Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beijing Olympics 2008 in 10 Days Time....!!!!!!

I am so super excited about the Beijing Summer Olympics 2008 coming up on 8 August 2008, which is in ten days time, being next Friday!!

Despite not being from the PRC, it is still the land of my ancestral land, the land of my ancestors and thus I am nevertheless proud of China finally having a chance to host the Olympic Games. This is a great opportunity for China to showcase to the world what it has achieved in the three decades since its opening up and reform policy which officially came about in Dec 1978 (this yr will thus be a significant year for China with the Olympics and open and reform 30th anniversary)....And China has indeed reformed and changed remarkably in these three decades!!

I mean i was shocked to see pictures and photos of Chinese cities being so developed, like Japanese cities or South Korean cities. I mean that would have been expected for large cities like Beijing and Shanghai but I simply did not realise that even the smaller cities or places which aren't very well-known (to foreigners but of cos still very well-known to Chinese people) such as Chongqing and Dalian and Wuhan have amazing skylines and are highly developed now. I mean i saw the main shopping district in Chongqing in a photo taken from my dad's camera when he was there and it was simply amazing, like Ginza in Tokyo...i couldn't believe it...and many cities now have either mass rapid systems or lightrail such as in Wuhan and shiny new towering buildings everywhere you look! At least from the pictures they seem that way...This is when I realised that China WAS indeed gonna be the next superpower with its cities now being at least similar in appearances to Japanese cities and clearly already having overtaken South Korean urban centres such a Seoul.

I mean it would have been to be expected that major Chinese cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai would have amazing urban development and make-overs but in the past months judging from photos and news reports, it seems like even the second-tier cities such as Nanjing, Chongqing, and Wuhan and even the lower level ones such as Nanning or some other obscure ones are better developed than I expected. Maybe some will counter with evidence of shocking hidden poverty levels and the widening urban-rural wealth gap found in China behind the facade of is astonishing development but one must realise that any country has these problems and China isn't the exception. Even America and other developed countries such as France and Germany have gaps in the wealth distribution and to give one example, when Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans, I was simply shocked to see the images of poor African Americans dripping wet with their belongings in hand waddling to safety..i mean all the images of America that i had seen till then was one of relative wealth and large malls with comfortable, if not stylish, lifestyles. Hurricane Katrina revealed to me the other side of America, the poorer Southern States as well as the still segregated nature of American society based on racial lines where the blacks were still economically marginalised as compared to the whites. So if even a country as wealthy, as without having a war been fought on home soil for the last 100 years, a country which is the world's largest economy, can have such a huge poor-rich divide, based significantly on race, then the situation in China doesn't really look that bad...
Also, I think too much attention and criticism has been heaved on China and its human rights record...i mean do these people even pay as much as half the amount of attention on other countries which have the same level of human rights abuses,etc or even worse such as India, Malaysia, Vietnam, or Pakistan?? The criticism on China is very selective I feel and very political i believe...i mean in terms of human rights, the freedom of speech, and democracy, I strongly believe that a country like Singapore ranks worst than China in terms of overall democracy and freedom of speech but no one really ever criticises Singapore bcos its western and speaks english and not 'politically important' nor 'threatening enough' to warrant all the attention being heaped on China in recent yrs...i mean heck, the situation in Malaysia (not a place which comes under the radar in western eyes) is so much worst than in China with even worst censorship of the press, draconian laws making homosexuality illegal (re: current Anwar gay sex scandal anyone??), laws which effectively limit freedom of religion even more than whats happening in Tibet but yet I hear no world leaders saying anything about the situation in Malaysia...nor Africa...nor North Korea (besides the nuclear crisis cos it concerns them but no one really talks about whats happening inside N.Korea without somehow linking it to the nuclear crisis issue)...
So as u can see I hardly bat an eyelid when some media start the entire China human rights record is bad banter cos i am aware its much worse elsewhere... and China's human rights record, is improving, as far as I can see...the question being whether fast enough....
Further, there's been attempts to boycott the Beijing Games which is simply silly...i mean utterly ludicrous...i mean, if the human rights record of a country was made the standard bearing point on whether a country should be awarded the Games then I can confidently tell you, very few countries would have been eligible during the course of the Olympic Games. I could give many examples but only three will suffice to illustrate how the current attempts to link the human rights record of China or its support for the government in Sudan to the Olympics is simply a double standard and completely discriminatory.
A first example would be the Moscow Games held in the 80s. Russia at this time was still a dictatorship and many millions were living in harsh economic conditions with the secret police everywhere and hundreds upon thousands of Russians in gulags for political or economic crimes but still it was awarded the Games...another example is the Melbourne Games of the 50s. This was a time when Australia was still under the White Australia Policy which was essentially a racist policy based on White Supremacy and Aborigines weren't even considered citizens in their own land and Australian women did not get equal pay nor could they enter certain professions yet..but once still yet again, Australia was awarded the Games...and then there is the 1964 Tokyo Games when at the time, Japan had not (and still does not) admit its historical atrocities committed during WW2 and payed no compensation to any of the colonies and countries which it invaded and occupied during the war. Despite the millions whom died in slave labour such as at the Thai-Burma Death Railway or the thousands of women raped in Asia by the Imperial Japanese Army during WW2 and the lack of Japanese atonement for it, less than 20 years after WW2 ended, the Japanese were nevertheless allowed to hold the Olympics...
So thats why i'm not convinced when ppl say we should boycott the Games in Beijing due to its human rights record cos, quite frankly, the Olympics has been held in countries with less than flattering human rights records and to single out China's record as somehow so distiguishably worse is unconscionable and less than warranted to say the least.
So, I'm fully supportive of the Beijing Olympics, and mind u, i'm not one of those Chinese nationalistic youth, given that i'm not from China, been western educated since i was in kindy school and believe Taiwan already is an independent sovereign nation in its own right, the ultimate opposite of what you would classify as 'pro-China' or 'Sinocentric'..hahaha...

