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If the show fits, throw it…

I was speaking to Zach, “monk in the Sycamore tree“, Xiao Shuang today about events of late in Iraq. Xiao Shuang and I disagree on many things related to soldiering, patriotism and heroism, but our mutual hunger for meaningful conversation only grows when we debate.

Zach believes that losing one’s life in war or service to a national imperative is akin to dying as a result of a drug overdose or any similar free will decision of dubious moral merit. As a veteran, son of a soldier lost to war wounds and diligent supporter of post-conflict care for the needs of soldiers after their premature introductions to death and human suffering–as if there were a good time for such things.  I am emotionally unable to deny feelings of pride and admiration for warriors and even if I cannot reconcile for myself any reason or rightness for a battle in which they may have had a dubious ideology foisted upon them I support their sacrifices and bravery. Xiao Shuang provisionally acceded that it is OK for one to give up one’s life for a cause, but only a worthy one, and then only though non-violent resistance.

shoe bush

Xiao Shang, with a slight nod, acknowledged my feelings and left that dialogue for another time–no story is ever unfinished with us, thank goodness. He went on to query my feelings about the war in Iraq beginning with questioning whether or not I understood the cultural significance of shoes being thrown at President Bush in an Islamic country. I gave a didactic/pedagogical answer: In the Middle east the throwing of shoes is a symbol of contempt and a grave display of disrespect far weightier than the physical act appears to be (even showing someone the sole of your foot is an insult) even a culturally impaired observer.  I shared with Xiao Shuang that I had recently polled Chinese business students about the leather clad curse thrown at my nation’s leader: I asked students if they thought that the act should be classified as an act of aggression or as an expression of anger that qualified for protection as freedom of speech. The responses caught me by surprise.

My students manufactured this scenario: They likened Bush to the Prime Minister of Japan during the occupations of  Manchuria and Nanjing and made clear that the throwing of shoes in Iraq was neither freedom of expression nor a reasonable expression of anger. The former was too aggressive to qualify for protection as mere freedom of speech and the latter was not nearly an aggressive enough act in their angry estimation.

The most recent war in Iraq was likened to the war invented by the Japanese in order to justify an incursion into Manchuria to rob China of much needed natural resources. And they compared the spread of rhetoric and doublespeak about building democracy in the Middle East to the propaganda spoken by the Imperial Army’s mainland invasion leaders, those based on assertions that they were merely unifying Asia for the sake of Asia’s preservation against American influences. Visiting occupied soil, bombed and blood-stained on orders of the Bush administration, could only bring pain, anger and anguish on the citizenry and would be weakly represented by merely throwing shoes. They were openly pleased that the last chapter in Bush’s public record bore a size 10 seal of disapproval. They doubted pro-war voices that say the war won him the right to express himself through shoe tossing.

(OMBW note: Does not look like much has changed in Iraq and China Smack has a very telling article here: Chinese Reactions)

I will save debate for later by asking Xiao Shuang and maybe students, if my contract allows, what would have become of any of us had Allied Forces not interceded with force in the Pacific during WWII. I am guessing his answer will be rooted in a call for love and compassion and acceptance any current suffering as a fraction of many yet to come in lifetimes beyond this one as we progress toward “The Right Way”.

Zach digressed a bit and went on to explain that he had viewed actions of the west, directed toward China as a whole during the Olympics, as a metaphorical set of shoes; a symbol not only of contempt, but of aggression against the Chinese people. A pastor from California painted upscale hotel rooms to “give a voice to the voiceless” (Xiao, a Buddhist, says he does not want or need a second larynx donated by a vandal) during the Olympics; and  Amnesty Australia put Olympic tourists in harm’s way by asking them to act on Amnesty’s behalf  in protest of China’s Internet firewall. Xiao Shuang smiling, wondered out loud why Amnesty Australia has not concentrated on its own censorship issues.  “To spoil and politicize for the average Chinese citizen, most of whom neither know nor are affected by China’s online controls,  our time to celebrate and embrace the athletic heroes among us was a clearly a lack of sensitivity and understanding of our culture and the pride we felt for the Games.

To believe that those who are subject to censorship are simply suffering in silence or incapacitated by fear is nonsense. The Chinese people are not as docile or as compliant as the media would make them out to be. And we don’t need lectures on the virtues of western life as much as we need tools of empowerment, education, and community building. We also don’t need meaningless regime challenging exercises that only steel the resolve of those  have not outgrown the need for power. They may raise funds for the groups involved but they only fuel ignorance and hatred. For the west to rally against situations they have not fully studied is like ranting at fire because it burns.”

Today China’s navy headed out to a sea beyond its territorial borders for the first time in 600 years to battle Somalian Pirates. Zach and I will not agree on this one. I am behind the EU and China in patrolling the waters to ensure the safety of their citizens and their property.

It will be interesting to hear the mediatative musings of Xiao Shuang as the rich and poor get poorer and the girth of hungry anger expands….

