rolling buried alive in china 2012

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dayo, Thursday, 26 January 2012 00:56 (five years ago) Permalink

posting to take away the bold, take the bold away

dayo, Thursday, 26 January 2012 00:56 (five years ago) Permalink

Of course, the Chinese economy has been growing rapidly for about three decades, creating much legitimate wealth. Incomes are rising, about 8.4 percent in real terms in the cities last year, Mr. Wang said.

Yet “average incomes haven’t risen as fast as luxury spending,” suggesting that the luxury spending is being fed by other, hidden sources, he said.

The government knows that many people hide their income. The day before our interview, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics, Ma Jiantang, made what Mr. Wang considered “a very interesting” statement to the news media.

Asked by reporters why the bureau didn’t publish a figure for China’s overall Gini coefficient — a measurement of income inequality — Mr. Ma said it was because they knew their figures for high earners were wrong and therefore any results were inaccurate.

dayo, Thursday, 26 January 2012 13:08 (five years ago) Permalink

lol'd at this. the problem is america doesn't have any homegrown luxury brands. well, except for coach. is coach even american?

dayo, Sunday, 29 January 2012 13:47 (five years ago) Permalink

an estranged hk

beida professor calls hkese dogs, uncivilized

just visited hongkong for the first time and i feel sort of protective of it even if i don't have any real reason to be. why would i feel weird about cars with 粤 plates? i do, though.

maybe actually living in china, i just... let me just say it okay? mainlanders will fuck your place up, hong kong. okay?

dylannn, Monday, 30 January 2012 14:12 (five years ago) Permalink

heh yeah I have that feeling too and it's hard to reconcile

dayo, Monday, 30 January 2012 14:35 (five years ago) Permalink

in vancouver, there's always been the same hk--mainland tension too, with immigrants from hong kong arriving about a decade earlier (and mixing in easier with previous waves of chinese immigration because they came from about the same place and spoke about the same language) and feeling butthurt about rising real estate prices newrich mainland excess ( and a perceived feeling that mainlanders (always referred to as "chinese people") are uninterested in engaging with canadian institutions, values, etc. (ex. -- mainland residents protest a hospice for fear of suppressed property values) but... at the same time... it's a really different situation...

dylannn, Monday, 30 January 2012 15:27 (five years ago) Permalink

there is def a kind of nationalism that the present generation of chinese people have that does make it look like they have blinders on, or are wearing football helmets.

it occurs to me that what's happening in HK is a kind of gentrification, but I'll have to think about that more

dayo, Monday, 30 January 2012 18:15 (five years ago) Permalink

feeling the blog author on the commercialization of hong kong. every new mall has the exact same chain stores, in fact every mall has the exact same chain stores. otoh, mom & pop stores all serve the exact same food. very homogenous all around. :/

dayo, Monday, 30 January 2012 18:34 (five years ago) Permalink

these dudes suck

dayo, Friday, 3 February 2012 11:56 (five years ago) Permalink

i've been liking thesethese podcasts out of beijing. "the soul of beijing" and "the bears are back in town" are two good recent eps.

nothing new, really, but a recap and discussion of the whole "hk dogs vs mainland locusts" flare-ups here, starting at abt 10 mins in:

rent, Sunday, 5 February 2012 03:21 (five years ago) Permalink

looks totally staged to me (dayo), Monday, 6 February 2012 13:24 (five years ago) Permalink

SELF PROMOTION TIME: This might be kind of narrowly-targeted, but I've been trying to get back into blogging, and I recently co-chaperoned a 16-day architecture tour of China's east-coast if you're into the idea of China through the lens of archi-babble and me learning how to use my new camera, check it out. I just got done with a long one about hype, reality, and plazas of resistance in Shenzhen...or something. I definitely don't have any great insight into China, but boy are they building lots of stuff over there.

(For just the photos, keep an eye on

My friend Evan, who cooked up the trip, also has a blog, which tends to be less verbose and also more regularly-updated.

Doctor Casino, Wednesday, 8 February 2012 07:06 (five years ago) Permalink

I read your posts on HK - very good, very fascinating! wish I had visited the gov building in wan chai before I left. (dayo), Wednesday, 8 February 2012 11:52 (five years ago) Permalink

fascinating, I hope wang lijun leaves clinging to a rope ladder dangling from a helicopter as chinese police shoot at him (dayo), Wednesday, 8 February 2012 11:52 (five years ago) Permalink

“Had Enough! Collection”

Sébastien, Wednesday, 8 February 2012 13:21 (five years ago) Permalink

Thanks, dayo!

Doctor Casino, Saturday, 11 February 2012 22:06 (five years ago) Permalink

hey doctor casino, did you visit the Arch while you were in HK? (dayo), Sunday, 12 February 2012 13:27 (five years ago) Permalink

Nope - didn't make it to that part of Kowloon but it looks potentially cool - reminds me of Bofill...