Below are some articles on the Beijing Olympics as well as contemporary China which i found on the web whilst surfing around:) Enjoy the read!;)

Dinah Gardner
17 July 2008
China’s bluenosed authorities set out to make sure Olympics visitors only have the approved kind of fun Two rather odd pieces of news were circulating in China last week, at a time when increasingly nervous authorities grow more prudish about the possibility that somebody, somewhere, will do something that embarrasses the country in advance of the US$42 billion Olympic Games, which are due to start in August.

The first, carried by Xinhua as a photo story, was of the rather buff Guangdong TV news presenter, Ou Zhihang, doing naked pushups in front of Chinese landmarks. He was snapped in the buff in front of the Bird’s Nest (Beijing’s main Olympic venue, the National Stadium), on the top of the Great Wall, and what should have been very early in the morning in Hong Kong’s Golden Bauhinia Square among others. “I love my country, I also love my body,” Xinhua cites him as saying in his blog. “I contrast my tiny body with the ‘miracle of the world’ through the popular exercise – push ups.”

One can only be thankful he chose the push up and not the squat jump.

Xinhua, though, got it wrong. Ou explains on his blog that the photos were taken last year as an experimental project with a number of famous artists. The images have recently been hijacked by bloggers mocking the official handling of the mysterious death of a teenage girl which had sparked riots in Weng’an County, Guizhou province, last month. Bloggers started using the catchphrase “doing push ups,” to poke fun at the official explanation of her death which stated the 15-year-old girl was not raped and murdered as rioters claimed but had drowned herself while her male friend did push ups nearby. Ou distances himself from the online protest saying “I love my motherland,” and that the purpose of his naked push up collection -- is opposite to that of the bloggers.

The odd thing is Xinhua still published the photo story despite its sensitive political connotations, albeit without any context.

At the same time Ou’s bare buttocks were pumping on China Daily’s Web site, agencies reported that the government was getting skittish about the country’s night-time entertainment industry. As part of a campaign against drugs and prostitution, staff at karaoke bars and nightclubs will be required to dress more conservatively and install see-through windows in private rooms to deter any hanky-panky. These measures weren’t specifically for the Olympics though, venues have until October 1 to comply.

However, the drive against sin – and any kind of fun at all – during the Olympics is very much in progress.

It started months back, with two major annual music festivals – the Midi Rock Festival and Chaoyang Park Music Festival -- going under. Organizers said the police couldn’t guarantee security with the extra work they needed to do preparing for the Games, which is more or less a face-saving way of banning them. Back in April, Maggie’s, a seedy bar famous for its Mongolian working girls, also padlocked its front door just weeks after forking out for a renovation. However that may be less to do with the Games than with some dodgy goings on in the underworld. Urban rumor has it that the bar shut shop after two of its hookers were found brutally murdered with their livers cut out. The Den, another working girl favorite, and Hooters next door are firmly in business, at least for now.

Police have been making regular raids on bar districts such as Sanlitun, warning club owners that during the Olympics it’s lights out at 2 am. Destination, the city’s only gay club, has had to block off their dance floor. The sight of hundreds of gay men clad in white singlets flirting on the street in the early hours of the morning was too much for the PSB. The club was told it was too small to be a club and it had to enlarge before they could let the gay boys dance again. The city’s main gay sauna was raided a couple of months back when some of the workers and patrons were detained for several days and only released after paying “fines,” according to an aids activist. Destination and a string of straight clubs lie alongside Worker’s Stadium, one of the Olympic venues. Because of this, club owners believe they may have to close down altogether during the three weeks of Games because the police are worried about security.

