Archive for March, 2009

China’s military might….might be untrue!

March 26, 2009

And in other news today a US military report has said that China’s ongoing investment into sophisticated weaponary is changing the balance of power within the Asia region – and China is not happy about it. The report states that their investments into cyber, nuclear and various other forms of military technology could be used to enforce Beijing’s claims over disputed territories. Currently China continues to dispute ownership over Tibet and Taiwan. Will they next suddenly get it in their head that they own Japan too?

To continue this weeks China news trend, China’s foreign spokesman has come back with:

“This report issued by the US side continues to play up the fallacy of the so-called China military threat.”

“…making groundless accusations against China so as not to further damage the two sides’ military relations.”

So basically if something goes against what the Chinese government makes public, it’s a lie. If you’re proposing to do something China doesn’t want you to do(ie: allow the Dalai Lama into your country for a summit) China will threaten that it will strain future relations.

I for one am glad I am just an ordinary citizen and not some kind of diplomat who would have to be dealing with what truly is a most interesting country. I typed that with a smile.

Randy Gerbils; the desert destroyers.

March 26, 2009

In the Northwest of China, a huge land area known as the Xinjiang region is what you would call mostly desert. This somewhat fragile ecosystem has a limited number of plants, and those plants are in danger from Chinese desert gerbils destroying their roots.

So, in what must have been deemed a chinese stroke of genius, Chinese authorities are lacing bran feed with the contraceptive pill. Why? Well a female gerbil on the pill can not get pregnant, and those already pregnant will give birth to still-borns in what is deemed a much more humane way to deal with the ever increasing problem. Supposedly the gerbil numbers are already on the decline.

Previously, authorities had installed hundreds of perches for hawks and owls – the natural predators of these little randy gerbils. Unfortunately these didn’t work.

All in all it’s just another interesting day in the life of China – you do have to hand it to them, some of their solutions to things are just plain logical and a crack-up at the same time.

Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!

March 25, 2009

A video has been released today reputedly showing Chinese security personnel beating on Tibetan protesters – who happen to be helplessly handcuffed. The video was supposedly released by the Tibetan Government in exile and showed scenes from last years violent protesters where according to Chinese officials – monks took to the streets and violently protested for Tibetan independance – or at least a degree of such.

The Chinese Government has dismissed the video calling it a lie. They claim the audio has been patched together from outside sources and the wounds on display are in fact fake.

Whether it is real or fake I somehow think the Chinese Government would deny it regardless. Oh how easy it must be to deny anything pinned on you, playing the fake card whilst at the same time playing the very same hand against your own people, painting for them a happy positive picture whilst ignoring the negative.

Ah China – I really do feel sorry for the Chinese people. While the Government has done wonders for the country, it’s also hurting it in equal amounts.

Click here to watch the video and make up your own mind as to its validity.

How far is far?

March 24, 2009

Recently it has been reported that within my home state of Victoria, at least one in three taxi’s drivers will refuse to take someone if it is on a short trip. They have reputedly said that a trip under $15.00 wasn’t worth their while. While this may be true, Taxi service companies are also one of those companies that people are always prepared to complain about.

I found this amusing as we experienced similar while in Xi’an, China. When we first arrived in Xi’An, we had an extremely difficult time just getting a taxi period. No driver wanted to pick up two foreigners with their travelling backpacks. We went from taxi to taxi to taxi to taxi and it wasn’t until a security guard who seemed to be looking over the taxi rank helped us when in desperation we requested it. In hindsight, we should have just asked at the start but by this stage we had been in the country for many months and had experienced no issues to date.

Funnily enough at the end of our Xi’an visit, we had even more difficulties getting a taxi from the hotel to the train station. Due to our previous problems, we thought we’d just cut to the chase this time and asked one of the bellboys to assist us. He came down to the road and hailed cab after cab – a few of them stopping but as soon as they realised where we were headed – the station; which happened to be only a short distance(but much too far to walk with packs) they lost interest and kept driving. In the end we had to bribe one by doubling the fare. It would have only cost around 9-10 rmb to get there, but we offered 20 rmb which was accepted.

I don’t actually know what this guys problem was as he then proceeded to drive like an absolute maniac. Speeding, ducking and weaving in between vehicles, hocking up phlegm and spitting it out the window and finally smoking. He did everything in his power to make us feel unwelcome. Absolute prick of a guy. It took all of my endurance to avoid just throwing his money on the ground rather than handing it to him. Needless to say we left that particular city with less than stellar impressions.

A story of a real Tibet – a propaganda piece by Jong-Dae Ha

March 22, 2009

In China, in Chinese English publications you’ll often see the word propaganda used quite often. If you use something like to translate a webpage from Chinese to English – despite not being very accurate, likewise, you will see the word. In Western countries, we tend to use the word negatively. It’s used to describe something that has been falsified or mis-reported in order to make something appear positive, mislead or simply deny reality. In China you’ll often find the word propaganda being used for things such as advertising, marketing orr general information. In other words, it doesn’t translate the same way.