Doctor Casino, Sunday, 12 February 2012 17:22 (five years ago) Permalink

China sentences dissident to 7 years for poetry
BEIJING -- A Chinese court has sentenced a dissident writer to seven years in prison over a poem he wrote urging his countrymen to gather at a public square, a human rights group said Friday. The hefty sentence comes ahead of next week's visit to the U.S. by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping — widely expected to be China's next leader — where he is likely to face questions on human rights.

The U.S. government on Friday voiced deep concern over Zhu Yufu's reported sentencing and the recent convictions of three other dissidents who have received nine- and 10-year prison terms for subversion or inciting subversion over the last few months

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 14 February 2012 19:32 (five years ago) Permalink

perry anderson reviews three american books on china, among them kissinger's.

Critique of Pure Moods (goole), Tuesday, 14 February 2012 22:26 (five years ago) Permalink

In these years, Deng continually berated his American interlocutors for insufficient hostility to Moscow, warning them that Vietnam wasn’t just ‘another Cuba’: it was planning to conquer Thailand, and open the gates of South-East Asia to the Red Army. The stridency of his fulminations against the Soviet menace rang like an Oriental version of the paranoia of the John Birch Society. Whether he actually believed what he was saying is less clear than its intended effect. He wanted to convince Washington that there could be no stauncher ally in the Cold War than the PRC under his command. Mao had seen his entente with Nixon as another Stalin-Hitler Pact – in the formulation of one of his generals – with Kissinger featuring as Ribbentrop: a tactical deal with one enemy to ward off dangers from another. Deng, however, sought more than this. His aim was strategic acceptance within the American imperial system, to gain access to the technology and capital needed for his drive to modernise the Chinese economy. This was the true, unspoken rationale for his assault on Vietnam. The US was still smarting from its defeat in Indochina. What better way of gaining its trust than offering it vengeance by proxy? The war misfired, but it bought something more valuable to Deng than the 60,000 lives it cost – China’s entry ticket to the world capitalist order, in which it would go on to flourish.

Critique of Pure Moods (goole), Tuesday, 14 February 2012 22:27 (five years ago) Permalink

it's strange, there's a pining for the 'good old days' under mao among a lot of older chinese folks, a lot of chinese blame china's current modern woes on deng's modernization of the chinese economy (dayo), Tuesday, 14 February 2012 22:30 (five years ago) Permalink

Xi, who is expected to become China’s leader in 2013, defended the communist-governed country’s rights record over the past 30 years, but added: “Of course there’s always room for improvement on human rights.”

Maybe a little room for improvement. These guys.

curmudgeon, Tuesday, 14 February 2012 22:39 (five years ago) Permalink

dylannn, Saturday, 18 February 2012 14:30 (five years ago) Permalink

<-------------------- posting from linyi after a 25 minute dalian-yantai shandong airlines flight and a yantai-xuzhou bus breakdown in the middle of the shandong countryside. famous for: forced abortions, pollution, christian bale visiting chen guangcheng.

dylannn, Saturday, 18 February 2012 14:38 (five years ago) Permalink

speaking of chen guangcheng, latest reports are not very encouraging :( (dayo), Saturday, 18 February 2012 20:41 (five years ago) Permalink

man, fuck anybody who protests against this

flagp∞st (dayo), Wednesday, 22 February 2012 12:15 (five years ago) Permalink!-for-sale

american ethnographer works food cart in shanghai suburb

dylannn, Sunday, 26 February 2012 22:52 (five years ago) Permalink


flagp∞st (dayo), Monday, 27 February 2012 01:54 (five years ago) Permalink

her blog has a shaggier shorter version of the piece with pictures. really innaresting stuff, esp sliceoflife trenches of ethnography fun and the writing on telecom/how phones are actually used in china, like this.

dylannn, Monday, 27 February 2012 02:06 (five years ago) Permalink

this story has been making the rounds, just comical really:

flagp∞st (dayo), Monday, 27 February 2012 22:14 (five years ago) Permalink

xp she looks like she's doing really great work - I'm jealous! wish I had the courage to drop it all and go in hard on something like that

flagp∞st (dayo), Monday, 27 February 2012 22:14 (five years ago) Permalink

my mom, after nearly 50 years, was finally able to share with me a little about what happened to her and her family during the cultural revolution. rough times!!

flagp∞st (dayo), Sunday, 4 March 2012 14:03 (five years ago) Permalink

governor of tokyo is a rape of nanking denier

flagp∞st (dayo), Sunday, 4 March 2012 14:10 (five years ago) Permalink

diggin this tom of finland-esque reimagining of the cultural revolution!

flagp∞st (dayo), Sunday, 4 March 2012 14:14 (five years ago) Permalink

great string of links, the Dafen copies of the Tian'anmen photo are O_o almost as much as the pornographic propaganda posters...

