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Chinese Twitter and the #080808 Twolympics

A 4th year Chinese student in IT dropped by today and laughed at me spending as much time delighted by news appearing on my i-Phone as on the television. It took a long time to explain to someone, who isn’t even allowed a TV in his dorm or access to much outside of the school intra-net, that I was (insert wry smile here) “riding a wave into the future of social media”  I was “tweeting” a story about an Olympic medalist friend of mine and realized that the student  was not even alive when my buddy won his cache of medals. But, I am lucky enough to stay young and trendy (2nd wry smile goes here) because I play in the social end of the web’s information pool.

I have virtually stopped using my RSS news readers since social media ‘s soup of the day, Twitter, saw its user base explode in recent months. I get sent (tweeted) dozens of links a day that I dutifully follow to viral fun and even breaking news that might not have reach me via email alert for several more hours.

Twitter Olympics

Twitter + Olympics

I have also have made a host of new “friends’ around the globe. The blogosphere, before I slowed down my postings, brought me almost daily into a cohesive network that connected me to dozens of like (and not-so-like) minds in China and elsewhere. Debate, helpful web information, coping strategies and places for fun and personal development appeared in ping-backs, linked posts and comment threads that I would discover via statistics programs, and aggregation tools like Technorati.

These days most of the news, reviews and acerbic boos I track are first broadcast in real time over Twitter, Friendfeed and Facebook. And yesterday’s hash mash (a way to view aggregated info on a single topic)  during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was just straight-up fun! David Feng, the hardest working tweeter in the business, did a better job at translations, and commentary than did any of the newscasters on CCTV or Pearl (HK). Kaiser Kuo, Paul Denlinger, Thomas Crampton, China Buzz (from the news center), Rebecca MacKinnon, Papa John. Siok Siok Tan, Marc (from inside the stadium), Frank, and a host of others joined the creators, like Flypig, of a phenomenon that was and is by turns funny, wonderfully irreverent, informative and better at fashion critiques and obscure celebrity sightings than (insert the dubious catch of Canadian language geek DaShan walking with the Canuck team) is Perez Hilton’s army of snitches. And they do this while character-cuffed to 140 (133 if you count the hash tag) keyboard ticks a tweet.I think having to compress  thoughts quickly and concisely forces you to write free of your normal subjective shorthand and makes for unusual candor and sometimes great comedy: Cyber-Haiku.

Twolympics

Twolympics

Intermittent breaking news about the Hurricane near the US and the deeply disturbing report of a Russian attack on the Georgian capital was woven into observations being made during the parade of nations. If you were following along, you did not want for flash bulletins on anything of importance inside or outside the venue.

You can follow, or join in, on the micro-madness (you are gonna need to draw on that course you took in speed reading) here at  #080808, view some of the icons, and click on them to follow folks, created for the ongoing funomenon here: Icons

And just so you know that the rumors of traditional media being dead are truly and greatly exaggerated: The organizers and participating Chinese-Tweetlandians were humbled and impressed by a mention in The Times where, if you want the skinny on the people and reasons for all of this you “can read all about it” here: Chinese Tweeters Celebrate Olympics With #080808 – NYTimes.com

As veteran film producer/director, and wholly addicted tweeter, Siok Siok Tan broadcasted last night: “Twitter is fun again!!” Yes, that and a lot more….

Sorry, I need to go now and tweet that I wrote this story….

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And let the real games begin…

Beijing Olympics

Four years ago I befriended a Vietnam veteran who was clean and sober after years of Cocaine addiction. He was one of the hardest working and congenial men I’d met at the VA hospital. He was employed in a minimum wage rehab program where he pushed wheelchair bound patients to and from appointments.

He had his own apartment in a declining and dangerous section of Chicago and custody of twin boys. It was like a sad scene from a predictable Hollywood tragedy when two young gang members approached one of the twins at his home. One of the gang members shot the young man, an top African-American student with college ambitions, in the head. They had intended to murder the other sibling who was who was less inclined to social conformity.

When my friend went to the police with information on the possible killers he was turned away in an angry exchange that ended when the white policeman told him that he would lock him up. When asked for what reason the officer replied, “I don’t need a fucking reason, boy. Since 9-11 it has been one long year of the cop.” He was right: Law enforcement was, overnight, accorded special privileges and many did not do well with the responsibility and instead used it as a personal weapon in their own private wars. My buddy finally found someone who would take him seriously and the killer was jailed when a plea bargain let the accomplice go free in exchange for his testimony. The veteran, demoralized by the struggle and grieving, relapsed into depression and drug use.

The same is happening here in China. A friend came to me after being detained and beaten by local police. Local constables now have the right to ask for your passport and visa on the spot. Those that have not carried their papers up to now, have started…The police have used it as a way to intimidate local Africans (blacks have an especially tough time maintaining work and cultural relationships here due to rampant racism) and Muslims. Some area police are extracting protection monies from Africans and calling it an immigration fee assessment.

