Thursday, August 21, 2008

Top 10 Possible Reasons Why Liu Xiang Walked Away

Guest Post by Karl Lacroix

1. Liu was the only athlete in the history of sports with 1.3 BILLION coaches. Everybody in China knew what Liu should do, but only he knew what he COULD do.

2. Liu was and will forever be a ‘one hit’ athletic wonder. A lot of athletes are like that. He should have walked away after the world record was set. Chinese people were shocked that he, an Asian, had beaten the clock in basically a Western competition. The shock was right. He will never do it again.

3. The Chinese forgot that he was a hero of the last Olympics, not the 2008 Olympics. Hero status today is something each athlete MUST earn and you are nothing till you do. Who remembers who won what in 1996 or 2000? The voracious appetite for heroes prevalent throughout the world is damn near a fever pitch in China. Does anyone in China care who the No.2 Chinese 110m hurdles runner is? Nobody in the rest of the world does either, Eat ‘em up and spit ‘em out. (Shi Dongpeng by the way).

4. Liu failed because he spent too much time chasing kangaroos in TV commercials in China. Hell, even Aussie runners don’t chase kangaroos.

5. Liu had too much money to carry on his back each time he ran a race...bundles of it strapped on his back. And the biggest currency note in China is only worth 100 rmb. He was in effect a race horse with a huge handicap under his saddle. Alas now he will only be able to spend it. (Crocodile tears all around...).

6. No sex! Liu had bad skin, obviously meaning he was not getting laid. Sex relaxes the muscles. He looked so tight the night he walked away, like he had a terminal case of blue balls. (Now I can hear my Chinese readers saying ‘Blue balls?’- - never mind).

7. Too much sex! Liu was a pretty boy. Maybe he had too many girls sapping his strength. On the other hand maybe he had too many gay lovers slapping him silly.

8. Liu knew the Cuban was going to win. Athletes in any TOP sport know if they will get beaten or not. The great ones find another way to win, usually with heart. Being not so great....Liu took the shower (read ‘easy’) road.

9. The Communist government told him to quit. Why? Well, right now, can you name any Chinese superstar (with a moniker as recognizable as Liu Xiang) who has won gold at this Olympics in a heroic way? Nope. So the government views the gold medal count as a victory for communism.....individuals not wanted. The leaders of China know that the record book will show that the 2008 medal haul by China will be forever recorded as the biggest win by a ‘political system’. Hey they beat the Nazi’s totals of 1936. Sick!

10. The sad thing is I think Liu knew he was not able to run that night but because Chinese people have conspiracy theories worse than Americans, he HAD to come out, show himself and then bust up his foot for the ‘fans’ just so they ‘knew’ he really tried. Athletes at that level of fine tuned skill, know when they are not right.......they KNOW. So out he came, said ‘Watch me citizens of China’, and then zapped his foot.

And that, for me is the most heroic thing that has happened in sports in a long time. Damn stupid, but heroic nonetheless. I predict after suitable medical consideration Liu Xiang will retire.

Karl Lacroix

Reason Number 25 - The Silence of Chinese Conservation

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 47
"The River Yangtze is the third longest on the planet. It is approximately 6,300 km long and accounts for more than a third of China’s total freshwater supplies. It discharges more than a million million cubic meters of water into the sea annually. A river so huge, it might be thought, would be almost impossible to pollute heavily.

Yet according to the 2007 health report on this river (which, despite being billed as ‘annual’ by the Chinese government is the first of its kind) it is under major pressure. Around 10% of the Yangtze is in ‘critical condition,’ and 30% of its major tributaries are seriously polluted. According to Yang Guishan, a researcher at a department of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the nation’s leading intellectual body, this impact is ‘largely irreversible.’ In 2006, the Yangtze fell to its lowest level since records began in 1877.

Every species that lives in the river is in decline, most dramatically the white-flag dolphin, or ‘Baiji,’ one of only five species of freshwater dolphin in the world.

A six week search for the white-flag along the river did not find a single dolphin, leading some researchers to conclude it is in fact extinct. If so, it will be the first time mankind has driven a cetacean to extinction.

China’s lack of concern for the environment is pretty shocking. There is almost no environmental activism at any level in society. The sector I am most familiar with, the highly-educated, are no exception.

Now these guys are environmentally aware. They have some idea how fucked-up China’s environment is (though they only know a mere fraction of the true situation) but they simply don’t care. I’ve never seen a student turn off the air conditioner after class, or turn off a light. Most dump their trash – food wrappers, drink bottles – on the floor and saunter out of the class uncaring.