Asia,Beijing,Beijing Olympics,China Cartoons,China Economics,China Editorials,China Law,Videos

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The Monk in the Sycamore Tree

Shanghai and Beijing have enviable expatriate communities; many long term residents of China from other countries live, and foster social connections across cultural boundaries. Unless you are an young, resilient, party animal or a consular type, Guangzhou, with a few exceptions, can feel  uncomfortably transient and fragmented. That is why many have told me they hope for Web Wednesday to build on its first successful meeting of Chinese and Foreign Internet professionals.

That is all to say that a visit from an old friend, especially a gentle , deep-thinking one who always breaks up the unceasing rhythms of this hurried, harried immigrant workshop town for me. when he is around I happily feel cobwebs clearing on internal scaffolds of old dreams and aspirations.

He he is a Buddhist monk, 小双 (Xiao Shuang) who goes by the English name of Zachias. Zachias was the Tax Collector described in Christian literature as the man who climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a better view of Jesus Christ. 小双 actually chose his name after hearing a lecture of mine on Trappist/Benedictine monk and prolific writer Thomas Merton. I was talking about Merton’s last journey  before his death. He traveled to Tibet to meet the Dalai Lama in his quest to discover the true waters of religious thought he believed flowed from mainsprings the east. Merton had given his lifer to solitude believing that the distractions of the secular prevented a clear view of the spiritual. But, at that point in his life he also thought that the notion of complete segregation as practiced in his monastery created an illusion of holiness. Holiness is something in the distance and one rises above the crowd to witness it, to be guided by it, not to achieve it.

Writer Edward Rice would later call Merton, in a book by the same name, The Man in the Sycamore Tree.  Xiao Shuang aspires to be like Merton who is thought to have been a reincarnation of the Buddha by many Tibetan and Indian practitioners: He aspires to be a seeker of truth, not a symbol of reverence. And I aspire to adequately chronicle our talks of 25 years just as Rice did with his beloved friend Merton. In our two and a half decades of campanionship and cooperative learning we have never once argued. We have talked about everything from existential phenomenology to our mutual love for the Chicago Cubs.

Today we spoke of the Russian decision to commit troops to combat during the Olympics and actions of an American zealot in China for what has been called a “pseudo-guerrilla protest” on behalf of Tibetan Independence.

On both the conflict in Georgia and the missionary known as “iamgadfly”  he quoted Merton:

“While non-violence is regarded as somehow sinister, vicious, and evil, violence has manifold acceptable forms in which it is not only tolerated, but approved by American society.”

He viewed, as do I, both acts as unacceptable and violent: Russia violated a long-held moratorium against violence during the games; imagadfly purportedly was “giving a voice to the voiceless” when he vandalized upscale hotel rooms in Beijing, covered the walls in pro-independence slogans.

Zachias holds that a few obscure slogans in a hotel room, even broadcast on Youtube, could do nothing more than raise some angry voices in a country that recently received hundreds of hours of approved television instruction in Tibetan culture following the recent riots.  Ifimagadfly thought the Tibetans could not be heard before, he should imagine the din and roar resulting from his actions. Merton believed that the prayers issuing from his Abbey were powerful enough to effect world change. Zachias and I tend to believe, like CS Lewis, that prayer has more influence over the petitioner than the petitioned. At the risk of sounding opposed to human rights protests, we are both sure, and think Merton would agree, that delivering supplications to a deity as you commit a crime in a foreign country is unlikely to create a spiritual  butterfly effect for Tibet.

Beijing,Beijing Olympics,Censorship,China Cartoons,China Editorials,China Expat,China Law,China Olympics,China web 2.0,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Chinese Monks,Confucius Slept Here,Global Voices Online,Human Rights,Human Rights China,Intercultural Issues,Personal Notes,The Internet,Tibet,Twitter,Uncategorized,Videos,Violence,War,中国,中文,小双

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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:

Beijing Olympics,Censorship,China Editorials,China Law,China Olympics,China Sports,Chinese Media,Hong Kong,Human Rights China,In the news,Intercultural Issues,The Great Firewall,Videos,Vietnam,Violence,中国

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Things to do in China when you are dying….

Don Quixote

I am a believer in synchronicity. I am convinced that external events happen in concert with internal “business” that begs attention. And, I believe, that these seemingly random, unplanned instructional happenings occur with an intuitive precision that defies the laws of chance.

I had been struggling with the writing of this this post for weeks; and then, two nights ago I watched Elizabeth Edwards on 60 Minutes, talk about terminal illness and I knew it was time, ready or not, to type you this confession. First, I will digress a bit (imagine that)….

In high school I remember reading Carlos Castenada’s tales of enlightenment via teachings imparted by a Mexican Socerer named Don Juan. Castenda learned from his teacher, among other things, to live with death over his left shoulder and then passed on the message to us to “live life to its fullest” from one moment to the next. This thinking has helped drive me through enchanted landscapes on an amazing dialectical journey.

