feng xiang

the 5.12 beichuan incident, nuclear war games, and why the party fears religious organizations

The Party’s refusal to either share power or make political decision making transparent and open to public debate creates mistrust: just what have they got to hide anyway, inquiring minds want to know. In addition, through its control of cultural resources, including the arts and the right to convene, the Party has demonstrated a refusal to acknowledge any viewpoints other than those that shore up the influence of high-ranking officials.

Neitizens and western journalists have responded to Party control over and access to information with reports that (more often than not) conflate conspiracy theories with the “truth”. Not unexpectedly, citizens spend an inordinate of time trying to piece together a big picture out of rumors, veiled allusions and gut feelings. Sadly, the more the Party doesn’t say about Beichuan or Bo Xilai or Chen Guangchen, for example, the more accusatory rumors circulate via the net, weibo, and text messages and with them the festering anxiety that no one can be trusted to speak truthfully. Thus, in today’s China, common sense has it that Party members don’t tell the truth because the truth would harm them politically, while the rest of us are incapable of telling the truth because we don’t know it.

Keywords of the day – trust (信任), good faith (诚意), and loyalty (忠诚) – pivot on the relationship between a healthy society and how good our word might be. The characters for person (人) and word (言), for example constitute 信, the first character in the compound for trust. The character word (言) also appears in sincerity (诚, literally “word” “is realized”), which is an element of the expression good faith (literally “sincere meaning”) and loyalty (faithful sincerity). Moreover, the question of belief (信仰, literally a person who trusted and admired) resonates throughout all levels of society and the most trusted forms of organized alternative to Party disinformation and rumor mongering tend to be religious – Tibetan Buddhism, Xinjiang Islam, and popular Buddhism, Falungong, Christianity in Han communities.

“A Report on and Lessons from the 5.12 Underground Nuclear Explosion at Longmen Mountain, Beichuan,” a recent Epoch Times (大纪元) article illustrates the co-dependent relationship between belief, opposition, and efforts to figure out the truth. The Epoch Times, of course, is the official Falungong news outlet and the article author Lu Deng is the spokesperson for the Chinese Christian Democratic Party. The gist of the article is that the Party used the 5.12 Wenchuan earthquake to cover-up the fact that on the same day, it detonated a nuclear devise at Beichuan, destroying an entire region. Based on a few facts, knowledge of how the Party operates, and deductive reasoning, the argument is compelling and compellingly legal:

The article reconstructs the events of May 12, 2008 by giving a quote from Feng Xiang’s decidedly poetic and vague blog and then re-interpreting it in terms of a nuclear blast. For example, in February 6, 2009 post, Feng Xiang wrote, “In 80 seconds, the mountain collapsed, the ground split open, the mountains shook and the earth moved, the river changed its course. The green mountain lost its color, and all I see is disaster. This was Beichuan’s most devastating moment. A level 8 earthquake, with level 11 destruction”. According to Lu Dong, the phrase “the green mountain lost its color” refers to the fact that all the mountain foliage was burned. Lu Deng also analyzes sections where he asserts that Feng Xiang’s original text, including references to a Chief Pan of the Anti-Chemical Corps of the Second Artillery (二炮防防化部隊隊長番号) have been changed.

As an opening witness, Feng Xiang  (冯翔) is a compelling figure because his position within the Party hierarchy placed in a position to learn the truth, while his loss as a father and a teacher gave him moral authority. Feng Xiang was a teacher and then a vice minister in the Qiang Minority Autonomous County, Beichuan Ministry of Information (北川羌族自治县宣传部). His eight-year old daughter died in the Wenchuan earthquake. Subsequently, his efforts to uncover the truth about her death led to charges that an underground nuclear explosion rather than the Wenchuan earthquake caused the Beichuan disaster. The truth of his position was confirmed through allegations that Feng Xiang was harassed into committing suicide when he attempted to bring this story to the public.

Lu Dong then moves on to analyze corroborating evidence from other sources; it is an “open secret (公开秘密)” that the damage at Wenchuan was minimal and the strength of the quake insufficient to have destroyed Beichuan. In his book “The Epicenter was in Human Hearts (震中在人心)” Mainland author, Li Ming claimed that the Wenchuan quake gave Party officials an excuse to cover-up the real disaster at Beichuan. Web reports suggest the same pattern of information: Wenchuan was serious, but not a disaster and certainly not enough to have decimated Beichuan. Moreover, web posts included reports that indeed anti-chemical corps had gone into the Longmen Mountain Nuclear facility. In addition, local eyewitnesses said that the heat from the blast burned off the skin of water buffalo. Blogger Xiong Furong said, “The geologists may have different explanations for what happened here, but for us ordinary people, we know it was a detonation (熊芙蓉說,“地質專家對此可能有各種不同說法,但對我們普遍人來講,這就是爆炸。)”