When my friend pulled out his cell phone to answer a text from his wife, wondering where he was so late at night, the police who had been manhandling his countryman, thought he was snapping pictures of the assault. That is when they gave him a dose of the same treatment. His countryman was detained past his scheduled departure out of the city and missed his plane back to Africa.

With sudden power arbitrarily given to street cops, the heat hanging in the 90s along with similar humidity levels, and increasing paranoia over possible security threats it is tense here.

Below is a Youtube video of a scuffle in Beijing that left police and reporters injured. People hoping to get the last remaining tickets for the games spent two days in the heat and in unruly, close-quarter lines that we who live here can barely tolerate for a short time on a good day.

Some are calling it infringement on freedom of the press and chastising Beijing for not making good on its promise to allow reporters unfettered access to stories in and around the Olympics. I tend to see it as a lack of preparation for the enormous crowds and throngs of media personnel. Defects in crowd and traffic management planning have paralyzed the city more than once in the last few weeks.

The games have already begun, but outside the stadium.

The original story here at the ever vigilant Shanghaiist:

HK reporter and cameraman taken away after Olympic ticketing kerffufle

AJ report on Beijing:

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The Hong Kong Monkey Trials….

Devolution The original Scopes “Monkey Trial” was a test of a 1925 bill passed in Arkansas that forbade any doctrine from being taught that opposed divine creation as expressed in the Christian Bible. Scopes, a teacher, was accused of teaching evolution. At that time, and even today, many people like the just-departed Jerry Falwell, viewed the Bible as the literal word of God and inerrant in its view of the world. Others still follow closely with the belief that it is a “God-Breathed” and man written document that is the essence of what God intended us to know about creation. . The issues raised by the Scopes trial remain, to this day, hotly contested in communities and American courtrooms and it is not religion they are arguing. Lately, Hong Kong has seen a bit of the circus atmosphere that was part of the Scopes courtroom drama between famed atheist lawyer Clarence Darrow and Presidential candidate, and fiercely Christian, William Jennings Bryan. The players, although not as flamboyant, are acting with a fervor and commitment about Freedom of Speech issues and drawing a crowd on both sides of the debate. An “Obscene Articles Tribunal” recently ruled that a student newspaper at Chinese university (academically one of the highest rated in the World and once a bastion of free speech) broke the law by distributing a sex survey. The Tribunal has yet to issue a penalty, but I am guessing, regardless of its weight (there is possible prison time involved), that the punishment will have as profound a public impact as did the $100 fine given to Scopes who was found also guilty of teaching evolution. The chief editor Tsang Chiu-wai said that regardless of the ruling of the Tribunal the will continue to publish the paper. This morning things got a bit more interesting. The South China Morning Post had an article on the front page that asked in its lead-in: “Is the Bible decent?” An anonymous website (http://truthbible.net) has launched a campaign to have the Christian Bible censored. The website is reported to object to references to “rape, cannibalism and violence in both the Old and New Testament.” So far the number of complaints to the Television and Licensing Authority concerning the Bible to has almost tripled those that were aimed at the Chinese University publication. If the complaints are proved valid ,full texts of the Bible could only be read by adults and would have to be sold sealed and tagged with a warning label. The website has its own warning on its header that reads: “This website contains biblical material,which may be offensive and may not be distributed, circulated, sold hired, given, given, lent, shown, played or projected to a person under the age of 18 years”:
bible warning Still a few decades away from surrendering autonomy to the mainland, Hong Kong is still struggling with how to please Beijing, maintain some semblance of self-rule and yet answer to constituents and leaders on both sides of Freedom of Speech issues. On the same front page issue of today’s SCMP the chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Ma Lik, said Hong Kong had an “unpatriotic view” of one issue in particular, “The government should teach what actually happened on June 4th….” and he went on to add that “Freedom of speech is not absolute; it should be based on facts. when facts are not clear, people can only have wild talk.” Mr. Ma has been an advocate of universal sufferage (the right of anyone to vote) in Hong Kong, but qualifies that by saying only after the Hong Kong government educates teachers about what “really” happened in history. It is Arkansas all over again. I am glad that in the west we have preserved the right to “wild talk” from the days of Moses right up to the Jerry Falwell and historical revisionist Ma. It is time for America to watch, as did Europe during the Scopes trial, to see who or what prevails. One hopes a win is not brought on by the “alchemy of ignorance” whereby hot air is transmuted into gold, but by a concern for civil liberties, in the Hong Kong Monkey Trials.