For most of my stay in China, I’ve never seen a Chinese person take a used plastic bag to the store. When I go to the store, I take a plastic bag. And when I get it out at the till, most times the checkout operator and the people in the queue smile, or laugh – ‘Look at the funny foreigner!

I guess that’s slowly going to change now that Shanghai government compels stores to charge for plastic bags. The many years of ‘patriotic education’ – the slogans plastered everywhere exhorting people to ‘Love China’ and so on had precisely zero effect. There is very little sense of altruism in China; most everything is filtered through the lens of immediate personal benefit.

That’s why most Chinese people care nothing for the environment, but they do care to save a coin.

And that’s why China’s environment will continue to be raped, ravaged and exploited for the foreseeable future.

There’s money in it.

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 47
"It’s safe to say that the idea of “harmoniously coexisting with nature,” which China introduced in 2003 as a “new concept” is not working. One reason that the national government has such limited success in controlling pollution is that local governments do everything they can to keep the inspectors out.

For example, many local governments set up industrial parks which banned other government departments from conducting any inspections whatsoever without direct approval. This is why most of the hundred firms in one such industrial park in Henan Province did not install any pollution control equipment at all, and instead just dumped untreated waste into a local river.

Similar parks can be found in Anhui, Gansu and Zhejiang Provinces. All across China county governments collude with polluters to keep the money flowing into their pockets and the poison flowing into the environment."

China is still brutalizing Tibet, even as the Games are underway. Heavy-handed crackdowns, making sure no Tibetan voice is heard free and clear. So if you are in China and can be on camera, make a ‘T’ sign for Tibet and an X sign for Xinjiang.

Reason Number 24 - Why am I Speaking English?

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 45
"Between the years 1978 and 2006 China allowed 1,067,000 of its young citizens to study abroad. More than 792,000 of those citizens never came home.

They never returned to ‘the motherland,’ and have never returned to be Chinese. Three out of four of those more than one million minds, full of new information, education and ideas, nation-building qualities, are still keeping the company of Western economies and living a Western lifestyle.

In the earlier years of this exodus, the most popular study designations were the US, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. But more recently many other countries have joined the list. New Zealand. Ireland. France. Germany. Italy. Spain. Austria. Even Russia and the Ukraine. It seems that almost any country is preferable to departing Chinese youth than China."

The exodus of students from China is indeed vast. And that’s largely commendable – Chinese university education being so shit, the only way to get a decent education is to leave China. And while overseas education does indeed change students, it is not perhaps as effective in doing so as it could be.

The reason for this is that Chinese students, on the whole, opt for an exceedingly narrow choice of study subjects. And the most single popular topic of study is greed. Greed, money, cash, capitalism, all that – students want to study accounting, business, finance, management… and, of course, MBA degrees. Anyone who studies an MBA degree is pretty much guaranteed to be a wanker, by the way.

Add to this a good proportion of students studying computer science (also perceived as a path to financial success) and a smaller (but much nobler) number aiming at medicine, and you pretty much cover the whole diaspora.

These students may well help boost China’s economy.

But where are the students who will help expand China’s soul?

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 46
"Nearly 80% of Chinese students – from primary age to undergraduates – list learning English as their top priority. One survey, said Chinese media, suggested that 56% of students not studying English majors spent ‘a large portion’ of their time on English, and another 19% spent almost all their time studying the language. All Chinese university students – no matter what they are studying – must pass English exams otherwise they cannot graduate. For many students, cramming to pass these exams is the single biggest burden on their time.

According to China International Business magazine, English is a ‘status symbol’ and can even be a factor in marriage. 'A man without a grasp of English is nearly paralyzed”'a young Chinese woman told the magazine, describing her requirements for a potential husband. 'It is obvious that a young man without a fair command of English won’t be able to climb up the social ladder.'

English can be viewed as a ‘virus’ in terms of the effect it is having on China. The combination of the internet and widespread ability to read English has created a democracy of communication in China. Government censorship of English-based websites is much less severe than Chinese-based websites – a ‘one internet, two systems’ culture. Yet China does not have a democracy in thought, since its government restricts the combination of free thinking and free expression among its people.

While the Party is remarkably efficient at controlling how people think and speak using the Chinese language, when it comes to English their control is severely limited. Knowledge of English allows Chinese citizens to escape the straitjacket of government control."

Perhaps knowledge of English might also help those Chinese citizens with an open mind read more widely about Tibet and Xinjiang and learn to see that these countries are indeed captive possessions of China. 'T' for Tibet and 'X' for Xinjiang.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reason Number 23 - Graying Reds

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 43
“China’s constant talk of a ‘peaceful rise’ and of ‘peaceful development’ is an attempt to create an image of a young and dynamic new economy. The astonishing growth of the country’s economy in recent years can make it appear like a strong economic youngster growing into powerful and confident world of developed countries.

