winners of the “dare to upset” china prize

Today, I received a list of 10 winners for the “dares to upset China (敢动中国)” Awards. The Awards are a snarky spoof on the Annual “Touches China’s Heart Awards (感动中国奖)”, punning the words “dares to upset” and “touches the heart”. Heart awards are presented at the Spring Festival and given to persons whose heroic actions inspire us to be more than we think we are. A pervasive and not unimportant bit of contemporary propaganda, heart award presentations are highly stylized performances and broadcast nationally. To get a sense of the ideological packaging, view the tribute and award presentation to Liu Jinguo for his courage during a fire.

The dares to upset awards point to the emergence of China as a global player and public reception of that process in vaguely hawkish terms. Notably, the dare to upset awards have been presented Asian countries that involved in maritime disputes with China, especially in the mineral rich South China Sea. Of note, the word “dares” points to the point that the winners are “small’ countries that should not be giving China problems. The fact that so many little nations dare to upset China is consequently interpreted as a sign of national weakness and the snarky commentary on the list states, “China has used habitual responses: the enemy invades, I endure; the enemy retreats, I endure; the enemy is exhausted, I endure; the enemy occupies, I endure… this is called pretending to use Sun Tze’s Art of War (敌进我忍,敌退我忍,敌疲我忍,敌驻我忍。。。装孙子兵法).”

According to the latest text message, the 10 winners for the 2012 Dares to Upset China Awards are:

1. Japan (for the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands Dispute);

2. The Philippines (for the Huangyan Island or Panatag Shoal dispute);

3. North Korea (for holding Chinese fishermen in a dispute over fishing rights, although there is no dispute over North Korean refugees in China because the PRC regularly repatriates them);

4. South Korea (for demanding that Beijing release a South Korean activist who has been detained in the PRC without legal representation. The activist works for democracy in North Korea);

5. Thailand (is the new coordinating country for ASEAN – China relations, inheriting the three-year term from the Philippines)

6. Palau (the location of another disputed island, Okinotorishima);

7. Indonesia (has persecuted Overseas Chinese, but in April signed a cooperation agreement with China);

8. Myanmar (is opening its economy and China and the US are rushing in, however, last year the Myanmar government halted Chinese construction of a dam because locals felt that Chinese petroleum interests were too hardnosed);

9. Nigeria (is host to one of the largest Chinese presence in Africa. More than 200 Chinese companies operate in Nigeria, more than 40,000 Chinese nationals live in Nigeria, and total Chinese investment in Nigeria is close to $US 8 billion);

10. Somalia pirates (have been targeting Chinese vessels since 2008 and there have been calls for Chinese military intervention);

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…



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?:


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…


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:


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