An update on the stats here: BIBLE

Censorship,China Editorials,Chinese Media,Hong Kong,In the news,Intercultural Issues,中国

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Can you read me now?: The Oiwan Lam case…

China Censorship

Recently, I posted an article regarding Oiwan Lam and the absurd allegations of obscenity that have her facing a potential fine of $50,000 and a year in Hong Kong prison.

If you think it is a case that does not impact you as a blogger or as a citizen, please think again. It was a relatively benign Flickr photo that has her headed to court next month.

Recently, a staunch advocate of China NGO’s, the China Development Brief, was forced by authorities to close its Chinese edition, missionaries have been deported by the hundreds, and hundreds of thousands of blogs were blocked (or re-blocked) in the shut-downs of Blogger, Blogspot, Typepad, LiveJournal, WordPress.com and others. One voice silenced or oppressed is not a delicate rebuff of human rights: It is violent and terrifying and part of the cyber-genocide of ideas that represent and celebrate dialectical ideologies. Liberal or Conservative, no one is in a privileged class once purging becomes routine.

John Kennedy of Global Voices Online, and elsewhere in the blogsphere, has listed the salient issues involved in Oiwan’s case as demands on the Free Oiwan Lam cause group now on Facebook:

-Grant Oiwan judicial review and strike down this ridiculous case, as was done with the Chinese University student magazine and Ming Pao newspaper (see my article The Hong Kong Monkey Trials) before her.

-Make the currently unelected members of the Obscene Articles Tribunal accountable to the public.

-Demand a legal definition in Hong Kong of ‘indecent’ so that the term will no longer be abused by crusading judges and applied at their unjustified discretion.

I will be posting a link soon to Oiwan’s defense fund is at interlocals.net .…Be sure to click on the button created for Oiwan. PLEASE Drop a few dollars in the kitty, And please blog about this issue….

More:

Oiwan’s interview with the BBC
The latest information here: RC

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Elephant Hunting From Hong Kong….

elephant hunting

My laohua (“OLD eyes”) ache: I am several chapters over the safe reading line this week. I have been capitalizing on my delays waiting for China transport ( I want part of my ashes scattered at the Baiyun airport baggage claim area as YEARS of my life will have been spent there and in similar public transport areas) as an opportunity to catch up on a three year backlog of books on China.

After nodding through two history books I was desperate for an easy quick read, so I picked up a thin tome in Hong Kong entitled, Myths About Doing Business in Asia by Harold Chee. It turned out to be so laden with information that I was a full week, from Thailand to Shanghai, finishing it.

While in Shanghai one of the administrators at the Smith School of Business told me of a multi-national company that was setting up a new branch in town. They were flummoxed by the myriad answers they received to the same questions from a platoon of “China Experts.”

It reminded me of the old tale of the elephant and the blind men who sought to describe it by touching its parts: It was alternately a wall, a tree, a spear, a snake, a fan and a rope rather than a pachyderm. No meta-view of the beast was literally, or figuratively, possible.

Well, good news: Myths….gives us a clear picture of the China elephant in our economic living room. Is easily the most sensible and direct guide to doing business in China I have read. First published in 2004 (I told you I was behind) it tackles such myths as:

  • China is a market of 1.3 billion people
  • The market is easy
  • Chinese business people are not trustworthy, and a host of others…

In a review by The China-Britain Business Council Chee, and co-writer Chris West, are chided with: “there are handy pointers and suggestions, although the authors’ minds seem to be on other things when they recommend that, for meetings, “women should look smart but not too sexy.” They need to rinse the starch from those stiff upper lips as it is Chee’s straight-shooting style that makes this a worthy read. And before you think the book to be a literary set of patent leather shoes: it is rife with deft personal insights, but also well-researched data. I have already used information gleaned from the book to prepare two business plans for multi-nationals en route to China. Just an aside on the dress issue: If a woman wears anything remotely revealing or provocative in a business or educational setting her character will be judged, not by content, but by her appearance especially when dealing with older or rural Chinese people. “Nice girls” don’t do plunging necklines or visible bras, etc….. Cantonese have a love-hate relationship even with the “too sexy” stars of Hong Kong that they follow daily in the tabloids.

He writes without fear or favor for either side and makes it all too clear that it is essential for western managers to adapt to Chinese values and vica-versa. Our usual MBA-style, elitist approach to negotiations with Asians will only give the Chinese a strategic advantage. This is an essential read for newcomers, insiders and outsiders in the China. The book is best summed up by Beijing Management Institute’s Wang Xaoyu in a book jacket review: “An effective manual for all non-Chinese who plan to do business in China. The book digs out the essence of philosophy that Chinese people follow in their daily life.” Chee’s book should be a cultural course mandated into B-School programs of study.

Chee, a graduate in economics, “holds several masters degrees, and has studied at the London School of Economics, Essex, Kent Universities, and London University Institute of Education,” and teaches at the Ashridge School of Business in the U.K..