Doctor Casino, Sunday, 4 March 2012 17:48 (five years ago) Permalink

I think the 'propaganda' posters are more subtle than that - don't think the CCP would ever endorse that kind of explicit, strong female sexuality. I think it's important that the artist is a woman. apologies if I'm being male-gazey though :/

flagp∞st (dayo), Sunday, 4 March 2012 18:04 (five years ago) Permalink

i really get the idea behind the dafen tiananmen paintings. most of the painters working there were probably born around the same time as or after 6。4 and nobody knows the picture in china, even if they know about the event....

dylannn, Sunday, 4 March 2012 21:39 (five years ago) Permalink

i'm often confused by this sort of thing with tiananmen. there are so many examples of people recreating this experiment: show chinese people pictures from tiananmen, ask them if they know what's up in the picture, express quiet shock that they don't. in the tank man pbs documentary the filmmakers do exactly that with a picture of tank man and some students at beijing university. the kids either don't know or politely play dumb and we're SHOCKED that they don't know about the tiananmen massacre.

dylannn, Sunday, 4 March 2012 21:44 (five years ago) Permalink

then you get those horrible conversations where the western interlocutor runs up against the person who says, "yeah, dude. we know about tiananmen. they did what they had to do. sorry, bud."

let's understand what's happened politically/socially/economically in the country over the last 25 years before forcing china to come to terms with tiananmen. at this point, the stakes are pretty low with tiananmen, especially compared to the various fucked up shit happening in the country right now.

dylannn, Sunday, 4 March 2012 21:54 (five years ago) Permalink

<a href="";>Tibetan Writer Says China Is Blocking Her From Award</a>

<a href="";>woeser</a> locked down

<i>Since last March, at least 22 Tibetans in western regions have set fire to themselves to protest rule by the Han, the dominant ethnic group in China. Fourteen of those died. In recent months, there have also been clashes between security forces and Tibetans in towns across the Tibetan plateau; in several cases, security forces opened fire with live ammunition, reportedly killing some of the protesters.</i>

not sure about the "rule by the han"... makes it sound like tibetan complaints have a more explicitly racial element than they do. like, the problem isn't that the oppressors are han chinese but mostly that they're brutally oppressive. :)

dylannn, Sunday, 4 March 2012 22:05 (five years ago) Permalink

xp hk needs china like a forklift needs broccoli. btw singapore's doing all right w/out resources or indon/malayan control, so idk maybe those people are not into regional comparisons when they're poised to consume the region's biggest open market.

I've not been to shenzhen but it always struck me how shenzhen seemed quite jealous of hk (despite being a sez pilot), but in hk you'd be forgiven for not knowing that shenzhen existed (although I couldn't read 简体 (much less 繁体) when I was last there, so maybe there's a whole 深圳 consciousness that I just didn't see). it seems to be the destination of choice for tourists to hk who want a better range of knock-off shit.

* The "no hands" rule can be compared to socialist tax policies (Autumn Almanac), Tuesday, 11 September 2012 03:03 (five years ago) Permalink

my feeling was the opposite, shenzhen felt far more selfcontained and less hk-oriented than i expected. i'm always surprised that so few shenzheners i talk to have never been to hong kong. but still, maybe i was talking to the wrong people, because there are a couple hundred million border crossings a year at shenzhen/hk.

dylannn, Tuesday, 11 September 2012 04:50 (five years ago) Permalink

shenzhen-hk relationship is defined by econ development i guess, rather than like cultural/political trends. shenzhen and hk are both economic rather than political powerhouses and their political role is defined in economic terms (not sure if this makes sense but i don't know how to say it in a way that makes sense). and looking at hk and shenzhen's economic relationship, shenzhen needs hong kong less and less: the centers of shenzhen have moved away from tight up close against the border (the first SEZs in shenzhen were chosen for proximity to hk, right?) and the new central business district has been intentionally cityplanned distant from territorial crossings, and the old idea of 店前厂后 is outdated because shenzhen now functions as both 店 and 厂. if in china, there's a big split between economic vs. political power center (maybe this isn't even true), hong kong will continue to be marginalized esp in comparison to shenzhen.

^------ not sure how much of this is actually true or is expressed in a way that makes sense

dylannn, Tuesday, 11 September 2012 04:57 (five years ago) Permalink

slightly related. this is a really good collection of essays on pearl river delta history. but mostly covers a span of history that ends in 49, when there is an end put to major exchange between hong kong and the rest of guangdong.

dylannn, Tuesday, 11 September 2012 04:59 (five years ago) Permalink

"The main inspiration was G. William Skinner's idea that Chinese history has been a pattern of unique structural transformations of regional systems."

dylannn, Tuesday, 11 September 2012 05:01 (five years ago) Permalink

hong kong def needs china in order to stay alive

dayo, Tuesday, 11 September 2012 11:36 (five years ago) Permalink

i like her blog. i think she's pretty. american ethnographer, who we last noticed working a food cart in a suburb of shanghai.