Examples from media reports are brought in: a video on youtube; reports from 21st Century Economic Report (21世紀經濟報導) that the mountain continued to reverberate through the night; Southern Weekend (南方週末) reported that the tremors were so strong that villagers clung to each other to keep themselves from falling into the sinkholes; Western China News (華西都市報) reported that in the Green tablets river basin, there were nearly 10 kilometers of cracks in the mountain, some of which were 42 centimeters deep; and even Party media acknowledged the extent and scale of Beichuan exceeded that of Wenchuan. Beichuan TV broadcast, “The entire 2869 km2 County Area was destroyed, 10s of thousands of buildings were destroyed in mudslides. Over one million square meters collapsed and over 100 areas effected by mud. (北川電 「全縣境內2869平方公里受災,出現了數萬處塌方,泥不流和大滑坡。垮塌百萬立方的特大滑坡達100多處.)” A quote from an elderly gentlemen summarizes and ends this section, “The earthquake had the force of the nuclear explosion at Hiroshima (能量相當干400顆廣島原子彈.)”

Lu Dong is relentless in his case. He notes differences between the pattern of damage at Wenchuan, which fell away from an epicenter and Beichuan, which fell in a different pattern, away from Longmen Mountain. Evidence from the Tangshan earthquake is brought in. Even at Tangshan, after the quake subsided there were some buildings and trees standing. In contrast, at Beichuan everything collapsed: 498 kilometers of highway, 6066 kilometers of ordinary roads, 1503 bridges, 131 power stations, 8,944 kilometers of electrical transmission lines, 26,000 kilometers of fiber optic cables, 597 water reservoirs, 9,416 kilometers of channels, 282 broadcast stations, and 2,432 different sites of geological disaster.

Even more disturbingly, after the 5.12 Beichuan disaster, doctors from Sichuan Medical University, the University of Illinois, and Imperial College released studies documenting that many people and animals in the disaster area suffered from radiation poisoning. In addition, specialists suggested that iodine 131 is a radioactive isotope that could have caused spontaneous abortions similar to those seen at Beichuan. However, the Sichuan Party Secretary ordered a blackout on all reports on over 100 fetuses that had died in utero.

If all this wasn’t enough, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency reported that an earthquake did not adequately explain the yellow color and condition of vegetation in Beichuan. Lu Dong ominously concludes, however, that these conditions were consistent with the effects of a nuclear blast. And yes, ongoing Party inspection tours and scientific reports from Beichuan seem consistent with the after effects of a nuclear blast and not an area healing from a natural earthquake.

Clearly, Lu Dong believes that there were underground nuclear experiments at the Longmen Mountain Facility and that an accident occurred. He is a compelling rhetorician, concluding his argument with the reminder that Hawkish General Zhu Chenghu (朱成虎) has threatened to use nuclear weapons to destroy the United States if the country should ever help Taiwan and calling for the Party to meet face these accusations in court.

And there it is. The reason that the Party fears religious organizations.  The unstable situation of chronic Party secrecy and corrosive public suspicions has created an environment in which many people “don’t feel safe (没有安全感)”. However, religious groups continue to investigate and make public charges (if even from abroad), rather than hiding behind anonymous weibos and innuendo. The Chinese Christian Democratic Party has thrown down a political gauntlet in a Falungong newspaper, which also publishes pieces that support the Dalai Lama, forcing those of us living in murky half-truths and deliberate cover-ups: when all is said and done, who do you believe?

B; it’s more than a letter, much less than love

Couplets and rhymes circulate as text messages on Chinese cell phones and as scratched graffiti on walls. Although economic class and levels of education may separate texters from scratchers, nevertheless, the spirit of the message and the understanding of what it means to be human — especially and unfortunately about gender relations — is often the same.

The above poem reads:

God created virgins; men created women; women created babies; men give love to get cunt; women give cunts to give love.

Compare with earlier texts for a sense of how misogyny circulates in Shenzhen.

poor but honest farmers? that’s the buzz…

乡下人三句话培养好孩子:1。孩子,爸妈没本事,你要靠自己;2。孩子,做事先做人,一定不能做伤害别人的事;3。孩子,撒开手闯吧,实在不行,回家还有饭吃。

城里人三句话害孩子:1。宝贝,好好学习就行,其他爸爸妈妈来办;2。宝贝,记住不能吃亏;3。我告诉你,再不好好学习,长大没饭吃!

Country people raise their children on three sentences: 1. kid, your parents are useless, you’ll have to depend on yourself; 2. kid, to accomplish anything, first you have to be a good person, never do anything that would harm anyone else; 3. kid, let go and give it your best shot, in the worst case, if you come home there’ll still be food to eat.

City people harm their children with three sentences: 1. darling, all you have to do is study, daddy and mommy will take care of the rest; 2. darling, always remember you can’t loose out to anyone else; 3. I’m telling you, if you don’t sit down and study, when you grow up you grow up, you’ll have nothing to eat!

’nuff said.

if we are what we eat, what are we becoming?