Another sensitive area is the diplomatic quarter of Jianguomen; police are naturally jittery about protecting all those embassies. Slap bang in the middle is Ritan Park, whose popular lakeside café bar, called The Stoneboat, lures expatriates and local Chinese alike with its live music – folk, jazz, maybe a little guitar solo or two. But because of “security concerns” the Stone Boat is now no longer allowed to hold concerts.
The main Olympic Village is way out in a bleak residential area near the north fourth ring road. There’s not much there to close down except for a wishful thinking TGI Friday’s and some hastily erected teahouses.
The entertainment magazines are pulling their hair as they can’t find anything fun to put in their events listings for August apart from the Olympics themselves.
“After three gruesome days of being passed around the diplomatic switchboard and playing telephone hide-and-go-seek with marketing execs, the list of confirmed Olympic events consists of precisely two items, both courtesy of the French embassy,” writes one of the main rags, City Weekend, on its website. The two events are a French cultural fair and “Marco Polo,” the ballet.
There is of course China’s “biggest ever Olympic Cultural Festival” to be held concurrently with the Games but it hasn’t seemed to generate much interest. Which is a shame as it will no doubt incorporate “harmonious” dances by happy ethnic minorities.
And as for the city’s gay boys: they may have lost their dance floor to the Olympics but at least they are free – with Xinhua’s blessing – to ogle Ou’s bare behind as he clenches in front of the Bird’s Nest.

Monday, July 21, 2008
Birth of a massacre myth
With the Beijing Olympics looming we see more attempts to remind the world about the alleged June 4, 1989, massacre of democracy-seeking students in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
The New York Times, which did so much to spread the original story of troops shooting student protesters there with abandon, has recently published several more articles condemning the alleged massacre, including one suggesting there should be an Olympic walkout. Other media, including Britain's usually impartial Guardian and Independent, and Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, have chimed in. None are interested in publishing rebuttals.

This effort is impressive, especially considering the overwhelming evidence that there was no Tiananmen Square massacre. A recent book by Madrid's ambassador to Beijing at the time, Eugenio Bregolat, notes that Spain's TVE channel had a television crew in the square at the time, and if there had been a massacre, they would have been the first to see it and record it.
He points out angrily that most of the reports of an alleged massacre were made by journalists hunkered down in the safe haven of the Beijing Hotel, some distance from the square.

Then there is Graham Earnshaw, a down-to-earth Reuters correspondent who spent the night of June 3-4 at the alleged site of the massacre — at the center of Tiananmen Square — interviewing students in detail until the troops finally arrived in the early dawn. He too failed to see any massacre. As he writes in his memoirs, "I was probably the only foreigner who saw the clearing of the square from the square itself."

Earnshaw confirms that most of the students had left peacefully much earlier and that the remaining few hundred were persuaded by the troops to do likewise.
His account is confirmed by Xiaoping Li, a former China dissident, now resident in Canada, writing recently in Asia Sentinel and quoting Taiwan-born Hou Dejian who had been on a hunger strike on the square to show solidarity with the students: "Some people said 200 died in the square and others claimed that as many as 2,000 died. There were also stories of tanks running over students who were trying to leave. I have to say I did not see any of that. I was in the square until 6:30 in the morning."

True, much that happened elsewhere in Beijing that night was ugly. The regime had allowed prodemocracy student demonstrators to occupy its historic Tiananmen Square for almost three weeks, despite the harm and inconvenience caused. Twice, senior members of Deng Xiaoping's regime had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate compromises with the students. Unarmed troops sent in to clear the square had been turned back by angry crowds of Beijing civilians.
When armed troops were finally sent in, they too met hostile crowds, but they kept advancing. Dozens of buses and troop-carrying vehicles were torched by the crowds, some with their crews trapped inside. In the panicky fighting afterward, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of civilians and students were killed. But that was a riot, not a deliberate massacre. And it did not happen in Tiananmen Square. So why all the reports of a "massacre"?

In a well-researched 1998 article in the Columbia Journalism Review titled "Reporting the Myth of Tiananmen and the Price of a Passive Press," the former Washington Post bureau chief in Beijing, Jay Mathews, tracks down what he calls the dramatic accounts that buttressed the myth of a student massacre.
He notes a widely disseminated piece by an alleged Chinese university student writing in the Hong Kong press immediately after the incident, describing machine guns mowing down students in front of the square monument (somehow Reuter's Earnshaw chatting quietly with the students in front of the same monument failed to notice this.
Mathews adds: "The New York Times gave this version prominent display June 12, just a week after the event, but no evidence was ever found to confirm the account or verify the existence of the alleged witness."