The seemingly simple lists in the Appendices alone are worth the buy: …key factors for dealing with the Chinese, and …key differences between China and the West are now tacked to my fridge door and will be staples in my future classes on Global Culture….

It is put out by Palgrave Press and costs about $275 dollars–Hong Kong dollars. I couldn’t resist….

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SCMP Live!

Christopher Axberg, publisher of the south China Morning Post (SCMP), wrote to me this morning saying that “they” liked OMBW (Christopher, I bet you say that to all the bloggers…) and included a free, albeit short-term, subscription to the online edition. He included a link to one of the funniest marketing videos of the year that begs to go viral:

All kidding aside, I think it is more than just a great marketing move on the part of the SCMP: It is a chance for them to help disseminate information that might not otherwise make it into citizen media reports–especially from the likes of starving bloggers and educators like me.

Thanks Christopher.

Related:

Fons over at China Herald chides the short-term nature of the offer….

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What would Buddha do?

Buddha in the sky with diamonds

Several years ago, attending a Jimmy Buffet concert with a Catholic priest (Indian trail, NC, not Margaritaville) , we were discussing ways to raise money for his new parish. In neighboring Georgia a woman was drawing huge crowds claiming to see incarnations of the Virgin Mary. So, we laughingly concocted a never-to-be scheme that involved catching and releasing a trout on the church property that we would say bore some saint’s likeness on its its tail. We would then put donation baskets all up and down the creek. It was sacrilegious, but damned funny anyway.

A few years later I visited Shingo, Japan where they claim to have Christ and his brother buried on a hill above town. Jesus, according to local mythology, let his brother take his place on the cross and then went to rural Japan and retired to a happily married life in the sticks. Surprisingly, there was no marketing involved anywhere near the grave site.

Please bear with me as this all comes together for you in the usual intuitive flash at the end…

I just read a delightful book first printed in 1999 entitled What would Buddha Do? by Franz Metcalf. The pocket-sized tome is rife with well thought out answers to a host of everyday questions, some that made me laugh out loud:

1. What would Buddha do if his credit cards are maxed out?

2. What would Buddha do when making a salad?

3. What would Buddha do to avoid burnout?

4. What would Buddha do about trusting the media?

The answer to last question can be found in the Buddhist writing Undanavarga 22.17: “One’s ears hear a lot; one’s eyes sees a lot. The wise should not believe everything seen or heard.” Buddha must read the China Daily too, where I found the picture above. It seems Buddha hung around for about an hour on Heibei’s Zushan Mountain, but unlike the manifestations in Georgia, he didn’t impart any wisdom to the local tourists.

In another book I reviewed recently, One Couple, Two Cultures, there was a story about a British man and his Chinese wife discussing behavior common in each other’s country. The wife seemed to have no trouble commenting on behalf of the entire 1.3 billion residents of China, while the Brit’ demured on speaking for the whole of England. I can with absolute certainty say that had the Buddha appeared in Stone Mountain Park, Georgia, that every redneck (remember before you shoot that my father hailed from Harlan County, Kentucky), instead of burning him as a heretic would have tried to sell him on Ebay. I still remember the eerie glow-in-the-dark St. Joseph that watched over me as a child sleeping in the dark.

Now I’m not sure what made them think it was Buddha and not Mother Theresa, Confucius, or Steve Irwin. But I continue to digress…

What surprised me the most is that nobody is now selling watches of Buddha waving from the peak or claiming to have private chats with Gautama himself. Another missed marketing opportunity for China. David and I are thinking about sorting through seaweed potato chips until we come up with  some that look like Sun Yat Sen or Lao Zi. We promise to donate all proceeds (and extra chips) to charity.

So what would Buddha do if Buddha were alive today? I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be standing around in the Heibei fog, though he might possible blog a few meditations–using a wordpress platform, of course. So I’m off to see if WWBD-in-canton.com is taken. This way, we can answer the pressing questions like:

1. What would Buddha do if someone stole a taxi out from under his nose?

2. What would Buddha do if someone took the food from his plate at a Cantonese buffet?

3. What would Buddha do if he found out he were watching a bootleg copy of Seven Years in Tibet?

4. What would Buddha say if his disciples kept commenting on his weight and skin color?

Now I’m getting ready to read Metcalf’s answer to “What would Buddha Do about that Coffee Habit?” If this post isn’t a call for my spiritual rehab or caffeine detox, I don’t know what is.

