Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Not meaning to bum-rush China...

but this particular happening came up during my morning crawl through comic news. It's not terribly surprising, but I'm always astonished how wholesale copying can be now, at least James Fry and the Stephen Glass and the like made stuff up--this is like that Opal Mehta nonsense with Mad Libs plagiarism. Not exactly lazier, I guess, since printing and layout is resource consuming. But damn. It reminds me that I have a friend who was based in Hong Kong for a while, as a lawyer, and looking to work in China specifically with intellectual property, but didn't stay for, amongst other reasons, the complete lack of IP law/enforcement/basis of trying that specialization in China right now.

But in the midst of all this pent-up bad Chinaness, I wanted to point to a Slate piece (which I can't find right now, but I will) that put should put some of their development in context (which, I'm sorry, I can't resist, is not something the Chinese media is every involved in doing). Namely that while the process of modernizing China is inarguably flawed , this is an undertaking that has dragged the largest mass of humanity out of poverty ever. The scale doesn't excuse the Reign of Terror style of politics that has often emerged, but likewise it's an achievement on its own merits.

Actually, I mostly think that economic development, Communism (not that they're really so Communist anymore) did force the leveling of gender rights in China. I doubt it's equal, much as it isn't in the U.S., but given the extremely male-centric culture there's been a lot down for women's rights by China. Whether this will progress into a leadership and advocacy role when the economic gains by such moves aren't so obvious (or even develop into self-awareness of it) is in question. Imagine if the Edison Chen stupidness had provoked a discussion about the obviously skeevy at best(consenting adults aside) fact that a popular and influential male star took advantage of his position over more than half a dozen women, and will likely be the only one with a career after.

Or if instead of responding to the U.S. State Department's annual list of human rights violations, China responded with not a relatively week list of America's own, but statistics about the millions they can raise out of poverty? I mean, when Chinese achievements aren't "scientists" scraping off the Intel logo off microchips.

Oops, sorry, can't help it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's all so stupid

I was planning to write a big post about Tibet this week, but now that I'm sitting down and writing it, it just seems like such a lame thing to do. The whole situation is just so weird and bad. Early in March, some Tibetans were arrested for a peaceful protests around Lhasa. On March 14th, violent ethnic riots erupt. Ethnic Tibetans were the main instigators of the violence, smashing Han and Hui stores and killing a few people.

Pretty bad, right? The thing is, that's not even the beginning. A few western media outlets picked up the story; several quoted sources (free Tibet groups), falsely blaming ethnic Chinese people for the violence. CNN and several French and German sites stupidly used cropped images of police arrests (the Tibetan rioters in the back ground were cut out), and images of police brutality from India and Nepal, which were attributed in the stories to China. Many of the western media outlets focused on China's history of brutality in the region, glossed over the fact that Tibetans were the instigators in this most recent violent outburst, and generally stuck to their talking points about China, human rights, and Tibet.

Now the fun begins. Overseas Chinese students-- the only mainlanders with access to western media stories because China at that moment was in total media blackout--were outraged at the shoddy reporting in western media and began a wide internet protest campaign. This website was created, among others.

The free Tibet folks, seeing an opportunity to grab the media spotlight, staged protests during China's Olympic tour in Europe and USA. They were violent, and they seemed to go out of their way to alienate by attacking elderly and disabled torch bearers. Western media outlets dropped the ball again by highlighting the protesters and "ominous-looking" Chinese security, and by deciding not to interview Chinese relay participants.

This has only increased Chinese outrage against the media, and western media in general. There have been violent blockades of the French chain, Carrefour, in China. Videos like this are easy to find.

There's so much going on here: hack journalism, angry nationalism, politics (come on, backing out of the opening ceremony is such a lame pointless move), oh yeah, and there is also the issue of oppression, which, while being constantly shoved to the front, often falls back out of sight.

Where to begin?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


As I'll be joining the ranks of the unemployed in June, I've completely checked out of work. Instead, my days are filled with surfing of weird and interesting stories on the web. Sadly, the ones that have captured my attention are the whole Mormon splinter group cult thing, the related issue of forced marriage, the pro-Tibet/pro-China protests, and (on a lighter note) trying to figure out if it's a good idea to build a Tivo (doesn't look like it. Hey, NYC people - what are the cable providers up there?).

Being the political junkie that I am, I'm going to discuss the pro-Tibet/pro-China issue. I've already talked about the limitations on having a rational discussion about the situation in Tibet: no reliable information. But what's really surprised me are the pro-China protesters in the U.S. Granted, it seems like many of them are from China (the interviews have lots of foreign students, but I think that's just of function of it being San Fran). However, I can't help feeling a touch of sadness over the fact that they still believe the PRC line, despite massive evidence to the contrary. For example:

The Olympics shouldn't be political. Please - they've always been political. If they weren't political, then China shouldn't be using it to showcase its global emergence. The entire route was specifically designed TO BE political, like stamping PRC sovereignty over Tibet and Xinjiang.

Support for the PRC. I can certainly understand that people want to support their culture, etc. But, the pro-Chinese demonstrators go further. They support the PRC government. At least with many of the Arabs I know, they are proud of coming from a long culture, but recognize and denounce the human rights abuses, corruption, and general venality of political leaders in the Middle East. The pro-Chinese protestors don't display any of this self-reflection. Granted, some of this is probably just reaction to a perceived outsider critique of China. But honestly, this quote from a student? "The Chinese people are very peaceful. They wouldn’t do what they are accused of.” Come on, man. The Chinese have been doing that to others and to each other for thousands of years. Where's the rational perspective?

China has been helping Tibet. Similar to the last point. Fine, China invests a lot in Tibet. But looking at this purely from an economic perspective is idiotic. It's about politics and power: who gets the money, can Tibetans practice their religious beliefs, what about the side effects of a depressed economy for a certain group of people and second class status in their own territory (like drug use)? I understand that people in China don't get the information to acknowledge these issues. But pro-Chinese in the U.S.? In the wake of the riots, it's impossible to believe that they were carried out by a small "clique" of individuals. Those were massive, widespread, and expressed great frustration with the economic and especially cultural degradation by the PRC. At the least, there needs to be some sense of humility about this, that economic investment hasn't been particularly successful, and that Beijing has given something of a raw deal to minorities.

Ah, that was cathartic. Now, if only the pro-China protestors would read this.