Anais Nin said, “People living deeply have no fear of death.” and Issac Asimov made it delightfully simple with: “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” Ms Edwards, like the Unsinkable Ms Yue, has made a similar decision: she will get on with life. The choice for any of us is the same as hers as we don’t know what will befall us. We celebrate life or accede to dying. She has made the only reasonable decision there is to make. Ms Yue has done the same: Fund raising efforts for her have failed and business associates have stolen money and merchandise that were meant to aid her, but she remains un-embittered. She has days of doubt, but seems well equipped to cast a cold eye on death. She still laughs with perfect abandon.

I have to be honest: It hasn’t always been as easy for me. Last week one of Ms Yue’s relatives, a successful web designer in Hong Kong, died of cancer. He was in his thirties. In the days before his passing the stomach cancer made him so thin that his spirit was kept earthbound only by the weight of his family’s love. This event and contact with five of my students, all in their twenties, diagnosed with various cancers, Ms Yue’s ongoing battle and I often find myself in need of emotional waders. And that is why I have not posted about my battle, until now.

My body’s immune system is too vigilant. My natural defenses have enlisted in a war against healthy tissue and I am an uninvited host of the conflict. Treatments to date have not been effective and it is likely that I will die, and much sooner than I had hoped, from autoimmune disease. It has already claimed a gall bladder, nearly killing me in the process, and is now in the late phases of damage to my liver.

Some of you who know me well are aware that I taught Mind-Body Medicine long before it was fashionable. So, yes, I have been doing those things I should be doing to bring back health and homeostasis. But, sometimes a vessel is just flawed. Jim Fixx a celebrated runner/author died in mid-life of a heart attack owing to his genetic make-up. Many people wrongly viewed his passing as a case against the benefits of jogging. The opposite was true. And I am sure that, like his, my life has, and will be, prolonged by exercise, prayer, meditation and other interventions. But, the inevitable it is just that….

Not long before his death John Steinbeck drove his camper, Rocinante (named for Don Quixote’s horse), across America with his poodle Charley as his companion and penned a wonderful journal during the trip. I have longed to for such a land voyage ever since…

So, rather than lament my fate I have decided to take on a new project: I will be traveling next year to all 22 provinces in mainland China. I will end my trip in Beijing in time for a climb up the Great Wall before the Olympics. I have a fellow writer (he looks nothing like Charley or Sancho…) who will be joining me and we look to do some pretty ambitious things (videos, photo logs, the completion of Confucius Slept Here….) during our travels.

So, there will be soon another blog that will chronicle the adventure and it will be structured it so it can raise funds, via ads, for various causes while raising global awareness about a China not often presented to you by Western media. Andrew Young said, “It’s a blessing to die for a cause, because you can so easily die for nothing.” And while I am not so grandiose that I think I am creating a noble exit for myself, I do want this time to count for something more than a grand tour of the Middle Kingdom. Like Elizabeth and John Edwards I hope to be of service in the process of fulfilling a dream.

Today I was reminded of Somerset Maugham who thought death to be a dull and dreary affair and I advise you, as Maugham did, to have little to do with it. The new blog will be about China life on life’s terms and about those who choose to live it well.

I will tell you more in weeks to come. Onemanbandwidth will still be here during the trip and I hope you will be as well. For the record: I am in China for the duration and in the interim: I am typing as fast as I can…

American Poet in China,Asia,Asian Women,Cancer Journal,cartoons,China Cartoons,China Editorials,China Expats,China Olympics,Personal Notes,The Great Wall,The League of Extraordinary Chinese Women,Travel in China,Videos,中国

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Addicted to Mediocrity: Education in China II

Several years ago, there was an American dentist who was well known in alcohol recovery circles. He was frequently invited to speak about his circuitous and hard won arrival at sobriety because he was easily one of the most entertaining speakers ever heard on any subject. One story in particular remains with me: Having been told of the death of a colleague, and to preclude public contact while “paying his respects”, he visited the grave site where his friend would be laid to rest. As he leaned over the six-foot deep hole to bid a heartfelt, albeit inebriated goodbye, he fell into the hole. Unable to extricate himself he simply laid down for a brief nap.

When mourners arrived and gathered for the lowering of the casket there was a collective gasp of horror when a figure attempted to rise up from the grave. The dentist mused, “A normal man would have been embarrassed.” But, habit had been a great deadener and he was beyond shame. It would be many years later that he actually reached a “bottom,” deeper than the aforementioned six foot resting place, that acted as a catalyst for recovery. More on this in a bit….

Two weeks ago, amidst finals, I had to quickly return to my office to retrieve a forgotten document; en-route, I passed the classroom of one of the younger Chinese teachers. The brilliant and beautiful Ph.D graduate of one of the top schools in the world was asleep at her desk while her students chattered, used cell phones, applied make-up, read books, dozed, and smoked cigarettes. It looked more like a scene out of Chalkboard Jungle, Stand and Deliver or Freedom Writers, but without hope for a happy ending. In retropsect, the most astonishing part of the experiece was my lack of surprise and concomitant emotional indifference. I guess I have seen this too many times in too many Chinese and expat led classroom–while the teacher was awake.