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Global Voices Correspondent Facing Jail and $400,000 HKD Fine For Obsenity

Posted in ESNW:
In brief, Oiwan Lam published an essay at the InMediaHK website that included a linked photograph from Flickr for the purpose of discussing the state of censorship in Hong Kong. Oiwan Lam has just been informed that the essay was classified on a preliminary basis as “Category II: Indecent” by the Hong Kong Obscene Articles Tribunal. The maximum penalty is HK$400,000 and 12 months in jail”

Oiwan has been an important freelance voice who also writes, edits and aggregates for Global Voices Onine. A fund to assist her with what is likely to be a lengthy court battle may be found at: InMediahHK

The offending picture is here: Continue Reading »

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The trouble with Oiwan….

censored in china

When the Oiwan Lam controversy began I predicted four things:

  1. Support for her cause would be hard to muster because people might feel as though Oiwan invited trouble by publishing a picture that she knew might provoke the ire of Hong Kong Censors. Civil disobedience is not as cherished as it was in the past;
  2. Support would quickly wane as the matter did not seem as urgent or foreboding as the Hao Wu case. Oiwan is facing 12 months in jail, a costly defense and a hefty fine, but she is not incarcerated at the moment;
  3. Bloggers might not pass the torch, or the hat, because the issues are complicated and Hong Kong specific;
  4. People would find it hard to empathize with Oiwan: Hong Kong is part of China and censorship is expected here.

EastSouthWestNorth, Rebecca McKinnon Boing Boing, Lost Laowai, Image Thief and a handful of others have done their best to explain the issues while rightfully advocating for one of their own. An advocacy group on Facebook has collected 69 members, but few calls for action have subsequently originated from western computers.

Oiwan did not invite this kind of response. She put her journalistic foot in the water and was dragged below the surface by the well-mapped but unpredictable undertow that is the Hong Kong Television and Entertainment Authority (TELA) and the Obscene Articles Tribunal (OAT). These are the same forces that roiled against a Hong Kong University student newspaper for a ridiculously benign sex survey, Michelangelo’s David in a 1995 magazine ad and Cupid and Psyche on a book cover at the most recent Hong Kong Book Fair.

The charges against Oiwan created a tremor in the blogsphere , but the aftershocks are so imperceptible that we have gone about life as usual. Some Hong Kong bloggers are taking up the cause by posting other classic art works as an act of protest and solidarity. The rest of us should also act on her behalf.

I met with John Kennedy of Global Voices Online today and he spoke again to the issues involved in Oiwan’s case that affect all of us:

  • He thinks, and public opinion in Hong Kong backs him up, that the Tribunal and the TELA are antiques in need of dry storage and replacement (my sorry metaphor, not his). He thinks the Tribunal, which operates independently without reliable standards and accountability, should be elected officials that have to answer to the public.
  • He feels, and again is far from alone in his opinion, that a legal and reliably quantifiable definition of “obscene” or “indecent” should be adopted.

The latter is important to all of us as it would prevent dissidents from being punished at the whim of judges with personal or political agendas.

IF blogger’s rights can be upheld in Hong Kong it can instruct and inform governments and lawmakers everywhere about the need for free speech legislation and reform. Oiwan, who has no desire to be a martyr, is every man and woman who wants to speak their mind or read another’s in cyberspace. And, as Rebecca McKinnon has said so well in her blog, Oiwan is a writer who has devoted herself to the non-profit sector most of her adult life, so she has few financial resources to assist with what will be a costly and important court battle.

Help Oiwan and help yourself with a little link love to her cause blog (Banned in Mainland China), a posting of the banner below (feel free to use my bandwidth) and by, please, donating a few dollars to her legal campaign by clicking here:

Free Oiwan Lam

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C-MBA Programs: Trans-Pacific Crossings….

China MBA Education

I had the pleasure to accompany the Cal Poly MBA Program’s learning tour through China yesterday with Professor Chris Carr, professor Jay Singh and a gaggle of new graduates and ongoing students.

One of the cultural differences, of an enormity of variations, that struck a few of the visiting MBA students was the inability of Chinese learners to move between departments. Students enroll for a major and are not permitted to transfer to another department. This is common at most schools like the one we visited and others that remain comfortable teaching via traditional Chinese methodologies.

However, both East and West are looking to each other to fill in gaps their respective time-honored traditions have created. Within twenty-four hours of our tour, I noticed online advertising for three of America’s top business schools now actively recruiting in China: Harvard, Duke, Lingnan, and Maryland. Conversely, American curriculums now have programs structured to focus on China. International business leaders, Chinese or American, know that cooperative negotiations often yield better results than competitive ones. I’m especially impressed with the program at Cal Poly structured to culminate in a four-credit business and cultural study tour of China. Cal Poly has beat Yale to the punch in the hope of internationalizing its graduates, but Yale’s president Levine wants every Yale student to spend time living or studying abroad as part of an undergraduate experience.

Wall Street Journal’s Jason Loew quotes the president of Yale University as saying, “the U.S. isn’t issuing enough work visas to the highly trained foreigners who graduate from U.S. universities each year.” He suggests raising the caps on visas for foreign-born holders of doctorate degrees in order to further capitalize on the sea turtle phenomenon I posted about recently. If Yale’s Richard Levin had his way, he said, he would “staple green cards, as permanent resident cards are known, to their Ph.D. diplomas.”