养生 (yǎng shēng) or taking care of one’s health is a Shenzhen obsession. However, the difficulty of living a healthy life has given rise to cynical takes on the preventative measures of traditional Chinese medicine. A text message currently making the rounds, begs the question, “if we are what we eat, what are we becoming?:

百毒不侵的中国人是怎么炼成的?早起,穿冒牌运动服出门,买地沟油炸油条,切个苏丹红咸蛋,冲杯三聚氰氨奶,上班。中午,在食堂要一注水肉炒农药韭菜,有毒猪血,来碗翻新陈米饭,泡壶香精茶叶。下班,买条避孕药鱼,尿素豆芽,膨大西红柿,开瓶甲醇酒,伴根瘦肉精的双汇火腿肠吃个硫磺馒头。饭后在地摊上买本盗版小说盗版光盘,晚上钻进黑心棉被,睡了…

How is Chinese resistance to one hundred toxins cultivated? Get up early, put on a fake namebrand sweatsuit, buy an oil stick fried in gutter oil, cut a tonyred salted egg, pour a glass of melamine milk, go to work. At lunch, have a serving of water-injected meat fried with over-fertilized chives, toxic pig’s blood, have a bowl of repackaged old rice, brew a pot perfumed tea leaves. Get off work, buy a prophylactic fish, carbamide bean sprouts, enhanced tomatoes, a bottle of methanol liquor, clenobuterol hydrochloride ham, and a sulfur steamed bun. After dinner, go to the kiosk, buy a counterfeit novel and DVD. At night, snuggle into a black hearted blanket, sleep…

sigh.

80s nostalgia

More text message fun; this time 80s nostalgia

We miss the 80s, when medicine still cured illnesses; doctors took care of the sick and dying; people wore clothing for photographs; borrowed money was returned; you didn’t need a paternity test to know who the child’s father was; schools weren’t money making enterprises; being sick was respected; housing was allocated; idiots couldn’t be professors; the married didn’t take second wives; meat could be confidently eaten; rats were afraid of cats; and people had clean consciouses.

怀念1980年代, 那时候药是可以治病的;医生是救死扶伤的;照相是要穿衣服的;借钱是要还的;孩子他爹是不用做鉴定的;学校不是为赚钱的;有了病是看得起的;住房是分配的;白痴是不 能当 教授的;已婚者是不能找二奶的;肉是可以放心吃的;老鼠还是很怕猫的;人还是有良心的。

And sometimes I do wonder (with Rey Chow) if nostalgia is no more than dissatisfaction with the present, looking for an anchor (any anchor) in the past. . .

Life lessons

Chinese politics confound me because they seem complicated and redundant. Fortunately, text messages simplify the problem. Of interest is the way that “family” operates as a metaphor to explain and justify power relationships. Actual job descriptions follow translation:

小姑娘看报,问妈妈:什么是党委,妈妈:党委就是你爸,整天不干活还老骂人。小姑娘又问:政府呢?妈妈:政府就是你妈,整天干活还被你爸骂。人大呢?人大就是你爷爷,名义是一家之主,但整天提着个鸟笼子,啥事不管。小姑娘又问:政协呢?妈妈:政协就是你奶奶,整天叨唠,但没人听她的。小姑娘还问:什么是团委?妈妈:团委就是你哥,整天在外瞎折腾,啥忙都帮不了,小姑娘最后问:什么是纪委?妈妈:纪委就是你,名义上是监督父母的,但是吃父母的,穿父母的,受父母领导,关键是还整天问这问那。

Reading the newspaper, a little girl asked her mother, “What’s the Party Committee?”

Mom answered, “The Party Committee is your father, who doesn’t do anything all day but yell at people.”

The little girl had another question, “What’s government?”

Mom answered, “Government is your mother, who works all day and still gets yelled at by your father.” Continue reading

revenge of the grandparents

Grandparents do the work of raising the next generation. Here’s a joke making the rounds. Go granny go!

「喂!現在我們不在家,請在聽到「嗶」聲後留言………
“Good morning. . . .
At present we are not at home but, please leave a message after the beep………

嗶…
beeeeeppp …
如果你是我的兒子之一,先按1,再依照你打電話的目的,擇1到8;
If you are one of our children, press 1 and then select an option from 1 to 8:
假如你是要我們去陪孫子,按1;
If you need us to stay with the grandchildren, press 1
如果你是要跟我們借車,按2;
If you want to borrow the car, press 2
如果你是要我們幫你洗衣服、燙衣服,按3:
If you want us to wash your clothes and do the ironing, press 3
若是你要送孫子到我們這裡過夜,按4;
If you want the grandchildren to sleep here tonight, press 4
假若你是要我們到學校接孩子,按5;
If you want us to pick up the grandchildren at school, press 5
如果你想禮拜天來吃飯、或是要我們做一頓飯然後送到你家,按6;
If you want us to prepare a meal for Sunday or to have it delivered to your home,
press 6
假如你要過來吃飯,按7;
If you want to come to eat here, press 7
若是你需要錢,按8
If you need money, press 8
如果你是要邀請我們出去吃飯、或是去看戲,請直接說話……
If you are going to invite us to dinner, or, taking us to the theater, start talking,
我們正在聽!!!!!!!!!!」
we are listening !!!!!!!!!!!”