That is not to say China is rife with propaganda – of course it is. The communist government rarely reports something truthfully to the massive population it governs. Anyone who has spent time living in China will have seen the news articles on TV or in papers – the best being the China Daily newspaper – where only happy, positive articles are covered. Articles that show the true beauty, glory and positive direction of modern China. Of course negatives such as mining accidents and the like are covered, but nothing that ever directly undermines the government or illustrates large issues such as China’s ‘occupation’ of Tibet or widespread poverty. According to the Chinese government – and thus according to the Chinese people – everything is A-Ok!

I find this article highly amusing. Here, Jong-Dae Ha, Chief correspondent of the Beijing Office, the Dong-A Ilbo of South Korea(whatever that is) details his recent trip to Tibet. In it, he details key features of obvious political interest. To the average Chinese citizen(who wouldn’t be reading this english webpage anyway – well other than for english practice), it reveals that in Tibet, there’s nothing wrong. It’s all “blue sky, clear water and unique natural landscape.”‘

The lives of the Tibetan people, especially those of herdsmen, are no different than the living standards of the people in China’s northwestern region. Everyone is living a very good life.

Everyone is living a very good life? According to the government, yes. According to the farmers living in absolute poverty, no.

Lhasa has already been built into a modern city.

A modern city by Han Chinese standards – an invasion of money hungry merchants from all over China. Tibetan’s have little say in this.

The grand and majestic Potala Palace looked brand-new after repairs.

After it was damaged by the Chinese Military, suppressing ‘riots’ from Tibetan monks wishing to remove Chinese occupation and assimilation.

Many new houses have also been erected for the Tibetans in other regions in Tibet.

Aka – See? We are helping Tibet – what have they got to complain about?

I felt that Tibet has a stable society and the Han people and the Tibetans are living together harmoniously.

..not by choice. If they protest such living arrangements, it’s off to re-education camp faster than you can say Dalai Lama.

Earth-shaking changes have taken place in Tibet over the past 50 years. Enjoying freedom of religious belief, the Tibetan people still preserve their religion and traditions.

Earth-shaking changes such as building train lines into Lhasa itself so even more Han Chinese can occupy and completely absorb what’s left of the Tibetan culture.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not some die-hard pro-Tibet activist – not even close, but reading articles such as this that are spewed out by China Daily on a regular basis are a little hard to stomach. As China becomes part of the modern world, I really hope that the level of crap they report back to themselves internally really starts to decline – or even better, the Chinese populace somehow clue in to the fact that the world really isnt as rosey as the all important Government says it is. One thing I definitely noticed about the Chinese people is that they are almost fanatically patriotic – something that might play a big part of China’s future history.

Chinese athletes faking their real age? Surely not!!

March 17, 2009

Over on BBC news:

Bone tests on teenage athletes in south China have shown that thousands had faked their age, often in order to keep competing in junior events.

Tests on nearly 13,000 athletes found that more than 3,000 were older than their registered age, according to the Sports Bureau of Guangdong Province.

Now this – this cracks me up. There’s no mention of them re-testing the Chinese “Women’s” Olympic Gymnast team as they supposedly all passed DNA tests declaring them over 16 years of age.

While in China we saw extensive coverage of the Chinese teams performing – particularly the star performers such as the “Women’s” gymnasts – and i use the term “Women’s” loosely. I don’t care what kind of tests they have done – in my opinion there’s no chance in hell those girls are 16 or over – they look (and are probably) around 12, if even that. It’s an age-old debate in the gymnast world as being younger gives distinct advantages against older competitors.

So it comes as no surprise that hundreds have been busted faking their ages, however in China, age is also a bit of a dark spot. A year or two is what I would suspect as the norm. One of the athletes was reported to have been a good seven years younger than what was documented.
In China, Chinese New Years is effectively everyone’s birthday. If you are born in January, then Chinese New Year is February, you’re suddenly 2 years old (In Australia you’re not 1 until a year after your date of birth – In China you are born 1 years old.)

While we were teaching, we were told the students were 16/17 years old, but then found out that some of them could in reality(or how we base it in Australia) be 14/15.  So who can really say. While I think there are cases of blatant age cheats(aka the gymnast team), i think it’s one of those issues that’s always going to be difficult to completely get on top for us western outsiders.

16 or 12? Only Buddha knows.

16 or 12? Only Buddha knows the real answer.

What do you think?

“Shit, spitting and staring” Paul Merton does China.