Yet real Chinese society is gray, both in age and numbers. According to the World Health Organization, an ‘aging society’ is either one in which 10% of the population is over 60 years old or (in another measure) 7% of the population is over 65.

Nationwide, by the end of 2005, China had almost 144 million people over the age of 60, accounting for 11% of the entire population. The number of elderly people is rising fast, at 3% a year overall, with the number of those over 80 rising by 5% a year. By 2010, other estimates say China will have 174 million people over 60, more than 20 million of whom will be over 80.

By 2025, there will be 280 million people in China over the age of 60. By 2045, that number will have risen to 400 million. The average age in China, which was around 30 in 2000, will rise to 39 by 2025. By 2040 the average age will be 44, meaning the country will age faster in a generation than Europe has in a century. To put it another way, by 2050 average age will be three years higher than average lifespan was in 1950.”

Many of the commentators on this blog say that China is the coming nation. China is developing, they write – China is getting stronger every day. And that is a China I would like to see – strong, confident, just, capable and creative.

But how can that China ever come into existence when so many of its citizens are elderly, and when so many of its youth are taught to think and act like the elderly – conservative, inflexible, convinced they understand the world?

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 44
“China’s dilemma is that it will grow old before it grows rich. As the number of elderly continues to rise and China’s use of the one-child policy prevents an increase in younger people to support them, the situation will get exponentially worse.

By 2050, by some estimates the average lifespan will be an incredible 85 years old. This means many one of the one-child workers of the future will have to devote even more resources to supporting two retired parents and four retired grandparents. About 65% of the elderly population in rural areas receive no benefits from China’s social welfare system. By 2040, when China’s aged population will be at its peak, the country’s social security budget will have a shortfall of US$128 billion annually.

China’s government has plenty of bland pronouncements to make about its attitude towards the elderly. 'The State values and cherishes senior citizens for their knowledge, experience and skills, and respects them for their good ethical values. It thus makes vigorous efforts to create good conditions for senior citizens to bring into full play their expertise and capability, and gives them encouragement and support to integrate into society and continue to make contributions to the social development of China' said a recent white paper on the elderly from the Information Office of China’s State Council. But apart from mentioning current facts and figures – such as that the nation had only 20,000 professional nurses for the aged by the end of 2005, the 7,500 word document (released at the end of 2006) had almost nothing concrete to say about what needs to be done in the future.”

Still some days to go in the Olympics. The world's eyes remain on China. 'T' for Tibet and 'X' for Xinjiang.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Reason Number 22 - Once the Masters of Invention

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 41
"Any great nation needs to rely on creativity and innovation in order to leave its mark on history as well as to drive its economy. For China’s economic miracle to continue, it is imperative to re-discover its native sense of inventiveness, the same inventiveness that created China itself.

However, the country’s leaders know that a truly creative and free-thinking population will also be much more likely to demand innovation in politics as well as industry, meaning the Party remains wary of too much reform. Democracy is a great energizer of invention, but is a step too far for the present government.

Instead, the Party has sought to channel national innovation into paths that will bolster its own hold on power. Rather than allow any form of ‘blue skies’ thinking (that is, free and undirected scientific enquiry), the Party directs innovation and a huge amount of finance into politically impressive projects such as its space program. Whereas in the United States, cash and ingenuity results in creativity (as in the case of Microsoft, for example), in China the government’s money directs all things, which usually dampens the sparks of innovation."

So where is China’s inventive streak? The nation that gave the world the compass, paper, the printing press, gunpowder - what has it created in the last few hundred years?

I see that I got precisely zero answers to an earlier question, in which I asked how Taiwan could possibly 'part of China' be when it had its own laws and leaders. So I’ll try a simpler question.

Which of my nationalist Chinese readers can tell me what China has invented to make the world a better place in the last century or two?

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 42
China’s space program put the nation’s first man in space in 2003 (more than forty years after the Russians did it) and in 2005, Hu Shixiang, deputy chief commander of the space program, said China would put a man on the moon and build a space station within ten to 15 years.

Projects such as this contribute very little to the sum total of human wellbeing, and they certainly do not make the life of the average Chinese citizen any better – indeed, the life of the average Chinese citizen becomes worse given that billions of dollars poured into space projects becomes unavailable to provide the schools, hospitals and social welfare that rural China so desperately needs. This money also siphons off research funding for scientists who are working on projects of real benefit.