dylannn, Friday, 21 September 2012 06:17 (five years ago) Permalink


dancing with handcuffs: the geography of trust in social networks

a talk she gave on 寒君依, who threw a shoe at fang binxing and got away with it

dylannn, Friday, 21 September 2012 06:25 (five years ago) Permalink

星月菩提—妙涵 17:46:32
打仗对经济发展的中国,会造成回落。如果说日本与中国开战,便宜的是美国。因为美国的经济在飞速倒退,十年之间,美国就会沦为二流国家。如果说中国与日本开战,美国支援日本,战争结束了,钓鱼岛挣到了,接下来就要商讨互相赔偿的问题了。钓鱼岛是中国绝对不可以放弃的岛屿。钓鱼岛就是中国的咽喉,中国的船只、军舰、潜水艇要想进入太平洋,必须经过钓鱼岛。美国就是打算靠战争来解决他的危机。中国现在主要做的就是派军舰巡航,日本去船先警告、警告无用可以撞他。绝对不可以开火!十年中国靠的起,美国靠不起、日本更靠不起!现在只要抵制日货,就是最好的行动,中国进出口 对日本来说是一主要资金来源。如果你是一个中国人,还有一点爱国之心,希望你看到后默默复制10份发给群和好友。
理性有序才是震慑日本的最大力量,既表国人誓死捍卫国土的决心,又显强大素质!千万不要过激,否则正中敌人下怀!30年代日谍川岛芳子曾假扮爱国青年鼓动国人杀人以便寻找借口且得逞,今天等着抹黑的人正四处寻找素材!不要内斗不要跟警察冲突他们也是满腔怒火无奈职责所在! 千万不能让爱国行为演变成内斗,这正是敌人最希望的,不能把对侵略者的恨发泄在同胞身上,抹黑的人已经架好键盘,打算站在道德制高点把你们打的体无完肤,理性才是力量!钓鱼岛一定是我们的!切记!看了复制扔出去,让更多同胞知道!

just got that msg on qq

dylannn, Tuesday, 25 September 2012 03:25 (five years ago) Permalink

just tryna 让更多同胞知道

dylannn, Tuesday, 25 September 2012 03:30 (five years ago) Permalink

yeah but. some things i wanna say:

-- maybe part of the thing is american perception of china vs. perception of korea (never heard of it, kim jong il on team america, hyundais). quite a few cultural productions get thru to america and they reflect what america sees in china: martial arts epics, memoirs of political oppression, rural epics.

-- a fluke k-pop hit in america is pretty likely i think because of korea's longterm engagement with american pop culture (+ the vocabulary or sound or whatever of american pop music) vs. china being open to american cultural influence for relatively shorter. and look at hong kong or taiwan, which pump out 2 billion pop singles a month and don't have the same political controls on the culture industry or fear of satire if that even exists. and the biggest sinophone hits in america have been edison's pix of girls you've never heard of rubbing themselves on the bed in his surprisingly modest apartment. pop music in china/hk/taiwan belongs to a diff tradition than korean pop music.

-- "gangnam style" being played on american top 40 radio has nothing to do with its lyrical content. if chinese pop singers want to open themselves up to the racist ridicule of middle america, i'm sure they could set 《我们走在大路上》 to something fresh, invent a dance, and make it happen.

-- why does japan lack "gangnam style"? why does singapore lack "gangnam style"? why does taiwan lack "gangnam style"? why does sweden ... israel ... germany ... greece ... ? dumb question.

dylannn, Friday, 5 October 2012 06:39 (five years ago) Permalink

But the most important thing that “Gangnam Style” has is a sense of humor about itself. (If you haven’t yet seen it, put down your surgical instruments or air-traffic-control headset or whatever else might be distracting you, and watch it now.) Its satire made it a viral phenomenon with three hundred million views on YouTube, surpassing and mocking the earnest K-pop products, and thus proving, as Seabrook says, that “cultural technology can only get you so far.”

i mean:

"earnest K-pop products"? the fuck... have you seen what's going on over there in korea?

"Its satire made it a viral phenomenon..."-- as noted on ilm, a guy yells at a butt was probably a bigger part of making it a whatever phenomenon

all in all, i think he makes some fair points about political controls on the chinese culture industry but he misses the point about the nature of "gangnam style" in america and the ways that chinese cultural products offer social critiques. that's all i want to say.

dylannn, Friday, 5 October 2012 06:46 (five years ago) Permalink

the last point means: there's lots of popular media in china that critiques social trends that chinese people care about.

dylannn, Friday, 5 October 2012 06:49 (five years ago) Permalink

but it doesn't sound like lmfao.

dylannn, Friday, 5 October 2012 06:58 (five years ago) Permalink

In Chinese cultural circles there is a name for this: the “ ‘Kung Fu Panda’ problem,” named for the 2008 DreamWorks movie. It refers to the fact that the most successful film about two of China’s national symbols—Kung Fu and pandas—could only be made by a foreigner because Chinese filmmakers would never try to play with such solemn subjects. The director Lu Chuan, for example, once agreed to produce an animated film for the Beijing Olympics, but after he embarked on the project, he discovered he was not supposed to let his mind run wild.

producing an animated riff on martial arts movies for a hollywood studio = producing an animated short for the chinese government, yes.

and why the fuck would anyone think shit like kung fu panda would play to a chinese audience? even fucking crouching tiger, hidden dragon GREATEST MARTIAL ARTS EPIC OF ALL TIME... ask a chinese audience that grew up on the realdeal and realdeal arty takes on it about it.


dylannn, Friday, 5 October 2012 07:04 (five years ago) Permalink

and, at the end of the day...

