Sunday, January 31, 2010
I'll be live-blogging Marbury's first game in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) from press row, starting now. Updates will go at bottom.
Shanxi Zhongyu vs. Dongguan Leopards, 7:30 p.m. local time tipoff.
Expecting a packed house today.
6:50 p.m.: If there was any need for proof that Marbury is in the lineup, see the scoreboard, right.
6:55 p.m.: Stephon Marbury just took the court. There was the expected roar, but the stands are anything from packed, so it wasn't anything close to what I'm expecting when he's actually announced.
Going to be a tough game for Dongguan. Whatever the spread is, take the home team.
7:07: PA reverb. Ow.
7:22 p.m.: Under seven minutes until national anthem. Players just left the court. When I come back next the game will have started (CCTV5, or Zhibo8), and I'll have pictures for you.
8:46 p.m.: The pictures will have to wait. Too much happening, and too fast. Halftime seemed to fly by.
Marbury just converted an and-1 (at the 4:17 mark) and has taken a seat for a breather. It is knotted at 76 with 3:10 remaining. (Time is running as I type -- the beauty of the live blog.)
The PA announcer recently said, "Everyone please sit down, please sit down, there're lots of people today, please sit down."
One thing I won't understand about sports in China: the insistence on remaining seated. But, as the PA announcer also pointed out, "let's distract the opposing free throw shooter!"
8:47 p.m.: Marbury is playing decent. I don't think he has a turnover, and if so, not more than one. But his jump shot has been failing him tonight. What I'd love to see out of him -- speaking strictly from a sports perspective -- is more drives to the basket. He's had no fewer than four layups, and I think maybe as many as six. His and-1 was a twirling, over-the-head shot with body contact, the sort of shot that NBA players are capable of making 80 percent of the time but is somewhat of a spectacle here.
The Dongguan point guard, Tre Kelly, whom I interviewed earlier today for, is driving hard at Marbury, and the two of them are really going at it. They're both in right now.
8:51: Marbury just stole the ball, dribbled behind his back, scoop passed it to the trailer and asked for a foul when it wasn't called. Then the coach asked for it, and the fans...
Well, what's obvious to me is that Shanxi is a better team with Marbury running the point. He's been trying to get others involved, and I'm thinking after tonight -- or Wednesday -- he's going to try creating more for himself.
And by the way, I couldn't post anything all of the first half because I couldn't find a place to place my laptop. This building is packed. Not one empty seat in the arena, and I mean it.
I'm working currently from the ledge of the media podium. My legs are getting tired.
9:00 p.m.: Crowd getting into it. Taylor (other American player on Shanxi) just waved in front of ref's face, as if to say, "You're not seeing anything." Ref twirled around sternly, as if to T him up. The crowd started chanting something like, "Blow the whistle." Later a fan said, "Better get on the bus fast afterwards!"
9:01 p.m.: Refs miss an OBVIOUS call. Ball had hit rim, they didn't see it, called 24-second violation.
9:02 p.m.: "Hey ref, you better watch out!"
9:03 p.m.: Wow. Lighters are RAINING from the stands. PA announcer doing his best to keep order. I think I saw Marbury smirk.
They were chanting "heishao," not "chuishao." Black whistle. Accusing the refs of being bought out.
In China, this is not a light accusation, but I bet the chant happens all the time.
9:12: 94-92 Dongguan with 4 minutes left.
By the way, this game is NOT on CCTV5, as I'd assumed. Is the government in on the fix???
9:21: Hotly contested contest. 99-98 home team with 1:18 left. Camera battery running low!
9:39 p.m.: So, down by one with five seconds left and inbounding from halfcourt, who do you think gets the ball?
The defense knew it too, and when they collapsed on Marbury he passed it out back up to the three-point line, where Taylor's shot hit the front rim, backboard, and may have chipped the rim again. Final score: 101-100, Dongguan.
Afterwards fans popped their thunderstix in succession/unison, creating noises that sounded like firecrackers. It seems even more like that when you consider the fans have lit up cigarettes. Nothing thrown though.
As I type a fan is running into the stands trying to start a fight, about 20 meters down.