The space program unites the Chinese people with a feeling of pride, and it is this pride the Party uses to leverage its grip on power. Yet national self-esteem is only one aspect of China’s rush into space. China’s wish to put a man on the moon has perhaps more to do with Chinese desires for military expansion into space.

Sadly, the vast majority of Chinese people quickly smile and register self-satisfaction when the space race and the new arms-in-space race is brought up in general conversation. For them, the allocation of billions of dollars of research funds to vanity projects, when domestic matters require creative solutions to real problems, is totally acceptable.

And while China provides the biggest show of all, the Olympic games, still its captive colonies suffer. 'T' for Tibet and 'X' for Xinjiang, every chance you get.

Reason Number 20 - Suicide China

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 39
Around 250,000 people kill themselves every year in China, according to statistics from China’s Ministry of Health. To put this another way – every two minutes of each hour, 24/7, eight Chinese people kill themselves. The figure of 250,000 is those whose deaths are reported as suicide. It does not include the suicide deaths that are hushed up or attributed to other causes.

A further two million people attempt suicide annually, according to statistics from 2003, the latest year for which information is available to us at the time of writing. Furthermore these two million attempts were just the ones that ended up in hospital, indicating a far higher true total.

Even more shocking, of these two million, “less than one percent receive psychiatric assessment and guidance during the emergency treatment” said Chinese media.

The suicide death toll among today’s Chinese citizens is beyond the ability of government officials to calculate accurately. According to the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center, which was set up in 2003 by the Society of Neurology and Psychiatry of the Chinese Medical Association and Beijing’s Huilongguan Hospital, the figure is 23 suicides per 100,000 people. Based on an official population of 1.3 billion, that’s almost 300,000 suicides a year.

Suicide is the number one killer of Chinese people between the ages of 15 and 34. Surprising, when you consider the burgeoning economy and new-found ‘freedoms’ offered by the state that pronounces stability and harmony as its watchwords. In a country where young people have everything to live for, they are ending their lives at a rate that surely must make government leaders question the speed of change that is overtaking the Chinese people in the name of progress.

My only question here, to all those Chinese citizens leaving comments to defend China -- why is it that so many of your fellow citizens are killing themselves? If China is ‘getting better every day,’ why the huge death toll?

‘Fault Lines On The Face Of China: 50 Reasons Why China May Never Be Great’ - Excerpt 40
The suicide rate among women is 25% higher than among men, and rural suicide rates are three times higher than urban rates. The causes of suicide in rural areas tend to arise out of different factors, most commonly poverty and domestic abuse, with women suffering by far the most.

According to Xu Rong, who works with the Cultural Development Centre for Rural Women, “Most suicides in rural areas start with small quarrels between couples…Some of them are accidental; some are actually rooted in unhappy marriages.”

In China’s countryside, there is great pressure on young women to conform to society’s expectations of traditional marriage, meaning many arranged marriages.

Many marriages are not based on love, and, says Xu Rong, “Rural men tend to be reluctant to express their love or care for their spouses, who have more romantic emotions.”

One of the problems that Xu Rong’s organization faces is that it remains very small scale. She says that when the project began she faced criticism because people felt suicide was a “private issue.” Even though the project soon began to achieve good results, it only served six villages in three rural counties.

Acknowledging this problem, Liu Denggao, a vice-director at the Ministry of Agriculture, said his ministry would restrict production of the most poisonous insecticides, change the color and smell of poisons, package chemicals in small amounts, and educate the public about appropriate uses and storage of pesticides. He was speaking as a workshop on a National Suicide Prevention Plan for China in 2003.

In 2006, Xu Rong said it was still too easy for women to obtain pesticides, three years after the Ministry of Agriculture had said it would address the problem.

Lethal pesticides today are freely available off the shelf, are inappropriately stored in home environments, and this inexpensive answer to a moment’s anger or feeling of depression too readily is the answer taken.

Early in 2007, a young woman was preparing to kill herself in the central city of Chongqing. As she stood, ready to jump off a six-storey building, a crowd gathered below.

Some yelled for her to jump, and some phoned friends to “come and enjoy the spectacle.” Others were upset she had not jumped before the emergency services arrived to try and talk her down. One young man sat in the window of an opposite building playing his guitar to entertain the crowds. When the emergency services persuaded the woman to give up the attempt, the crowd below booed. The unfolding of tragedy before the eyes of many Chinese citizens is today viewed with a sense of pleasure.

‘T’ for Tibet and ‘X’ for Xinjiang. Make the signs every chance you get. Tibet and Xinjiang will one day regain the freedom China has taken from them!