Students in China, unlike students in Japan, are no longer adherents of Confucian principles. Since the days of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, where teachers were shamed, beaten, jailed and even killed (1966-1976), reverence for teachers is, at best, an arguable ideal. The average Chinese college student in many schools (there are exceptions), who thinks himself respectful, would still manage to incur the wrath of most American Professors because they have not had modeled for them the manners and etiquette expected of a western scholar.

Last week the Chinese media and the Internet were alive with rumors of this incident captured on film:

Stories abounded about the perpetrators, whose names and school were quickly made public on bulletin boards nationwide, and they had to be secreted away because a bounty had been placed on them. Allegedly 100,000 RMB (about 120,000 USD or 5 years of a school teacher’s gross salary) had been offered to the person or group that would literally beat them into respectfulness. The students, who finally apologized to the teacher, reportedly are back at school and neither the school or the teacher will further comment.

What is most disturbing to me, other than the physical attack and threat of harm to the teacher, is that the scene is all too typical of what many pedants are asked to endure in China. The industrialization of education has led the spoiled offspring of one-child families (Little Emperors), especially the newly prosperous, to believe that they have a right to lord their rich consumer status over low-paid, poorly prepared, and administratively unsupported educators. Teachers are expendable, and salvaging tuition is a higher calling.

Many of us who have been here for several years manage our classrooms with strict discipline and genuine concern for student well-being. Eventually, our sincerity is believed and that, in turn, generates a certain measure of respect. This allows for a reasonably manageable classroom where the handful of students serious about language acquisition and cultural gain can actually glean something useful.

In some rural schools, where teachers might be as paid as little as $50.00 USD per month, educators sometimes resort to brutality against students in a quest for control. There are laws against such behavior, but they are not often enforced. The students, I beieve, are rebelling against a system heavily reliant on memorization, humiliation and devaluation of self. I do not absolve abuse teachers of any negligence or liability by believing that their behavior is part-and-parcel of a dysunctional system. “Chinese education has a long history of corporal punishment,” says Thomas Gold, a University of California-Berkeley sociologist who studies China. Teachers’ “social status remains low, so they may be taking out their own frustrations on laggard kids.” I could not agree more.

My last school, the one where I just resigned, caters to wealthy, underachieving children from privileged families. The school virtually sells advanced (and unaccredited) degrees to business and government leaders from the mainland; accepts known plagiarized theses from students who may or may not have attended classes; admits almost any undergraduate (these programs are accredited) with a healthy bank balance; hires raw mainland talent, looking for a foothold in teaching, at a fraction of the wages paid by government established schools, and with only ten-month teaching contracts containing no provisions for retirement; they protect a registrar who holds American and Chinese Passports and the deanship over five departments who brags about hiding his income from the IRS via a Hong Kong bank; they pad their website faculty list with professors from famous universities who are not active teachers; have investors on their board with government ties who shower the school with land and facility donations; and have a turnover rate for staff that is higher than the local McDonalds. The teachers, though better paid, feel no more self worth than those in rural environs.

It is hard for students to command respect for an education entity, such as the one I left. It is blatantly greedy and inept. But, many, many other Chinese schools, especially privatized ones, have also abandoned functional educational models in the pursuit of profit. And with only 1/3 of graduating seniors assured of work this year many students cannot muster the motivation to respect a system that does little for their future, less for their net worth and still condemns their teachers to social contempt.

It is no wonder that 40% of my former school’s Freshman class applied for transfer. And 20% of the best, brightest and ethical at the school were accepted by other institutions and thankfully will leave. Others wish they would have followed suit because they will be left behind with an even further demoralized and unruly student and faculty population. Only 40% of those students educated abroad will return to China to share the skills they will acquire. My guess is they will avoid the teaching profession if possible.

Any normal system would be embarrassed. It is necessary to examine ways to curb profiteering, improve classroom conditions and teaching methodologies by educating educators and then rewarding them accordingly. It is time to foster respect for those entrusted with educating China’s new managers.

In a country now increasingly pressured to compete globally in business–via skills and quality and not price–while tariffs, environmental concerns and increasing production fees lower profits, one would think China would sober up and ask for a ladder to be lowered to rescue a system now forty years stranded nearly six-feet under.

China Business,China Editorials,China Expats,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Confucius Slept Here,Expats,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Macau University of Science and Technology,Teaching in China,The Internet,Videos,中国,中文

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SEO SECRET….

SEO SECRET

I started an Search Engine Optimization (SEO) series a few months back and then abandoned the effort: Feedback from regular readers, most of them blogless and not looking to adopt, read, “I’m bored senseless!” It seems that only members of the China shoe-money society really read things and then they pissed and moaned: “It’s too simple,” or “Explain how to put an image in my post that doesn’t blow out my sidebar” were some of the two emailed questions….And then there was the uproar created by comments on a blog that used my posts to generate traffic by calling Fili and I “Greedy Superficial Bloggers” for discussing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) methods on our sites. It even got people taking sides and nearly cyber-rioting before he kind-of admitted it was just a scam meant to coax more readers to his site. But, I digress…

One of the deservedly best-loved sites on the planet is Post Secret. The trouble with being public and popular is that you are open to spoof. (Dear Sinocidal, I am still waiting for next April 1st….