Kung Fu Panda 2 hit 125 million yuan ($19.3 million) at China’s box office last weekend, setting new records for a Saturday opening and weekend ticket sales total, local media reported Thursday.

The first Kung Fu Panda, released in China in June 2008 in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, was the first animated film to gross more than 100 million yuan ($15 million) at the local box office, quite an accomplishment in a market where animated fare long has been overlooked by adults.

The animated bear hug the Hollywood film gave the Chinese audience came on the heels of a China promotional tour by DreamWorks Animation production designer Raymond Zibach last week in Chengdu, the cradle of the panda in Sichuan province in southwest China.

On a Paramount and Chengdu-government sponsored tour, Zibach hugged a panda-suited man, demonstrated making bowls of local noodles and mugged for Chinese press cameras.

thank god for lu chuan, standing up for this shitty movie, whose exhibition in china was nixed by stalinist bureaucrats, surely using the screentime to show a historical epic about mao's triumphant long march.

dylannn, Friday, 5 October 2012 07:08 (five years ago) Permalink

Those are all good and fair points, but I would quibble on a few things. I agree that the popularity of "Gangnam Style" has little to do with the lyrical content. However, I do think it has a lot to do with the visuals in the video. Just by watching the video, one gets a sense of satire and willingness to mock aspects of one's own culture, which I think contributes to the appeal, not because of "racist ridicule" but just because people enjoy things that are funny and don't take themselves too seriously. However, it's also a fair point that the fact that "Gangnam Style" has a very Western sound has as much to do with its success as anything else. No doubt there is lots of social critique in Chinese culture; however, I wonder if there is much social critique with the same level of popularity, production values, and pervasiveness represented by "Gangnam Style". And if there is, is the critique so subtle as to not translate very well? I think that pervasive government censorship must have some effect on popular media. It's a fair point that some countries just seem to export their popular culture more successfully than others, and no single explanation covers all of them, but I wonder if there have been very many examples of countries with a successful pop culture export industry that also exist under lots of censorship.

o. nate, Wednesday, 10 October 2012 18:49 (five years ago) Permalink

but i think taiwan/hk work as a good control here: 2 sinophone countries that (esp if combined) regionally export as much pop culture product as korea + and are at leas polit / culturally rambunctious as korea. and the social satire in those countries doesn't need to be subtle.

dylannn, Wednesday, 10 October 2012 19:41 (five years ago) Permalink

i feel like the lack of popular social satire in china (not a lack... a lack of social satire that meets western expectations) has less to do with overblown perceptions of maoist controls on culture and more to do with Chinese self perception (although this is shaped by ccp narratives), trad chinese modes of artistic expression (view of art +lit as media of instruction), xenophobic view of western world/culture

dylannn, Wednesday, 10 October 2012 19:48 (five years ago) Permalink

mo yan nobel prize MOTHERFUCKERS

dylannn, Friday, 12 October 2012 05:05 (five years ago) Permalink

gao xingjian can go back to not being chinese again

dylannn, Friday, 12 October 2012 05:07 (five years ago) Permalink

howard goldblatt on the mo yan nobel win.
i don't think howard goldblatt is the best translator of chinese. i think his translations are overliteral and use dated language that replaces the colloquial zip of the original and i think sometimes he just makes mistakes. but: hey, if you've read a novel in translation from chinese from a chinese or taiwanese author, he probably translated it. hey, it's not his fault that the western appetite for translated chinese ficiton tends to be v small and focused on "dissident" literature. hey, he translated wolf totem but he also translated notes of a desolate man and gave us the only work by jia pingwa we've ever seen in english (a minor jia pingwa novel and not a great translation).

dylannn, Saturday, 13 October 2012 05:28 (five years ago) Permalink

sad to see nearly every piece of writing on mo yan's win over the last couple days needing to evaluate his credentials as a dissident. and then deciding that he's not a dissident and pointing out that he's a member of the party and a cog in the machinery of maoist cultural control. you guys are missing the point :(

dylannn, Saturday, 13 October 2012 05:32 (five years ago) Permalink

The first golf course in China opened in 1984, but by the end of 2009 there were roughly 600 in the country. For the last several years, development of new golf courses in China has been officially banned (with the exception of the island province of Hainan), but the number of courses has nonetheless tripled since 2004; the "ban" has been easily evaded with the government's tacit approval simply by not mentioning golf in any development plans.[33]

Nilmar Honorato da Silva, Saturday, 13 October 2012 12:18 (five years ago) Permalink

lol wacky

dylannn, Sunday, 14 October 2012 03:57 (five years ago) Permalink

headlines like "A Nobel laureate the Chinese Politburo can love"

and stuff like this:

which attacks mo yan for being a party stooge

and quotes gao xingjian, who says that writers need "total independence" to create "eternal" literature.

and then she goes on to question all literature written in china (or other states that practice any censorship/control on literature):

Speaking Thursday, Peter Englund of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel for literature, said that Mr. Mo was not a political dissident, adding: “I would say he is more a critic of the system, sitting within the system.”