He cites our growing need for trained engineers and scientists in hopes to capitalize on their discontent with conditions in their homeland. If I had my way, the US Department of Education would be putting more money into developing our own crop of science-savvy graduates and further, we’d be developing more incentives for cross-cultural exchange in education.

If it is so important for us to bring in foreign talent because we are not able to supply it, I think the answer also lies in marketing in-country programs to the Chinese. Because according to Loew, Congress permitted 85,000 H-1B (stay behind) visas to be issued this year, of which about 20,000 are reserved for foreigners with a graduate degree from the U.S. Loew writes, “There were so many applications this year the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stopped accepting forms one day after it started the process.” It signals something is amiss either in the social or educational structure extant in China. Even though China is offering incentives to returnees, the odds of getting rich here are much greater than those in America, and Sinophobia is fast returning, they are still opting to travel and stay abroad.

Employers and of course universities continue to put pressure on Congress to raise the visa quota, but last year’s immigration bill failed to go through. “Companies want it. The universities favor it,” Mr. Levin said, according to Loew.

Loew’s article reminded me that a handful of schools are beginning to adopt Western liberal arts approaches to education, likely as a way to preclude students’ dissatisfaction as much as gain competitive traction in the global marketplace.

Two of China’s top ten universities, Fudan University and Beijing University, are taking small steps towards liberalizing their curriculum in hopes of advancing innovative thinking. Around 10% of students at Beijing University can explore a variety of subjects for the first three semesters before focusing on a major. At Fudan University, all freshmen are now being integrated into a liberal arts-based curriculum.

Educational innovators in the United States and the UK need to seize the day and begin offering courses at home and abroad that integrate the best of East and West. England and America have long ago industrialized education but managed to maintain high standards and the majority of the world’s top 100 rankings for schools. They have sacrificed quality by industrializing their educational system so rapidly, so this is one case where they have more to learn from us than we have to learn from them. But, with the Chinese government throwing huge dollars toward overseas education in hopes of even getting a small return, and with educational institutions beginning to functionally adopt workably good methodologies, it’s time other schools follow in the footsteps of Cal Poly, Lingnan, Duke, Harvard, and Maryland.

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The nail that sticks up changes nationalities

seat turtles china

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have heard several Americans jokingly remark that while living in other countries they would rather people regarded them as Canadian.

Not unlike my days as a soldier during Vietnam, travelling with a blue passport generates discussion and often heated debate from non-Americans. Our approval rating Internationally may be lower than Bush’s at home, but I haven’t seen anyone hot-footing it to the consulate to denounce their citizenship–and who’d want Chinese students asking daily if you knew Dashan anyway?

Thinking about all of this I was dazed by an article in the Guardian last week that spoke of China’s enormous brain drain. The Sea Turtles (Chinese who have left China for study or temporary work and returned) do not seem to feel a biological or nationalistic imperative to head back to their motherland.

According to the Guardian, “China suffers the worst brain drain in the world…a new study that found seven out of every 10 students who enroll in an overseas university never return… ”

China is an economic eighteen wheeler without brakes and studies show that Despite business booming, government incentives to return,
and the odds of emerging from poverty being greater here than in the US, the the best and brightest are now staying away.

“The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences revealed 1.06 million Chinese had gone to study overseas since 1978, but only 275,000 had returned. The rest had taken postgraduate courses, found work, got married or changed citizenship.” The Guardian surmised it was a freedom issue. Imagine that. I regard it as symtomatic of a privatized educational system, exploding with students, and run amock with greedy carpetbaggers who care little about their charges.

David, the Dreamblogue’s Sancho Panza, asked me during a recent trip to Hong Kong, where the Internet is uncensored, the food and medicine quality less questionable and the burgers not likely to have come from animal that barked during their previous incarnation, “and we don’t live in Hong Kong, why?It seems a lot of Chinese kids are feeling the same way.

Last year the numbers of students from China headed to the UK to study increased 20% to 60,000 and China has just poured several million into programs to increase overseas opportunities hoping no doubt to increase western trained innovators. But how well that will pay off is questionable because in 2005, 118,500 took to study overseas. By 2010, some 200,000 will be in schools abroad. Like my friend in a very low margin wholesale business once said: “What we lack in profit we make up for in volume.”

There was a very telling student quote in the Guardian article: “I am slightly hesitant because China is developing very fast and by 2030, its GDP will probably surpass the USA. But I am concerned that I might not get a good job if I return. America may suit me more because they judge you according to your ability, whereas in China your background and connections are more important.” In China it is definitely not what you know, but who you know, who your parents are, and where you went to school. And while there are some tremendous schools here like Beijing University, Tsinghua, and other regional institutions of lesser, but honest repute, the fact is that lack of uncensored material, Internet capabilities and abundant antiquated facilities and poor teaching conditions make some, even great, schools a tough sell.