March 15, 2009

Last year in the build up to the Olympics, we probably saw a record number of shows based around China. Journalists and presenters of every kind headed there trying to enlighten the rest of the world on what truly is a quite unknown place. Many people have been to China, and many more think they know what it is like. I can tell you that living there shows you a side of China you can’t possibly experience by just coasting through on a holiday or tour.
Before we left for China, we were absorbing every concievable piece of material based on the country. From learning Mandarin to reading travel fiction to watching documentaries on TV. One particular documentary series – well I wouldn’t call it a documentary, more like a travel commentary, has British comedian Paul Merton exploring the country over a period of 6 weeks. The show is broken down into 4 episodes, covering a good chunk of the popular touristy areas of China, starting in Beijing and eventually finishing up in Shanghai.

We really enjoyed the show before heading to China as it showed the country through quite an accurate lens. At some parts we thought he was being a little too ‘culturally critical’, such as when he’s in Chengdu and has come down with a cold, he proclaims, “I’m sick of the shit, the spitting and the staring.” Now that we have since lived in China, we are re-watching the series and thoroughly enjoying it. To someone who has lived there for a period, there are so many things that you pick up that you arent aware of without having been there. Upon our second viewing, the ‘Shit, spitting and staring,’ comment absolutely cracked us up. It is so ridiculously accurate. There are days in China where you are just over everything. Days where you are so ridiculously frustrated, that the previously bearable ‘shit, spitting and staring’ becomes the unbearable.

For anyone interested in China, we highly reccomend you go and find a copy of “Paul Merton in China.” It shows a very accurate description of what can be a completely crazy, yet highly satisfying country to explore. It reminded us of the ridiculousness of every day life. How every day coughs up completely random events that have you belly laughing. It’s a difficult country, but if you go there with a sense of humour you’re in for a real treat.

Culturally, the Chinese are very different to us, but at the same time, amazingly interesting.

Spring has sprung!

March 12, 2009

Well in China at any rate. In Australia we have just ticked over the threshold from Summer into Autumn and already the temperature starts its decline into what we like to call freezing. However, having now experienced China’s winter I can safely say that the ‘freezing’ that us Melbournians complain about is in fact absolutely nothing!

When we arrived in China it was mid-february and freezing cold. On top of this, all plant-life had either shed its summer coats or was completely brown. We had arrived after a period of severe snowfall – something that was quite rare for the part of China we were in – Wuxi in Jiangsu Province. Due to the snow, all surviving grasses were brown and pressed down like some kind of weird natural carpet.

Whilst the weather was freezing requiring the constant use of jacket and gloves, when the season ticked over to Spring there was an almost amazing transition. The weather heated up in such a way it was like flicking on a heater. The gardens that were brown and flattened almost completely regenerated. Bushes that were dulled and brown some way somehow just re-grew themselves into a vibrant green – well vibrant as much as you get in China – the ever present smog has a way of making almost everything look dirty.

China is a land of extremes in the weather department. In the Summer it’s boiling hot and the winter, freezing cold. Having never lived in a country with such clean cut seasonal differences, I guess I was a lot more observant. It certainly put the mild weather of my home state of Victoria into perspective.

In Winter from this...

In Winter from this...

To this in Summer!

To this in Summer!

A little Beijing

March 8, 2009

I recently purchased a new concept in travel guides from the little Beijing blog.  I think the idea of picking a random section of city to explore, rather than simply visiting sites to tick them off a list, is a much more interesting way to travel, opening you up to places you wouldn’t normally see in a guide book. 


The idea is simple – a collection of postcards of sites and streets around Beijing, with maps and directions printed on the back.  You can select by area (from the provided map) or simply chose a random selection and set off!  Scrawl your ideas, thoughts or new discoveries on the back and either keep them or mail them home so you have a unique set of memories of your travels.




China is facing its most ‘difficult year’ this century.

March 5, 2009

Well, we’re only nine years into the new century, but this one will prove to be the most difficult one for China. Unlike many other countries, China’s change has been nothing short of astounding. The country has enjoyed 10 years of what you could call ‘extreme growth,’ and this year, Premier Wen Jibao has announced it will be a difficult year.

So what happens when the global economy forces the steaming loco of an economy that is China? Already unrest has shown its ugly head in the rural areas where people already hit hard by poverty, are hit harder again by unemployment.

China has come an amazing distance, quite possibly shaking off the 3rd world country tag, slipping comfortably into the developing country description. But what happens if it ends? China needs to progress. China needs to continue to fill the horizon with building sites and transport infrastructure. What happens if it finally catches up? All these single task workers – the builders in particular, are suddenly unemployed.

The Chinese government, like many other foreign nations, is looking to employ financial stimulus packages to try and alleviate the burden. It will be interesting to see just how cool calm and collected the greater Chinese populace can remain. One thing is for sure though, this is a country that has survived 5000 years of often turbulent history. If there is one thing the Chinese excel at, it would be enduring.

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