The picture above was blatantly ripped off a very funny parody of Post Secret. Now, a lot of it is out loud funny, but a bit of it will only be understood by Fili, Ryan and others like the ass-hat. You can take a peek at it by clicking on the picture above. The photo references Matt Cutts, a paid stooge for Google whom I parodied hereon the site,  a few weeks ago. Anyway head over to the comedy and have fun. REMEBER to click on the links below the pictures for more fun….

PS: Speaking of Fili: Head over to his blog as that greedy, superficial blogger living in China’s latest province is actually offering free SEO help (There must be a catch :-)…) to anyone who wants to bring in traffic via sound and in-offensive methods.

Another SEO stunt in the works can be found by the hit-grubbers at Hao Hao and Chinalyst :-). They are sponsoring the 3rd-failed annual China Blog Awards. If you have already have a fave site you can vote for them and, more importantly, you can visit some of other blogs that you may not have cruised through yet. There is a terabyte of great stuff out there!

China Blog Awards

PPS:
pkblogs.com

Above is a way to view Blogspot (Thanks J) if you live in places like I do….One site you need to get to:

Free Oiwan Lam

Asia,Asian Humor,Blogroll Diving,cartoons,China Editorials,China Humor,China SEO,China web 2.0,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Greater Asia Blogs,In the news,Internet marketing China,Just Plain Strange,Photos,Seach engine Optimization,Search Engine Marketing,SEM,SEO,Seo China,SEO China Expert,Taiwan,The Internet,Top Blogs,Top China Blogs List,Videos,Weird China,中国,中文

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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….

Asian Humor,Bush,China Humor,China web 2.0,China-US Medical Foundation,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Hong Kong,Internet marketing China,The Internet,Videos,中国,中文

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For a laugh, or not…

china censorship

Click on the pic…Some of you may have seen this a while back, but….

Update: My jubilation was short-lived. WordPress is blocked in China again…..

cartoons,Censorship,China Cartoons,China SEO,China web 2.0,China-US Medical Foundation,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Entertainment,Human Rights,SEM,SEO,Seo China,SEO China Expert,The Great Firewall,Videos,中国,中文

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Can the Wheels Be Put Back on Chinese Quality Control?

bad wheels

I remember as a kid when “Made in Japan” was a euphemism for junk or soon-to-break disposables. That was long before Toyota turned the “S” in Sinophobia into a dollar sign.

Now I run through 2-3 VCR’s a year due to the poor workmanship and the less than perfect DVDs that you have to buy locally. As I write I can look down to a sack of local medications that are headed for the trash as I fear the consequences of taking them. Even the mainland Chinese are jamming the aisles in Macau and Hong Kong pharmacies in hopes of safer, more efficacious drugs.

As profit margins decrease due to global tariffs and increased competition, some manufacturers are cutting a few safety corners. The phenomenon is not isolated to the Middle Kingdom as the West has had its share of debaucles: Firestone, Perrier, Dell, ect….

The latest scare (with a hat tip to Tim Johnson’s blocked Typepad site ) is reminiscient of the Firestone and Ford scare: Tires and autos. China’s Brilliance BS6 is meant to be positioned as a premium-style import sedan at a budget price. After viewing the videos of this tiny hearse traveling only 40 miles an hour I would say it is unsafe at any price–with apologies to Ralph Nader.

Germany’s test group gave it one star out of a possible five. And I am with some of the dark humorists in the comments section of an Autoblog (also blocked in China) article on this beast. They wonder if it takes an explosion to get no stars and one reader thought a riding a tricycle without a helmet would be preferable to taking the wheel of a Chinese car.

The picture above is from a tire sold by Foreign Tire Sales, Inc. of Union, NJ. They are in a panic after a death resulting from one of China’s Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company’s tires, sans an important layer of rubber, overheated. FTS says the tires may need to be recalled. What?! And since the geniuses at FTS don’t have the financial resources, and obviously product liability insurance, to deal with a recall disaster, they are suing the Hangzhou Rubber to cover the expenses. They claim Hangzhou built the tires in a way that differed from the FTC’s specifications. Score one for stupidity and indifference in due diligence and zilch for the consumer at risk. The company executives should be made to crash test the next 100 shipments personally.

I am a staunch supporter of buying locally and doing my bit to support the economy that pays my rent. As an example, all my computers are Chinese save my laptop MAC. But, I have now drawn the line at anything ingestible or drivable in a crisis.

The scariest part of all of this? Analysts and consumers (also blocked in the mainland) don’t think this information will negatively affect sales of the Chinese car. People would rather save a buck than breathe.