Then, Students who fail or perform poorly in mainland exams, are flooding to newly created degree mills like the profit-mad Macau University of Science and Technology. Some of the degrees are Macau accredited and others are not. If you have money the school will find a way for you to buy a diploma. It’s reputation is failing, but the enrollment numbers are increasing. Students with money will do a year or so at MUST and then attempt more credible pursuits in the US or at more authentic schools in Hong Kong or Macau. This year more than 15% of the MUST’s student body applied for transfer to western schools or other programs and the administration could care less as it continues to cash in on discontent—while creating its own branded version.

Yang Xiaojing, one of the authors of the brain drain report, was quoted as saying in the China Daily. “Against the backdrop of economic globalization, an excessive brain drain will inevitably threaten the human resources, security and eventually the national economic and social security of any country.” His fears are borne out in a survey this year which found that in Shanghai 30% of high school pupils and 50% of middle-school students wanted to change their nationality. THEIR NATIONALITY!

It is time for a Sea Turtle Preservation Society in China. A good start is to re-look at the corruption in newly industrialized mainland and Macau educational institutions, like MUST, who I see, through greed, declining standards, disdain for faculty, and lack of concern for a student’s ability to obtain work upon graduation, remove what should be an innate desire to return home.

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Let’s go to DIDINEYLAND!

Fake Disney

I think Lo Kam-lok, a hairdresser and aspiring Mouseketerrorist in Hong Kong, watched way too many re-runs of Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live. This moron posted a message in Chinglish on an Internet forum and threatened to blow himself, Sleeping Beauty and the US Consulate to Magic Kingdom come.

Lo claimed it was a joke, but the magistrate for the case said it was akin to shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre (a better analogy would have been “free food” at a Cantonese buffet)….

They have Lo in the Goofy bin for evaluation prior to sentencing. While mouseketerrorism is not really very funny, the law he is convicted of breaking is pretty good: Seems he’s busted, not for the threat, but for “wasting police time.” Damn, that would put most Americans in jail for life. It seems it took 213 man hours and about $4,000 USD to get the low-down on Lo and that is addition to bucks spent at Hong Kong Disneyland stepping up security.

Maybe it was the place pictured above that he was intending to eliminate: The obscene photo is from a Chinese knock-off of the real theme park. Go check out The Humanaught for a view of China’s Didineyland.

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The Hong Kong Monkey Trials….

Devolution The original Scopes "Monkey Trial" was a test of a 1925 bill passed in Arkansas that forbade any doctrine from being taught that opposed divine creation as expressed in the Christian Bible. Scopes, a teacher, was accused of teaching evolution. At that time, and even today, many people like the just-departed Jerry Falwell, viewed the Bible as the literal word of God and inerrant in its view of the world. Others still follow closely with the belief that it is a "God-Breathed" and man written document that is the essence of what God intended us to know about creation. . The issues raised by the Scopes trial remain, to this day, hotly contested in communities and American courtrooms and it is not religion they are arguing. Lately, Hong Kong has seen a bit of the circus atmosphere that was part of the Scopes courtroom drama between famed atheist lawyer Clarence Darrow and Presidential candidate, and fiercely Christian, William Jennings Bryan. The players, although not as flamboyant, are acting with a fervor and commitment about Freedom of Speech issues and drawing a crowd on both sides of the debate. An "Obscene Articles Tribunal" recently ruled that a student newspaper at Chinese university (academically one of the highest rated in the World and once a bastion of free speech) broke the law by distributing a sex survey. The Tribunal has yet to issue a penalty, but I am guessing, regardless of its weight (there is possible prison time involved), that the punishment will have as profound a public impact as did the $100 fine given to Scopes who was found also guilty of teaching evolution. The chief editor Tsang Chiu-wai said that regardless of the ruling of the Tribunal the will continue to publish the paper. This morning things got a bit more interesting. The South China Morning Post had an article on the front page that asked in its lead-in: "Is the Bible decent?" An anonymous website (http://truthbible.net) has launched a campaign to have the Christian Bible censored. The website is reported to object to references to "rape, cannibalism and violence in both the Old and New Testament." So far the number of complaints to the Television and Licensing Authority concerning the Bible to has almost tripled those that were aimed at the Chinese University publication. If the complaints are proved valid ,full texts of the Bible could only be read by adults and would have to be sold sealed and tagged with a warning label. The website has its own warning on its header that reads: "This website contains biblical material,which may be offensive and may not be distributed, circulated, sold hired, given, given, lent, shown, played or projected to a person under the age of 18 years":
bible warning Still a few decades away from surrendering autonomy to the mainland, Hong Kong is still struggling with how to please Beijing, maintain some semblance of self-rule and yet answer to constituents and leaders on both sides of Freedom of Speech issues. On the same front page issue of today's SCMP the chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, Ma Lik, said Hong Kong had an "unpatriotic view" of one issue in particular, "The government should teach what actually happened on June 4th…." and he went on to add that "Freedom of speech is not absolute; it should be based on facts. when facts are not clear, people can only have wild talk." Mr. Ma has been an advocate of universal sufferage (the right of anyone to vote) in Hong Kong, but qualifies that by saying only after the Hong Kong government educates teachers about what "really" happened in history. It is Arkansas all over again. I am glad that in the west we have preserved the right to "wild talk" from the days of Moses right up to the Jerry Falwell and historical revisionist Ma. It is time for America to watch, as did Europe during the Scopes trial, to see who or what prevails. One hopes a win is not brought on by the "alchemy of ignorance" whereby hot air is transmuted into gold, but by a concern for civil liberties, in the Hong Kong Monkey Trials.