Pictures to come.
The artists postponed their "fourth fire" (show) from January 29 to February 3, 1:30 p.m. at Dongying Art Zone in the outer woods.
Zhou Yong, the artist most upset that a harder line hasn't been taken, has written an open letter on his blog to another of the event organizers. Read it here (I'll translate it later, maybe).
And now I'd like to show you the most loathed word in contemporary Chinese society:
Even in Taiyuan, 拆 is 拆, except here the residents are even more helpless to do anything about it. Let's just say the mafia is a bit stronger and has a bit more interest in matters concerning money, while law enforcers a little more chickenshit.
POSTSCRIPT: Marbury plays tonight. Stay tuned.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Capital of Coal Province
By the way, I'm blogging from a 70-kuai hotel room (I overpaid) with no shortage of small cockroaches, a picture of a half-naked woman on the wall and porn lights. These are what porn lights look like:
This was before I figured out the combination of buttons to turn on the fluorescent. The flashing blue and red don't stop though.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
On that day, Nov. 13, as Tang Fuzhen yelled at the demolition brutes to stop the violence against her siblings, as she pleaded with them to leave her house intact, she doused herself three times in gasoline, saying she would set herself on fire, right there on the roof, if the beating of her family continued.
The blows continued to rain down and the self-immolation of Tang Fuzhen, 47, was added to the long list of victims of explosive Chinese development.
The nexus of that growth often comes down to real estate: Who owns it, who gets the sweet deals on it, who gets ousted, and who among Communist Party officials and their developer cronies pockets the big bucks from the infrastructure, business and residential projects that have turned China into a monumental construction site.
POSTSCRIPT: Also from the NY Times, a different subject but also one I closely follow: Education as a Path to Conformity. Quote:
Starting at 6, children are buried under an avalanche of studies until they graduate from high school. Twelve-hour days (less on weekends, but no days off) are common among first-graders. For his first Chinese New Year semester break, my 6-year-old son was given 42 pages of math and 42 pages of Chinese homework to complete in four weeks. The goal? Entrance to an elite college like Peking or Tsinghua University.
Yet once there, laziness can set in. Many students kick back, relying on their elite network to smooth a path through life. After the slog of the previous 12 years they feel they deserve a break. Perhaps they do. But it’s no incentive for academic brilliance.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Qingdao is now also 4-12. Thus begins Shanxi's climb up the CBA standings.
POSTSCRIPT: Alright Deadspin commentators: you win.
Not really sure about this translation (shanxi love is love?), via Shanxi's CBA site.
Well, it's official: Marbury's coming to China.
The Shanxi club announced on its website that Marbury arrived in Taiyuan via Beijing on flight MU5300, after an 18-hour plane ride from the States (the detail!). Said Marbury: "Before when I was talking about China, it seemed like a long way off, but now that I'm at China's airport, sitting here, the feeling is completely different. It's real.
"This is the starting point of my new journey, and I'm very excited. I'll be able to show my personality to Chinese fans. I am enthusiastic, perhaps a bit crazy, but I will let the fans know how real I am in the end."
Apologies if that's not taken verbatim -- I am, after all, translating a translation of Marbury's words.
Shanxi plays vs. Qingdao today, then in Jinan, Shandong Province, on Friday, where Marbury is unlikely to suit up, and then at home on Sunday. Then the Starbury will be released -- in his low-cost basketball shoes, of course.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Warm Winter is a collaborative touring art exhibition involving artists from the city's 20 major art colonies. It started as a response to a particularly invidious demolition squad hired by real estate developers, but it has since become something much bigger.
This is why you should care.
In China, demolish-and-relocate (chai-qian, 拆迁) is commonly accepted as an inevitable consequence of the country's headlong rush towards urbanization, i.e. "progress," without regard to individual costs. Most of the time, the evictees have no voice and no means of fighting back -- and they always lose -- since typical leasing contracts have a force majeure clause that excuses landlords from compensating tenants.
These artists, however, do have a voice, and what makes this story significant is that they're steadily gaining listeners.
