every day, the US matters less and Asia matters more. The American-centric mindset that a recession in the US means a recession in Australia is hopelessly out of date. It hasn’t for the past two and shouldn’t for the next. Forget US woes, China keeps our economy strong (The Age, August 7, 2011)

– – –

Letter from China: CHINA SCOLDS THE U.S. OVER DEBT
Posted by Evan Osnos
Source – New Yorker, published August 6, 2011

Five years ago—no, three years ago—it would have been difficult to imagine picking up a Chinese newspaper and finding this: “China, the largest creditor of the world’s sole superpower, has every right now to demand the United States to address its structural debt problems and ensure the safety of China’s dollar assets.”

That sentence—just one line in a blistering have-you-no-shame-sir piece carried in newspapers across China today—contains a collection of facts that reflect not only the alarming state of American financial health, but the historic reshuffling of power on the planet, and the growing desperation in China to insulate itself from American political and economic disarray. The commentary, one day after America’s AAA credit rating was cut by Standard & Poor’s, was dripping with sanctimony and self-regard but the most striking thing about it was how not crazy it was:

…the credit rating cut is an overdue bill that America has to pay for its own debt addition [sic] and the short-sighted political wrangling in Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Culture, Economics, Finance, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, Nationalism, New Yorker, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Trade

The Grand Tour – Europe on fifteen hundred yuan a day [New Yorker]

When the Chinese go ‘Oh, my Lady Gaga…’, cross-pollination is at hand; at least in popular culture terms. On a more serious note, here is an inspiring insight into the Chinese mind – that of the Chinese overseas; one that talks of the Chinese being unleashed to the world after a long time of going insular and building walls. China continues to add to its status as the biggest migrant population in the world by making themselves even more visible, made possible by new levels of affluence. The Chinese now scour the world for new sights and sounds; taking over the Japanese as the world’s most visible tourists. And here’s an interesting account that manages to touch and relate to the Chinese mind; pegged to crucial historical landmarks of the Chinese re-awakening. A must read.

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The Grand Tour
Europe on fifteen hundred yuan a day.
by Evan Osnos
Source – New Yorker, published April 11, 2011

For several millennia, ordinary people in China were discouraged from venturing beyond the Middle Kingdom, but before the recent New Year’s holiday—the Year of the Rabbit began on February 3rd—local newspapers were dense with international travel ads. It felt as if everyone was getting away, and I decided to join them. When the Chinese travel industry polls the public on its dream destinations, no place ranks higher than Europe. China’s travel agents compete by carving out tours that conform less to Western notions of a grand tour than to the likes and dislikes of their customers. I scanned some deals online: “Big Plazas, Big Windmills, Big Gorges” was a four-day bus tour that emphasized photogenic countryside in the Netherlands and Luxembourg; “Visit the New and Yearn for the Past in Eastern Europe” had a certain Cold War charm, but I wasn’t sure I needed that in February.

I chose the “Classic European,” a popular bus tour that would traverse five countries in ten days. Payment was due up front. Airfare, hotels, meals, insurance, and assorted charges came to the equivalent in yuan of about twenty-two hundred dollars. In addition, every Chinese member of the tour was required to put up a bond amounting to seventy-six hundred dollars—more than two years’ salary for the average worker—to prevent anyone from disappearing before the flight home. I was the thirty-eighth and final member of the group. We would depart the next morning at dawn.

I was told to proceed to Door No. 25 of Terminal 2 at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, where I found a slim forty-three-year-old man in a gray tweed overcoat and rectangular glasses. He had floppy, parted hair, and introduced himself as Li Xingshun, our guide. To identify us in crowds, each of us received a canary-yellow lapel badge bearing a cartoon dragon with smoke curling from its nostrils, striding in hiking boots above our motto: “The Dragon Soars for Ten Thousand Li.” (A li is about a third of a mile.) Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Chinese overseas, Culture, Domestic Growth, Economics, European Union, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, New Yorker, People, Politics, Population, Public Diplomacy, Social, Soft Power, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Tourism

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