 

An update on the stats here: BIBLE 

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The trouble with Oiwan

censored in china

When the Oiwan Lam controversy began I predicted four things:

  1. Support for her cause would be hard to muster because people might feel as though Oiwan invited trouble by publishing a picture that she knew might provoke the ire of Hong Kong Censors. Civil disobedience is not as cherished as it was in the past;
  2. Support would quickly wane as the matter did not seem as urgent or foreboding as the Hao Wu case. Oiwan is facing 12 months in jail, a costly defense and a hefty fine, but she is not incarcerated at the moment;
  3. Bloggers might not pass the torch, or the hat, because the issues are complicated and Hong Kong specific;
  4. People would find it hard to empathize with Oiwan: Hong Kong is part of China and censorship is expected here.

EastSouthWestNorth, Rebecca McKinnon Boing Boing, Lost Laowai, Image Thief and a handful of others have done their best to explain the issues while rightfully advocating for one of their own. An advocacy group on Facebook has collected 69 members, but few calls for action have subsequently originated from western computers.

Oiwan did not invite this kind of response. She put her journalistic foot in the water and was dragged below the surface by the well-mapped but unpredictable undertow that is the Hong Kong Television and Entertainment Authority (TELA) and the Obscene Articles Tribunal (OAT). These are the same forces that roiled against a Hong Kong University student newspaper for a ridiculously benign sex survey, Michelangelo’s David in a 1995 magazine ad and Cupid and Psyche on a book cover at the most recent Hong Kong Book Fair.

The charges against Oiwan created a tremor in the blogsphere , but the aftershocks are so imperceptible that we have gone about life as usual. Some Hong Kong bloggers are taking up the cause by posting other classic art works as an act of protest and solidarity. The rest of us should also act on her behalf.

I met with John Kennedy of Global Voices Online today and he spoke again to the issues involved in Oiwan’s case that affect all of us:

  • He thinks, and public opinion in Hong Kong backs him up, that the Tribunal and the TELA are antiques in need of dry storage and replacement (my sorry metaphor, not his). He thinks the Tribunal, which operates independently without reliable standards and accountability, should be elected officials that have to answer to the public.
  • He feels, and again is far from alone in his opinion, that a legal and reliably quantifiable definition of “obscene” or “indecent” should be adopted.

The latter is important to all of us as it would prevent dissidents from being punished at the whim of judges with personal or political agendas.

IF blogger’s rights can be upheld in Hong Kong it can instruct and inform governments and lawmakers everywhere about the need for free speech legislation and reform. Oiwan, who has no desire to be a martyr, is every man and woman who wants to speak their mind or read another’s in cyberspace. And, as Rebecca McKinnon has said so well in her blog, Oiwan is a writer who has devoted herself to the non-profit sector most of her adult life, so she has few financial resources to assist with what will be a costly and important court battle.

Help Oiwan and help yourself with a little link love to her cause blog (Banned in Mainland China), a posting of the banner below (feel free to use my bandwidth) and by, please, donating a few dollars to her legal campaign by clicking here:

Free Oiwan Lam

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Zaijian

chinglish

Books have been virtually replaced by blogs. But, puns aside, many of them showcase the transformative elements Pablo Neruda* suggests as essential to written art in Ars Magnetica:
“From so much loving and journeying, books emerge.

And if they don’t contain kisses or landscapes,
if they don’t contain a woman in every drop,
hunger, desire, anger, roads,
there are no use as a shield or as a bell:
they have no eyes and won’t be able to open them….”

Here I have I have tried to smooth the stubble of memory, share poetry, attempt humor, journal my social conscience, and reconcile my longings while shoutng to you in some far-off room. I leave here absolutely bewildered that anyone, other than my long-suffering friends, ever returned to listen. I am grateful you did.
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