The artists have staged three shows so far, with the next one on January 29. On January 12, a group of thugs incited violence that was witnessed by a large local media contingent (the incident made the front page of The Beijing News (this picture)).
I was at an event last Thursday (see pictures, below) at Zhengyang Creative Art Zone -- in many ways the center of this conflict -- which was also attended by the firebrand Ai Weiwei, who told the assembled media, "Human rights must be won by the people."
"Our society should have common sense," he continued. "That a country constantly speaking about its own formation and future would relentlessly destroy its self-built art districts is a farce. (This may happen) in North Korea, sure. But constantly demolishing people’s homes? Before ‘49 (the formation of New China), this sort of thing might have happened.
"They’re even going to demolish Tiananmen. Zhongnanhai is next.
"They might demolish anything. We're preparing ourselves. Yesterday we searched for ways to oppose tanks." Laughter from assembled media.
"Did you find a way?" a journalist asked.
"Not yet. This I can’t talk about here. You’re going to get me run out."
He added, "Artists are soft. Today they’re operating within their own comfort zone. I don’t feel like there’s much significance in this (show)."
He then likened the artists to "masturbators" who "crawl under the blankets to do it."
"I don’t think there’ll be much upshot," he said.
Several hours later, artists from the show marched about 2 km to Jiangfu Art Zone, where the plan was to meet up with others for a dinner. Along the way, shopkeepers poked out of their stores as the artists chanted, "We're exercising our bodies to protect our homes!"
Along the way, the artists were cheered by a mother with her small child and by a man standing in an abandoned building, waving a red flag underneath a tattered Chinese flag.
Two plainclothes officers trailed us the entire time:
Watched us during the event, too.
But when the artists reached their destination, they were in for a surprise: Jiangfu's residents -- artists who successfully petitioned the city government last year to preserve their district -- turned the marchers away out of fear of formal retribution. The artists were denied the confrontation with authorities they were angling for.
"Successful artists don't want trouble, and the Jiangfu artists are 'successful,'" said artist Zhou Yongyang. He was apoplectic as we drove away.
The rift forming between the artists illustrates another reason tenants face an uphill battle in housing disputes. Those with nothing to lose (like Zhou, who lost his home to developers in 2005) are usually outnumbered by those who prefer deference, like the artists of Jiangfu.
But at the center of it all, the issue that needs addressing is China's unjust property rights laws and what the government might do about them.
In March's National Committee of CPPCC plenary meeting, national leaders will discuss whether to reform its demolish-and-relocate laws. (Incidentally, Warm Winter will conclude just before then.) There will be no shortage of lobbyists. "We're not anti-government; we support the country's policies," one of Warm Winter's co-organizers told me in a 90-minute interview last week. "But these methods are inhumane. They deprive us of our most basic living requirements." The artists, like most Chinese petitioners, are hopeful (perhaps naively) that if they "make things big, the government will intervene."
But intervene on whose behalf?
"It appears there have been lots of suicides this year, jumping off buildings, everything," Ai Weiwei said. "This seems to me like a particularly painful thing to do. It should be the government, not the people, jumping off buildings."
Warm Winter has received considerable local press (including English-language Beijing Today), but as yet nothing from international media -- duly noted by the Newswatch blog -- and my pitches to CNN, The New York Times, London Times, Guardian and Observer have been summarily ignored (Slate at least wrote back). The editors' approach -- wait-and-see -- is understandable, considering the number of chai-qian incidents and minor protests that spring up. It may well require a nail-house type incident to attract the big media companies.
And that type of incident is what Ai Weiwei was saying he wanted -- what Zhou, in fact, wants -- and that there are people -- influential, well-known -- who are actively trying to incite disorder is what makes this story worth following. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Xiao Ge's website coverage here.
Monday, January 25, 2010
- Wall Street Journal on chaiqian (拆迁), i.e. demolish-and-relocate (or "remove," as WSJ translates it.)
The struggle between small homeowners and property developers has become a recurring theme in contemporary China, leading to increasingly dramatic protests against local officials and even inspiring a novel Chinese interpretation of the hit film Avatar.