The question is, then: Can great, lasting literature come from there? The Nobel committee thinks so. Do you?

yeah, i do.

dylannn, Sunday, 14 October 2012 05:59 (five years ago) Permalink

...that’s what happened on Thursday, when Mo Yan, the vice chairman of the state-run Chinese Writers’ Association, won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

i mean, i am as sick as anyone of reading mo yan's vigorous polemics in defense of the communist party's undemocratic rule and all of their many crimes... but...

dylannn, Sunday, 14 October 2012 06:03 (five years ago) Permalink

xiaobing tang, professor of comparative literature at umich:

Didi Kirsten Tatlow’s tirade at Mo Yan being awarded the Nobel Prize in
literature, upon close reading, is really directed at the Nobel Prize
committee. How could you?! How could you bestow such a prestige on a
Chinese writer still living in China? A Chinese writer who is not in
prison or banned, but rather enjoys a reputation and an official status?
How could you not understand, for God’s sake, that the heart of the matter
has nothing to do with what he has written as a writer, but everything to
do with the political symbolism of him being emphatically a Chinese writer
and, listen, with the political purpose of the Nobel prize in literature?

She seethes at the Nobel prize committee for staging a Kafkaesque mockery
and betrayal, but as a political animal, she also knows she can’t afford
to discredit this powerful institution, so she turns on the Chinese state
and the writer himself. Her logic: Mo Yan may have been given the prize,
but he has brought it disgrace. A gift is given, but the recipient does
not understand what it is and therefore does not deserve it. It is far
less troublesome to question the awardee than the gift from an entrenched
Western establishment.

A larger source of frustration for Tatlow and other puzzled pundits is the
fact that they do not have a good narrative to comprehend the complexity
of contemporary Chinese culture and society.

They simply cannot, for the life of them, accept that there is a
mainstream Chinese literature, that this literature is diverse,
innovative, and energetic in its own way, and that it is a vital part of
contemporary Chinese culture. They do not see Chinese society as a living
and complex system with many institutions, and, because they never accept
the legitimacy of the Chinese political order, they refuse to believe that
many cultural practices and institutions there serve functions
structurally symmetrical to their counterparts in a Western democracy.
They regard China still as an alien and ultimately threatening other, so
they eagerly seek and endorse any and all signs of what they like, and
dismiss what they do not like or understand as either outlandish or

In this particular case, they are quick to quote certain netizens’
spontaneous comments on Mo Yan as representing the public opinion in
China, but they have no interest in covering the measured responses in
mainstream media or from respected opinion makers.

It is beyond Tatlow to ask what the latest award means for the Nobel prize
itself. If we agree that such a prize is always a subjective and
contingent affair, instead of an absolute and universal standard, we
cannot but wonder about the Nobel committee’s decision finally to
recognize a prominent Chinese writer living and writing in China,
especially in light of previous Nobel prizes related to the topic of
Chinese literature or China at large. It is a decision that can be
assessed from many perspectives.

Ultimately we realize this award is not so much an assessment of Mo Yan
and his literary achievements or, for that matter, of contemporary Chinese
literature, as it allows an assessment of the Nobel committee’s ability to

The final question Tatlow raises is as naïve as it is duplicitous. Here
she seems to buy into the myth of a “lasting” or “eternal” literature
created in a vacuum. Make no mistake about it. When necessary, she will
turn around and embrace a literature presumably created under oppression
but expressing aspirations she wants to see embraced everywhere.

This is a familiar doublespeak. When you do not like a writer’s politics
or political stance, you use the rhetoric of pure or eternal literature to
discount him/her; when you approve a writer’s politics, you praise him/her
for being brave and relevant to our time. This doublespeak stems from the
blindness inherent in the liberalist vision that Tatlow wholeheartedly
subscribes to. The world should be diverse and colorful, she reassures
us, but we should all be the same too, just like us.

dylannn, Sunday, 14 October 2012 06:04 (five years ago) Permalink

i think this is the crucial part:

