Category Archives: China Society

The Terrorists Have Disappeared

I’ve kept my eye out for any more information on the Turkistan Islamic Party and so far the only piece of news that I’ve come across in the Chinese blogosphere is this post from Michael of Opposite End of China.

Michael like me doesn’t see much truth behind the group’s claims, but he also had stories from the South China Morning Post in the post I linked to above. The second stories has a source that says maybe the Chinese government or the Xinjiang provincial government was behind this video so they can justify a crackdown in Xinjiang.

But to be honest I am not sure that the Chinese government is behind it either. So who is?

J.

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So China has Islamic Terrorists Now?

Last week I wrote a post on Lost Laowai wondering about how China defined terrorism. I wondered why China wasn’t declaring the Kuming bus bombings a terrorist act even if it was done by someone with a local grievance. When I wrote it I was just thinking out loud, but then last night I discovered this post on Shanghaiist. It looks like the Turkestan Islamic Party, a terror group (if it’s really a political party would be illegal in China) claimed responsibility in a Youtube video for last week’s Kuming bus bombing as well as the bus bombing incident in Shanghai in May.

Maybe I am being to skeptical about this, but like the blogger behind The New Dominion I don’t really buy it. Why is this group making a claim to the Shanghai bus bombing two months after it happened? The police also said that while both the events in Kuming and Shanghai were intentional, they didn’t appear to be terrorist acts. Nothing has been reported about the TIP’s video in official state media — I’ve seen reports of it on Hong Kong TV though (I haven’t checked CNN or the BBC).

The second question I have is who is the audience this group is trying to reach? The two Youtube videos I’ve seen from the group are all in Arabic Uyghur without Chinese or English subtitles. The fact that there is no Chinese subtitles in the videos make me think that these videos are aimed at people in the Middle East. I don’t if the group’s goal is to get funding for their cause or to reach out to other militant groups such as Al Qaeda. But I don’t think the videos are for Chinese viewers.

I haven’t heard that these videos were posted on Chinese websites. I am sure if they were site censors would probably take them home, but again the group went to Youtube an international site (the videos appeared on the Japanese version) not a Chinese one. So is this group trying to terrorize Chinese or the world? I would assume it’s the Chinese, but the way they are going about it make me doubt the group’s aims. Either that or their media relations plan is screwy.

I’m going to keep watching and blogging on this.

J.

Update: The New Dominion is reporting that the video is in Uyghur not Arabic (see the comment below). Their site is also saying the video has been reported by Xinhua and AFP.

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China’s Young Neo-Conservatives

Anyone who wants to learn more about the young Chinese nationalists that were behind much of the anti-CNN backlash around the time of March’s T1bet riots should read Evan Osnos’ piece in this week’s New Yorker. It paints an interesting and far account of some of China’s young conservatives in Shanghai. If anyone who is wondering who the next generation of Chinese leaders are going to be it’s these guys.
Enjoy

J.

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Today’s Earthquake: The Day China Entered the Twitter Era

I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the earthquake that hit Sichuan today. It was so big that we even felt it in Shanghai.

When it happened I was sitting at my desk working on my computer. I felt a little dizzy and I thought it was just from some eating some bad food at lunch. Only when my colleagues rushed by saying in Shanghainese that something had happened did I know it wasn’t just me. Within a minute my Twitter Feed jumped to life with people asking if anyone else felt the earthquake in Beijing. It was then that I knew something was up. A few minutes later we evacuated the building.

But we were given the all clear 15 minutes later. When I got back to my desk I was able to follow everything on Twitter and answer questions from different colleagues as the people on my feed fed information on the earthquake from all over the country. And we were able to help each other and filter out rumours. People who had access to televisions were able to keep people like me, who were in offices and working, up-to-date with the latest developments.

I can really tell that Twitter is coming into it’s own in China. Today really proves it, especially since the Chinese media did not release news right away and there is very limited access to foreign news sources such as CNN — I’m lucky in in that I have a satellite dish that gives me foreign programs but it’s on the fritz at the moment. Twitter filled the gap for me today and thanks to crowd sourcing I think that it’s pretty accurate. Two articles on the situation can be found on Danwei and China Herald.

As much as I feel happy for the role that Twitter played in the event, I fill sorry for all those dead and injured in the quake. My heart and prayers go out to them.

J.

Update (May 17th 2008): I sent a note to Jesse Brown, the host of CBC Radio’s Search Engine about Twittering the earthquake. They featured me on their blog here and here.

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Video Picking Up Where the Book Left Off

In my last post, I mentioned I was reading Duncan Hewitt’s Getting Rich First. Today I found out that Thomas Crampton posted a video of an interview he did with Hewitt recently. Hewitt spoke about the Internet, angry teenagers and censorship. The video is worth watching for those who have read the book as well as those who haven’t.

Enjoy

J.

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Lane Houses and Hutongs: Home to the Ancient Sense of Chinese Community

Last weekend, while I was at the Shanghai International Literary Festival I picked up Duncan Hewitt’s Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China. I’ve been ill over the last week so I’ve had lots of time to go through it.

Hewitt’s first two chapters cover the demolition of old and ancient buildings in Beijing and Shanghai. The fact that he covers this movement is nothing new. Hewitt explains the situation that most of these homes are ancient cultural treasures — Western modeled ones in the sense of Shanghai and Chinese ones in the Sense of Beijing. He doesn’t stop there though.

Hewitt really injects humanity into the people here. He shows that people aren’t really just trying to save some old buildings, but a sense of community that has developed in Shanghainese lane communities and Beijing hutongs. This sense of community can’t survive in modern apartment buildings because the individual units put up divisions that isolate people from their communities in ways that don’t allow them to connect the same way as in the old buildings — even if its the same people.

It’s an interesting idea that holds people to these old buildings. You think a lack of private space and bad facilities would make people want to leave but instead it keeps them together and makes people want to save the buildings because they help to create the residents’ sense of community.

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One of the last signs of China’s ancient community?

(Image from Greg Girard’s Phantom Shanghai)

I guess it’s just another idea that us Westerners have trouble getting our head around. We think that with our single-family detached homes that we have the only viable attempt at creating a community because we have a balance between private and public space. But once again the Chinese show us there are other ways to do things.

J.

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What’s in a Name?

Earlier this week, Shanghaiist had this great post about how a guy from Chongqing got stuck with the same Chinese name as Hong Kong actor Andy Lau (Liu Dehua). This supposedly caused the guy’s business partner to split with him over the fact that having the same as Andy Lau nobody would take him seriously and his girlfriends would always get scolded because everyone would compare their boyfriend to the real Liu Dehua. But then it turns out later in the story that the guy’s name came about because of an error:

“What’s really ironic is that Liu Dehua isn’t his real name. In fact, his name ought to be Liu Jianhua, because the siblings in his generation all have “Jian” as the middle character. So how did he end up being “Dehua”? Because, someone in a bumble-fuck township government office in Chongqing municipality probably wrote his name wrong. If you stab yourself in the eye and squint long enough, the characters for Jian (健) and De (德) look kinda similar. Or maybe you have to be illiterate, and then stab yourself in the eye. Anyway, the title of the article says that Liu now suffers from depression, and he feels like he’s going to have to go back home and officially change his name.”

When I got my first resident permit in Shanghai, the public security official mispronounced my last name as “Guose” and gave me the same Chinese name as Tom Cruise (ironically we share the same birthday and so does TV tabloid godfather, Geraldo). But this didn’t help my prospects or personal for the three years that I had it. So in late 2006, I changed it to my current Chinese name.

J.

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