Asia,China Business,China Business Consultant,China Editorials,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,In the news,Videos,Wholesale Products China,中国,中文

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Beware the Dragon…..

Back in the days of Ziggy Stardust and Woolly Mammoths I paid part of my college tuition by being on my College’s speech team. I have a house full of trophies and medals, oh ya, and a diploma to show for it….Did you ever notice how those big trophies slowly come to life and unscrew themselves over time? But, I digress…

I recently received an email from a Ben Brofman of the Weiser Group in New York, America. His company does consulting for other companies “at critical points in their evolution.” The explanation of that process then reads on their web page like a euphemistic way of saying euphemism.

Anyway, Ben sent me a description of a Oxford style debate series they sponsor using very expensive talent to variety of issues. He thought I might be interested in their organization called Intelligence Squared U.S..

He says they are working to “remove the rancorous tone from America’s public discourse.” Short of a one-party system I think they have their work cut out for them….

Anyway he told me that last month’s expensive debate was entitled, “Beware the Dragon: A booming China spells trouble for America.” I would love to see the rancorous titles they discarded.

So, I played along with the viral advertising and took a look.

Debaters included Bill Gertz, John J. Mearsheimer, and Michael Pillsbury, Daniel H. Rosen, James McGregor, and J. Stapleton Roy. The names will resonate with you if you have read any books on China like “One Billion Customers.” James Harding, business and city editor of the Times of London, served as moderator–I told you this cost a fortune–and how much do they pay Ben to write those emails?

Anyway, Intelligence Squared polls its audience on each motion before and after the debate. At the start, the audience favored the motion that China spells trouble for America by 41%, with 37% against and 22% undecided. By the evening’s conclusion, only 35% supported the motion, with 59% against and only 6% undecided.

Very few people have viewed the videos on YouTube and that is a pity. Some of these guys couldn’t win an argument over taxi rights with a Cantonese woman, but worth every second of your time is the Wall Streets Journal’s former China bureau chief James McGregor. His plain talk, powerful knowledge of internal China and his 20-years as an expat here in the Middle Kingdom quickly got my attention. He handles the opposition–The Chicken Little Corps of Academics- with ease and doesn’t sound like he had to Google a bit of his argument. Enjoy:

YOUTUBE

China Business,China Business Consultant,China Editorials,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Internet marketing China,Videos,中国

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Addicted to Mediocrity: Education in China II

Several years ago, there was an American dentist who was well known in alcohol recovery circles. He was frequently invited to speak about his circuitous and hard won arrival at sobriety because he was easily one of the most entertaining speakers ever heard on any subject. One story in particular remains with me: Having been told of the death of a colleague, and to preclude public contact while “paying his respects”, he visited the grave site where his friend would be laid to rest. As he leaned over the six-foot deep hole to bid a heartfelt, albeit inebriated goodbye, he fell into the hole. Unable to extricate himself he simply laid down for a brief nap.

When mourners arrived and gathered for the lowering of the casket there was a collective gasp of horror when a figure attempted to rise up from the grave. The dentist mused, “A normal man would have been embarrassed.” But, habit had been a great deadener and he was beyond shame. It would be many years later that he actually reached a “bottom,” deeper than the aforementioned six foot resting place, that acted as a catalyst for recovery. More on this in a bit….

Two weeks ago, amidst finals, I had to quickly return to my office to retrieve a forgotten document; en-route, I passed the classroom of one of the younger Chinese teachers. The brilliant and beautiful Ph.D graduate of one of the top schools in the world was asleep at her desk while her students chattered, used cell phones, applied make-up, read books, dozed, and smoked cigarettes. It looked more like a scene out of Chalkboard Jungle, Stand and Deliver or Freedom Writers, but without hope for a happy ending. In retropsect, the most astonishing part of the experiece was my lack of surprise and concomitant emotional indifference. I guess I have seen this too many times in too many Chinese and expat led classroom–while the teacher was awake.

Students in China, unlike students in Japan, are no longer adherents of Confucian principles. Since the days of Mao’s Cultural Revolution, where teachers were shamed, beaten, jailed and even killed (1966-1976), reverence for teachers is, at best, an arguable ideal. The average Chinese college student in many schools (there are exceptions), who thinks himself respectful, would still manage to incur the wrath of most American Professors because they have not had modeled for them the manners and etiquette expected of a western scholar.

Last week the Chinese media and the Internet were alive with rumors of this incident captured on film:

Stories abounded about the perpetrators, whose names and school were quickly made public on bulletin boards nationwide, and they had to be secreted away because a bounty had been placed on them. Allegedly 100,000 RMB (about 120,000 USD or 5 years of a school teacher’s gross salary) had been offered to the person or group that would literally beat them into respectfulness. The students, who finally apologized to the teacher, reportedly are back at school and neither the school or the teacher will further comment.