They simply cannot, for the life of them, accept that there is a
mainstream Chinese literature, that this literature is diverse,
innovative, and energetic in its own way, and that it is a vital part of
contemporary Chinese culture. They do not see Chinese society as a living
and complex system with many institutions, and, because they never accept
the legitimacy of the Chinese political order, they refuse to believe that
many cultural practices and institutions there serve functions
structurally symmetrical to their counterparts in a Western democracy.
They regard China still as an alien and ultimately threatening other, so
they eagerly seek and endorse any and all signs of what they like, and
dismiss what they do not like or understand as either outlandish or

i think it's even relevant to the asinine WHY NO CHINESE GANGNAM question, in which the answer is given to us already that it's because of brutal state control of all media.

a "living and complex system" with "cultural practices and institutions" that are "structurally symmetrical to their counterparts in a Western democracy" YES

dylannn, Sunday, 14 October 2012 06:10 (five years ago) Permalink

zizek has a big thing about this - that china and the west (and south america, and russia, etc) are both performing local variations of the same capitalism

Mordy, Sunday, 14 October 2012 06:14 (five years ago) Permalink

I hadn't heard of Mo Yan before, but his work sounds interesting. I'd like to read something by him. I agree the criticism of him for not being enough of a dissident is misplaced. Obviously there is plenty of room for free expression in China and for a vibrant, complex, and lively popular culture. I think most artists and writers in China have a pretty good idea of where the out-of-bounds areas are, and as long as they stay away from those, I doubt they have much to fear from the state censors. Thankfully ideological purity does not seem to be a big deal in China. I think the emphasis on trangression of taboos in literature is often overdone by Western critics.

o. nate, Monday, 15 October 2012 16:07 (five years ago) Permalink

Good interview with a scholar of Chinese literature about the Mo Yan win:

o. nate, Monday, 15 October 2012 19:33 (five years ago) Permalink

whenever i read about something being praised for being "banned in china" my fucking eyes glaze over.
the "chinese netizen" reaction i've seen is: lame. he dances around + a five year old meme. the fuck is this?
ai weiwei didn't "coin" "grass mud horse" and i really hope this doesn't unleash another avalanche of "CHINESE NETIZENS ARE FIGHTING CENSORSHIP BY CLEVER MEANS WHICH I WILL EXPLAIN TO YOU BECAUSE IT'S AN IMPORTANT THING." (this shit is easy to cover with a very elementary grasp of chinese language+society while other, real social movements and shit in china are ignored: we get that fat fuck on this american life and coverage of ai weiwei).

but hey. i dunno. it's cute. it's fun if you know who the people in the video are. i'm glad the guy can make a living.

dylannn, Friday, 26 October 2012 02:14 (five years ago) Permalink


...the dance phenomenon is turned into a powerful statement about liberty.

The original Gangnam video is unchallenging pop-culture pap. Ai’s cover version is part of a daring artistic campaign aimed at waking up the largest nation in human history.

dylannn, Friday, 26 October 2012 02:20 (five years ago) Permalink


乒乓, Friday, 26 October 2012 02:26 (five years ago) Permalink

taiwanese reporter hanging out in beijing man on street perspective old people upset about reform and opening old news but good primer on working class resentment

dylannn, Friday, 16 November 2012 07:14 (five years ago) Permalink

lazy translation

chattin in a park in old beijing

chen yiting

one day, with the 18th national congress on and nothing else to do, i decided i'd spend the time wandering around one of beijing's most historic temples. the temple yard was fantastically quiet; i felt the years of history and the peaceful air of religion wash over me. there was such a great contrast between the beijing outside, the beijing that hung banners to welcome the the party's 18th national congress, and the tranquil atmosphere of the temple.

under the winter sun, i watched the elderly citizens of the capital chatting in the courtyard, passing the day with a deck of cards or a chess table. i watched women pushing their husbands in wheelchairs, both of them enjoying the sun. i picked an oldtimer named zhang out of the beautiful scene and sat for a chat with him. when he heard i had come all the way from taiwan, he called over a few of his friends to join in.

i was an interloper there, a journalist come to chat, to interrupt the tranquility of their afternoons with my questions. the old men and women of the courtyard alternated between pontificating and teaching, climbing atop the soap box, then climbing down to conduct a quick tutorial, as if instructing a wayward pupil. i felt as if i had convened my own congress.

zhang and the others were all former workers in state owned enterprises, laid off following opening up and reform. he talked about buying a house. how could anyone buy a house in beijing on the wages of a government employee? i didn't have an answer for that. he said that nobody in beijing could afford to buy their own house. when the houses provided by the state were demolished by that same state, they were given a pittance with which to purchase a new home. but they were forced out of their old home, old beijing, and driven to the suburbs beyond the fifth ring road. if they got sick, it could bankrupt them. and even going to the temple to offer incense and say a prayer-- even that cost money. he told me that the new people replacing them in old beijing were outsiders. he asked me, do you think they're using their paycheck to buy a house? no, he said, they got rich from business and family connections: nepotism. they come to beijing and buy a house and a car and drive up the price of everything. the end result is that real beijingers are booted out of their homes.