Aiming to reduce the social tensions inherent in the process of urban redevelopment, Beijing has been planning to revise the regulations that govern the tearing down of people’s homes to make way for new real estate projects. A draft of the new rules is expected to be released for public comment in the coming weeks. In the meantime, experts, lawmakers and officials have been meeting to discuss proposed changes.
- CN Review's Kai Pan, writing in classic Kai Pan style, summarizes the Google debate, offers a viewpoint and links to every article that was ever written on the subject here.
- The Peking Duck: Censor Me
- More about Google, from Fifty 5 (56minus1)
- Danwei: Dirty jokes by mobile phone
- Bokane: on Confucius (the movie) and the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (and via a comment from that post, The Warring States Project from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst).
- the Beijinger: pictures of masked civilians (Shredder look-alike contest, as the authors call it)
- And finally, via Shanghaiist, this article from Business Week says "modern" doesn't necessarily equate to "Western."
We also asked young Chinese to choose one wish that would make their life happier. Surprisingly, 82% chose to do something for their parents, most commonly to provide them an easy life.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
The more I think about it, the more Wen Fang's "Birthday Present" -- for both her mother and the People's Republic of China (both turned 60 last year) -- grows on me.
At 798's Paris-Beijing Gallery.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
POSTSCRIPT: Re: Google: Don't say Chinese netizens aren't creative/don't have time on their hands (via ChinaHush).
The tone of Google’s chief legal consultant disgusts me. If you withdraw for economic reasons, say it outright. Putting on make-up and saying that Google was attacked by the Chinese and that the Gmail accounts of Chinese dissidents were attacked, in order to pave the way for its withdraw from China, is a humiliation to Chinese people’s intelligence, though it might really suit Westerners’ fantasies—those who are arrogant, have never been to China, don’t know China but love talk about China.
Common sense: Unequal access to information is one of the major causes of social inequality. The most important information to people is not secret from within Zhongnanhai [the Chinese leadership compound] but common information about economics, culture, and technology. Providing convenience to people to access that information, to make up for the inequity in information, is one of the ways that a search engine can be of social and political significance.
From this perspective, trying to provide convenient access to information for people and give them real value is a responsible approach. It’s not about making a great spectacle of claiming to “do no evil” and then dying a heroic glorious death by turning against the government. It is fine to find a way to exit, but not by playing on the emotions of a population that is under such tight control. That is immoral.
The tone of Sun's editorial, masterfully preserved by Osnos's translation, is outrageously puerile and dumb. According to him, Google's potential departure from China would hurt Chinese citizens because the people would not have "convenience... to access information... to make up for the inequity in information." That inequity of information, by the way, being "one of the major causes of social inequality." And Google is "immoral" because it's doing no favors for "a population that is under such tight control" (the implication being every company, to say nothing of every living thing on the face of this earth not excluding dying petunias and the wildebeest of the Serengeti, should be doing favors for the controllers of said population, i.e. CPC).
I won't bother asking, "Flagrant irony or subtle subversiveness?" this time because the answer seems evident.
I'm assuming Sun is intelligent. If he penned the above in good faith -- that is, if he wasn't smirking the entire time -- he should immediately take his throne as the paragon of systemic ignorance that Chinese censorship has engendered. If you ever need an example of the damage the Chinese government has inflicted on its own people with its outdated and harebrained restrictions on the free flow of information, please, by all means, look long and hard upon Sun Yunfeng.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
This is a direct refutation of a Globe and Mail article yesterday that said:
When you type in “Tiananmen Square affair 1989,” entered in Chinese on google.cn, the search returns a single link – the official Xinhua news agency's dry and bloodless account of the “clearing” of the students camping on the square on June 4 of that year.
That result is followed by a line all too familiar to Google users in China: “According to local laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not shown.”
The line, “According to local laws, regulations and policies, some search results are not shown," is still there (据当地法律法规和政策，部分搜索结果未予显示), but as you can see from the screenshots above, Google's defiance has been laid bare.
China's non-response is curious and, frankly, a bit unnerving. "High stakes brinkmanship" is how Reuters describes the situation, and I think that's about right. How much will China allow Google to push?