What is most disturbing to me, other than the physical attack and threat of harm to the teacher, is that the scene is all too typical of what many pedants are asked to endure in China. The industrialization of education has led the spoiled offspring of one-child families (Little Emperors), especially the newly prosperous, to believe that they have a right to lord their rich consumer status over low-paid, poorly prepared, and administratively unsupported educators. Teachers are expendable, and salvaging tuition is a higher calling.

Many of us who have been here for several years manage our classrooms with strict discipline and genuine concern for student well-being. Eventually, our sincerity is believed and that, in turn, generates a certain measure of respect. This allows for a reasonably manageable classroom where the handful of students serious about language acquisition and cultural gain can actually glean something useful.

In some rural schools, where teachers might be as paid as little as $50.00 USD per month, educators sometimes resort to brutality against students in a quest for control. There are laws against such behavior, but they are not often enforced. The students, I beieve, are rebelling against a system heavily reliant on memorization, humiliation and devaluation of self. I do not absolve abuse teachers of any negligence or liability by believing that their behavior is part-and-parcel of a dysunctional system. “Chinese education has a long history of corporal punishment,” says Thomas Gold, a University of California-Berkeley sociologist who studies China. Teachers’ “social status remains low, so they may be taking out their own frustrations on laggard kids.” I could not agree more.

My last school, the one where I just resigned, caters to wealthy, underachieving children from privileged families. The school virtually sells advanced (and unaccredited) degrees to business and government leaders from the mainland; accepts known plagiarized theses from students who may or may not have attended classes; admits almost any undergraduate (these programs are accredited) with a healthy bank balance; hires raw mainland talent, looking for a foothold in teaching, at a fraction of the wages paid by government established schools, and with only ten-month teaching contracts containing no provisions for retirement; they protect a registrar who holds American and Chinese Passports and the deanship over five departments who brags about hiding his income from the IRS via a Hong Kong bank; they pad their website faculty list with professors from famous universities who are not active teachers; have investors on their board with government ties who shower the school with land and facility donations; and have a turnover rate for staff that is higher than the local McDonalds. The teachers, though better paid, feel no more self worth than those in rural environs.

It is hard for students to command respect for an education entity, such as the one I left. It is blatantly greedy and inept. But, many, many other Chinese schools, especially privatized ones, have also abandoned functional educational models in the pursuit of profit. And with only 1/3 of graduating seniors assured of work this year many students cannot muster the motivation to respect a system that does little for their future, less for their net worth and still condemns their teachers to social contempt.

It is no wonder that 40% of my former school’s Freshman class applied for transfer. And 20% of the best, brightest and ethical at the school were accepted by other institutions and thankfully will leave. Others wish they would have followed suit because they will be left behind with an even further demoralized and unruly student and faculty population. Only 40% of those students educated abroad will return to China to share the skills they will acquire. My guess is they will avoid the teaching profession if possible.

Any normal system would be embarrassed. It is necessary to examine ways to curb profiteering, improve classroom conditions and teaching methodologies by educating educators and then rewarding them accordingly. It is time to foster respect for those entrusted with educating China’s new managers.

In a country now increasingly pressured to compete globally in business–via skills and quality and not price–while tariffs, environmental concerns and increasing production fees lower profits, one would think China would sober up and ask for a ladder to be lowered to rescue a system now forty years stranded nearly six-feet under.

China Business,China Editorials,China Expats,Chinese Internet,Chinese Media,Confucius Slept Here,Expats,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Macau University of Science and Technology,Teaching in China,The Internet,Videos,中国,中文

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Intolerant of Intolerance….

I had an online row with a sports writer who used racist language (or a racist who uses sports lingo) and crude anti-China rhetoric to ostensibly protest the NBA moving into China and not Vegas. He did not seem to follow my logic that the 300 million players here in China (that is a 3 with 8 zeros) could well push back some of the trade deficit dough to us with their enthusiastic support. They love NBA-Ball here!

He basically accused me of being a bigot hater and said that made me a bigot. Neener, Neener. So, I wrote back to tell him I did not hate sports writers as a class of people, just him. I think he needs to follow in the footsteps of other sports writer that have stepped outside of their normal areas of expertise and written books. It could be a treatise on his views of the world outside the borders of his blog: he could call it Tuesdays with Moron*.


Thanks to Scott for mining this fun video. Needless to say, we don’t get Comedy Central in China. Hmmm, unless that means the Hong Kong Daily Apple….
*With apologies to great sports writer and author Mitch Albom

Asian Humor,China Editorials,China Humor,China Sports,Entertainment,Humor,In the news,Intercultural Issues,Videos,中国

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El Encierro is for wimps: Try a Chinese buffet!

The running of the bulls has nothing on the serving line at a Chinese buffet. China is new to properity and the wonders of all-you-can-eat Vegas style grazing. I am sure that, as modernity grows, so will the social graces that accompany it in other parts of the world. But for now, “buffet” remains a contact sport on a par with the Hong Kong Sevens Rugby Tournament.

Here is a video that is virally making its way into the emails of Hong Kong and Macau natives. They don’t seem to think well of their neighbors to the north and this kind of video is all too common.