an old man named yang entered the temple courtyard and zhang called to him, we've got a young fella from taiwan here to talk to us. he had a few things to say about zhang and his theories about rich outsiders driving up prices in beijing. he told me he was from hebei, the province which borders the megacity. outsiders, he said, are even poorer than native beijingers. people like him come to beijing as a last ditch effort, when life back home becomes unbearable. but life in beijing is often just as bad for them.

the crowd around me began to grow and i the grievances of old beijing flowed like a sewer, all the corruption and cruelty of life in the city exposed. they told me about the cost of healthcare far outstripping their insurance, and the mean realities of modern medical care that saw them as just another poor customer, someone to be rushed in the door and back out. in their eyes, the china that was created by reform and opening was one that existed for the benefit of the party and its cronies.

i think the best reform in china would be if everyone stopped pushing reform, zhang said. a man named xu, who had been playing cards, interjected, hu jintao and wen jiabao, they all say we need to reform the party to save the party and the country. the whole thing is a goddamn mess.

another old guy interjected, look at all the people walking around with those red armbands now that the congress is on! public security, my ass. they're looking at everyone sideways now. where did all the people threatening public security come from? who is the party trying to protect itself from?

from the other side of the circle, someone answered, they've got a guilty conscience.

the conversation had been getting out of hand, with everyone joining in to offer an opinion. but i also noticed a few people listening but a few avoided saying much. coincidentally, those in the second group were also the ones quick to defend the legacy of mao, saying that when mao was in charge was the greatest time of their lives, a time when people were civil. i couldn't help being a bit shocked by this. but perhaps it's the same as the first time mainlanders went to taiwan and heard people talking about the taiwan independence movement.

deeply perplexed, i asked this group of archaic maoists about the cultural revolution. how could they say that china was the most civil during mao, when the cultural revolution had torn friends and families and the country apart? zhang was the first to speak. he hesitantly admitted, you're right. that was a great time.

another in the group explained that the gap between rich and poor in the new china was what disturbed them. the nostalgia for the maoist era was nostalgia for a time of relative equality. let me tell you, he said, when chairman mao was around, how much did a local politician make? even if he wanted to be corrupt, there wasn't enough money to make it worth it! we sweated our balls off working in a factory, but the boss of the factory wasn't exactly sitting in an airconditioned office, was he? but look at how it is now. everyone is on the make. yang from hubei added, they suck every drop they can from people like us. that's how these people get rich.

i asked them what they thought of hu jintao and wen jiabao? how had they done over the last ten years? would the new leadership be any better? one of the group said, i've got no clue how they've done. how can you have any idea if what they're saying is true or not?

prodding a bit, i asked, but you guys are spending the day here, not suffering at all. you've got houses in the city. what are you doing grumbling about the government? an old man in the group piped up, what are we? farm animals? i have a house that's seven square meters. zhang patted me on the shoulder, tell taiwan not to bother coming back.

i kept prodding: but reform has made china rich and powerful. china is a superpower now! as soon as i said it, an old guy named wei spat a mouthful of phlegm into the dirt, as if to punctuate my remark. zhang laughed, we're only lying to ourselves about the superpower thing. if china was so powerful, why did they get into the mess with the diaoyu islands? if they were a superpower, wouldn't they just take them back? japan might be little but they've got powerful allies. old wei added, hu jintao says that in 2020, we'll be done building a prosperous society. in 2020, people like us are still going to be living like animals. they've been rich as hell for ten years. if they're going to be any richer in 2020, i'd rather not be here.

my own little congress went on for about an hour and then the group slowly peeled away one by one.

when everyone had left, i thanked zhang and went to catch a taxi. my driver was a man of 44, who had seen 30 years of reform and opening in china. i asked him what he thought of the national congress. he shyly said that he didn't really follow the news and didn't know much about political stuff. but i caught a glimmer in his eye in the rearview and after a few moments, he started talking with genuine enthusiasm: reform and opening was a great thing. people can live in peace now. this is what the party gave us. the 18th congress is when the people can show their love to the party.

when i told him about my conversation in the park, he was shocked. he finally stammered, how... how could they tell those things to an outsider?

dylannn, Friday, 16 November 2012 07:32 (five years ago) Permalink

ty for that, dylannn.

etc, Friday, 16 November 2012 08:06 (five years ago) Permalink

(probably posted before)

炒面kampf (Autumn Almanac), Sunday, 18 November 2012 01:32 (five years ago) Permalink

The Chinese first started buying chateaux in Bordeaux in 2008, with some turned into luxury hotels for high-end Chinese clientele. China is now the biggest importer of Bordeaux wines with consumption up by 110 percent in 2011 alone, and it is even building a Saint-Emilion-inspired wine theme park in the northern Dalian resort, due to open this year.

Swole Miss (Nilmar Honorato da Silva), Monday, 19 November 2012 03:33 (five years ago) Permalink


dylannn, Saturday, 24 November 2012 10:00 (five years ago) Permalink

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