Stay tuned. I'm working on an article for City Weekend on this topic at the moment, so I'll have more to say later.
POSTSCRIPT: I've been told that the Globe and Mail hasn't had anyone on the ground in China since December. There's a lesson to be learned here for journalists and organizations that purport to do journalism, but I'll let others articulate it.
And in case you're wondering: yes, I did turn off my VPN before conducting the previous search.
UPDATE: Doing the same search in Chinese produces radically different results. Of course. (A head-slap/doh moment for me here.)
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Christine Laskowski of China Daily reporting:
One contestant, 26 year-old Emilio Liu, told METRO he did not think it was possible at first: "When Ben first asked me about [the pageant] I accepted as a joke," he said. "I accepted because I never thought something like this would happen in China."
The article goes on to say, "The winner will compete in the final competition in Oslo, Norway in February," which caused me to comment to a friend, "Are there no ends to which China won't go to participate in global contests?"
Indeed, the country's desire to be No. 1 in everything may best be summarized by its sponsorship -- now withdrawn, obviously -- of a gay pageant. Not to imply that the gay population in this country is any more stigmatized than in others -- no Chinese politician has said, ala Ahmadinejad at Columbia University, that "there are no homosexuals" within the country's borders -- but there is no question the homosexual population is the elephant on the census, consistently ignored and, probably, under-reported.
Most people say the situation is improving here (what isn't improving, eh?), and that may well be the case. But where does the latest setback -- if it can be classified as such -- fit into this narrative? What next? As Ryan Dutcher, co-founder and communications director for Gayographic, said in the China Daily article, "It's hard to say. It's something that's happened before. Not a step back, but definitely not a step forward."
Something tells me the story's not finished.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Mexico, in citing Fang as an exception to the rule of academic dishonesty in China, makes an interesting assertion. Quoting:
Because critical thinking isn't encouraged or even valued in the classroom, when it comes time to write a paper, students have no original ideas to discuss in writing. So they find essays written by Westerners in English and then pass off others' ideas -- and sometimes even others' prose, translated into Chinese -- as their own. Of course, cheating occurs in every country. But in China, since no school wants its name tainted by a plagiarism scandal, professors tend to look the other way.
And even when liberal arts students at China's best universities write their own essays, the freshness of the ideas often seems like something that would be found in an American high school paper. (You'll see this, for example, in the "journals of the humanities" that are released annually or quarterly by the most prestigious Chinese universities, such as Shanghai's Fudan U.)
Even more flagrant is the way that this potentially-plagiarized, often-sophomoric work gets published in academic journals. According to Mary -- and many other critics of the Chinese educational establishment -- most of these journals accept cash bribes in exchange for publication.
Harsh. Either Mexico attended a really competitive and smart high school or he hasn't read some of the articles being passed off as serious work in America's scientific journals (American science = Chinese liberal arts? Eh? Must research further.)
You know my position as it relates to sweeping generalizations -- I vehemently disagree with them, which is easy to do in China because the vastness of the country and the diversity one uncovers with even a cursory search renders generalizations absolutely meaningless -- but I also have long understood China's education system needs reform. Of course, that's easier said than done, and considering how many people gaokao has lifted out of poverty, it's unlikely anyone will devise a better, fairer system (I say this knowing full well all the ways in which gaokao is not fair), and therefore it's unlikely we'll see any radically different teaching methods that emphasize critical thinking in Chinese schools anytime soon.
I've said this before (though probably not on the record, now that I think about it) and I'll say it again, I'm pretty certain the Chinese education system, with its emphasis on logic and rote memorization, would have crushed me -- my curiosity about the world and any semblance of creativity -- had I not escaped at an early age. But maybe that's just me.
I'll have more to say about Mexico's book at another time.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
That said, I don't think I'd ever have waited in line all night to buy a ticket for a showing three days later. From Wall Street Journal:
In Shanghai, to get an IMAX ticket for Avatar can mean waiting in freezing weather all night for a show three days later. Shanghai local media reported that on Friday, around 500 people were queuing for tickets at 8 a.m. in front of the downtown Peace Cinema, including some who had waited for 12 hours. Movie fans came equipped with quilts, wooden stools and snacks, in a scene reminiscent of that at train-station ticket windows before the Lunar New Year holidays in China, when huge numbers of Chinese travel to be with family.