I was taken to a new buffet recently that made the above video look tame. Some sadist designed the serving line: The restaurant is only open for two hours, and it has only a single serving line placed in a narrow hall only about three feet wide with customers moving in both directions. It was a snooze and you lose situation: One blink and that whole tray of beef you had your eye on begins levitating toward a hungry family.

It was easily the best food I had had in ages, but I felt like I had won a challenge on Survivor Island to get it.

*****

A non-China aside: I am a huge golf fan who wishes my play could one day match my enthusiasm. So, of course, I have been reading Yahoo! sports news religiously this Easter to follow Tiger and company at the Masters.

I am also a great fan of good sports and travel writing: Bryson, Albom, Mayle….

Well, Dan Wetzel is getting close with hilarious stories like this one about the Masters. A fun piece on Augusta: Masters of None

China Editorials,China Humor,Humor,Intercultural Issues,Macau,Travel in China,Videos,Weird China,中国

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“Global Uprising Day”

One of the staff at my college, a Canadian-Chinese, recently reported me to the administration because I expressed surprise at her fierce anger about foreign faculty and student visitors being upset about last year’s shootings near Tibet. She will not watch the video and is certain no such event occurred in October of last year nor 48 years ago. She is still unconvinced and I remain warned that I could lose my job for talking about it on campus.

Acording to Boing Boing via the Hao Hao Report: Tibetan exiles around the world and their supporters plan to use YouTube to commemorate “global uprising day” this Saturday, March 10. Videos already uploaded include pilgrims, rap songs, statements from monks, rants from young Tibetan exiles in the United States, and words from ama-la (grandmas). Looks like the revolution(s) will be televised after all. Link. (Thanks, Nathan Freitas / Students For a Free Tibet)

History: On March, 10, 1959, an uprising took place in Tibet against the Chinese occupation. In Lhasa on that day, 300,000 Tibetans surrounded the palace that housed the Dalai Lama, in order to protect him from anticipated abduction or assassination. China’s military response in the days that followed left thousands dead. Link. More than 1.2 million Tibetans have since died as a result of the occupation, according to the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Asia,Censorship,China Editorials,In the news,India,Personal Notes,Tibet,Videos,中国

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China Blogroll Diving…

Occasionally I go blogroll diving. It is akin to dumpster diving, but instead of selling my treasures on Ebay I get paid through a good laugh, some new insight or a a fresh post to share. And I come out of the whole blog experience smelling a lot better….

This will be part of an ongoing series featuring little known websites and blogs based in, or writing about, China that deserve a look. There is some wonderfully creative stuff going on out there/in here….

A Black Man in China

Black Man in China

It’s a podcast from a Cleaveland Ohio expat. Be sure to watch “No size fits all” where he spends the day hunting for clothes here in OZ….

broke.gif

Second on the list is a humor site that often posts Chinglish sightings and occasionally other China nonsense. From hairlarious.wordpress.com:

1. In a Beijing hotel lobby:
The lift is being fixed for next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.”

2. In a Shanghai hotel elevator:
“Please leave your values at the front desk.”

3. In a Hangzhou hotel:
The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid;

4. In a Jilin hotel:
“You are very invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

5. In a Wuxi dry cleaner:
Please drop your trousers here for best results.”

6. Outside a Tianjin clothing shop:
Order your summer suits quick. Because of big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.”

7. In a Xian tailor shop:
“Ladies may have a fit upstairs.”

8. In a Guilin hotel:
“Because of impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.”

9. An ad by Kunming dentist:
“Teeth extracted by the latest methodists.”

10. In a Hangzhou zoo:
“Please do not feed animals. If you have suitable food give it to the guard on duty.”

11. In a Taiyuan bar:
“Special cocktails for the ladies with nuts.”

12. In a Huashan temple:
“It is forbidden to enter a woman. Even a foreigner if dressed as a man.”

Also seen on hilarious:

Enjoy!

For a great non-China related site head over to the very funny Internet Class clown Cap’n Platy, the sharpest guy on the planet, at Platypus Society

Asia,Asian Humor,China Expats,China Humor,China Photos,Chinglish,Confucius Slept Here,Greater Asia Blogs,Humor,Intercultural Issues,The Sharpest Guy on the Planet,Videos,Weird China,中国

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How many times would you reincarnate for a Tiger beer?

Tiger Beer – Reincarnation – video powered by Metacafe

Asian Humor,China Humor,Videos,Weird China

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Learn to Speak Body….

At first I thought this might be a great teaching tool. And maybe it will be, but…

This has been on YouTube for a few months now, but you may not have seen it. Mitchell Rose, the director who put this together, has several films worth a look. and they must be good because 1,500,000 folks have already peeked at this one on YouTube. I posted it here because since coming to China 1,000,000 seems small. If I visit a city with that few people in it people in it and I am suddenly in mind of a place like Spiderbreath, Montana. But I digress…

Humor,Just Plain Strange,Teaching in China,Top Blogs,Videos,中国

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