A friend of mine at China Daily also wrote about Avatar a few days back, in a front-page story no less.
The WSJ article also says:
As the year’s first foreign movie in China, the sci-fi film has grabbed the imagination of tens of millions of Chinese. China Film Group Corp. Estimates are that the total box office take may ultimately top 500 million yuan. So far, the Hollywood disaster film 2012 has fetched the most at the box office in China’s history at 460 million yuan.
Not sure if the writer was punning on "disaster film," or smirking at least. I thought 2012 was pretty good considering its genre.
POSTSCRIPT: I also saw The Road, which is, of course, based on the Pulitzer-winning novel by my favorite author, Cormac McCarthy. There's less-than-zero chance that film will ever make it into Chinese theaters, but if you see it at a DVD store, consider buying it. (Please keep in mind I'm hopelessly biased towards all things McCarthy.)
Saturday, January 2, 2010
The float just passed on ABC, and Jackie Chan waved at me! (Lots of security guards, many of them walking with the Chinese contingent. Did anyone else catch that?)
Friday, January 1, 2010
I'm reminded of this poem by Marie Howe from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time:
A Thursday -- no -- a Friday someone said.
What year was it?
Just after the previous age ended, it began.
And although the scientists still studied the heavens
and the stars blazed -- if the evening wasn't cloudy --
what happened did not occur in public view.
Some said it simply didn't happen, although others insisted they knew all about it
and made many intricate plans.
Here's how my mom and I spent the night at downtown Kansas City's Power and Light district:
Many of the group members are lawyers who, like (good) journalists, are genuinely interested in the country and are worse than prostitutes. The only difference is they don't have a public forum to air insights and share their wisdom, which really deserve a wider readership. (Not to say a lot of them don't have blogs, but if I started listing them here, I'd have to start a new blogroll.)
The top thread, as of now, is about Akmal Shaikh, and while I don't think it's appropriate for me to quote liberally from group postings, I will pass along this link (via Dan Harris), which is a veteran lawyer's (Stan Abrams) opinion about the situation. Be forewarned though, once you get started you might lose a good chunk of your day to blog surfing. (Incidentally, a good reason to sign up for the LinkedIn group now rather than later: if you get too far behind, it'll take that much longer to catch up -- and you'll want to.)
Now you'll excuse me as I leave to ring in the new year with a Kansas City ribeye. Other cities may do steak better, but not in my opinion.
My editor rightly cut out a couple inflammatory references that would've created unnecessary trouble for the company, but because this blog gets far fewer readers -- and since Blogspot's blocked anyway -- I have no qualms about posting the references here. Very simply, they were the following three links, which were among the best China-related stories from this past year:
- Foreign Policy: Christina Larson on China and Xinjiang
Ultimately, China is more adept at creating fearsome impressions in the moment -- grand like the Olympic Opening Ceremony, or cruel like the crackdown on protestors -- than at maintenance. When you look close, it's apparent how much muddle there is beneath the surface, especially when authorities attempt to formulate policy around something they don't truly understand.
The Uighurs, as well as Islam itself, mystify China's secular leadership. In Xinjiang, a vast western province -- three times the size of France and bordering eight countries -- China's long-term policy toward minorities is puzzled in principle, capricious in execution, and the result is much suffering on the part of both Uighur and Han. Far from containing tension, the heavy-handed approach fans the flames. It is a brutal kind of confusion.
- Boston Globe: National Day celebrations
- James Fallows on Liu Xiaobo
There were, of course, many more stories worth revisiting, including Newsweek's coverage (sample here) and Time's (whose China blog is no more) (and Reuters, Wall Street Journal, et al.) and Danwei's and CN Reviews and, well, I do have an extensive blogroll off to the right.
For those in China who're still awake -- drop me a line and tell me how it is in 2010. I'll join you in the new decade in about ten-and-a-half hours.