And for good reason, I suspect. The mystery report was very likely the work of U.S. and British black information authorities ever keen to plant anti-Beijing stories in unsuspecting media.
Mathews adds that Times reporter Nicholas Kristof, who had been in Beijing at the time, challenged the report the next day, but his article was buried on an inside page and so "the myth lived on." (I once tried in vain to rebut a 2004 anti-Beijing piece by New York Times opinion-page writer David Brooks, who claimed blandly that 3,000 students were massacred in the square.)

Another key source for the original massacre myth, Mathews says, was student leader Wu'er Kaixi, who claimed to have seen 200 students cut down by gunfire in the square. But, he notes, "It was later proven that he left the square several hours before the events he described." Mathews also lists an inaccurate BBC massacre report, filed from that out-of-sight Beijing Hotel.
The irony in all this, as Mathews points out, was that everyone, including himself, missed the real story. This was not the treatment of the students, who toward the end of their sit-in had deliberately courted trouble. The real story, as Earnshaw also notes, was the uprising of the civilian masses against a regime whose gray hand of corruption, oppression and incompetence ever since the Cultural Revolution days of the late 1960s had reduced an entire population to simmering resentment.

It was the concern over this proletarian rebellion rather than hatred of student calls for democracy that explains the ruthlessness of the regime's subsequent crackdown on alleged perpetrators. I can confirm some of this, having visited China frequently since the early 1970s.
Despite having organized single-handedly over Canberra's opposition an Australia table-tennis team to join the all-important "Ping-Pong diplomacy," I too suffered harassment from bloody-minded, single-track authorities. Meanwhile, one had only to walk around the back streets, in Shanghai especially, to feel the palpably sulfurous mood of the frustrated masses.
But that was China then. Today we have a very different China, and one far too important to be subjected to black information massacre myths, particularly since the world seems very happy to forget the very public massacres of students that have occurred elsewhere — Mexico in 1968 and Thailand in 1973, for starters. There, we saw no attempt by the authorities to negotiate problems. The troops moved in immediately. Hundreds died.

Photos have helped sustain the Tiananmen massacre myth. One showing a solitary student halting a row of army tanks is supposed to demonstrate student bravery in the face of military evil. In fact, it shows that at least one military unit showed restraint in the face of student provocation (reports say only one rogue unit did most of the evil that night).
Photos of lines of burning troop carriers are also used, as if they prove military mayhem. In fact, they prove crowd mayhem. Meanwhile, we see little photo support for the other side of the story.

Earnshaw notes how a photo of a Chinese soldier strung up and burned to a crisp was withheld by Reuters. Dramatic Chinese photos of solders incinerated or hung from overpasses have yet to be shown by Western media. Photos of several dead students on a bicycle rack near the square are more convincing.

Declassified reports from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at the time, and which used to confirm the Earnshaw/Hou accounts of square events (they have since been heavily censored), still carry a summary that mentions how the murder by students of a soldier trying to enter the square had triggered violence in the square's periphery.
Damage from the Tiananmen myth continues. It has been used repeatedly by Western hawks to sustain a ban on Western sales of arms to Beijing, including refusing even a request for riot-control equipment that Beijing says would have prevented the 1989 violence.

Gregory Clark is vice president of Akita International University and former China desk officer for Australia's Foreign Service. A Japanese translation of this article will appear on Note: All sources quoted above are available on the Internet, under Tiananmen.

China Polishes Glorious History for Olympics
1,000 volunteers flocked to the Taimiao Temple in the Forbidden City in Beijing, China on July 19. In front of the temple, a shrine to the emperors who ruled the country, they shouted slogans such as "Successful Olympics!" and "Go, China!"
The Beijing Olympics, which will open 10 days from today, is not least a stage for the Chinese to market their tradition and culture. The Chinese are determined to revive the glorious history of Chinese empires and re-emerge as the "center of the world," much like the Middle Kingdom.

Chinese traders rise again
Qianmen Street, one of the three landmarks of Beijing alongside the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Gate will be restored to an early 20th century streetscape in early August. "Laozihao" or time-honored brands which contributed to turning the street lined with long-standing stores into a prosperous area a century ago have made a comeback.
Chinese authorities will give subsidies to the owners of about 20 of the brands so they can prosper on this street recalling the last years of the Qing Dynasty. They include Quanjude, a roast duck restaurant that opened in 1864, Tongrentang, a herbal drugstore, Zhangyiyuan, a shop of high-brand teas, and Goubuli, a dumpling restaurant.
China wants to globalize these traditional brands. Quanjude, which has already been listed on the stock market, has declared it will become China's McDonald's by standardizing its recipes.

Reviving a history of victors
The time-honored brands are not the only things that are being restored. The Yuanmingyuan or Old Summer Palace, which was built in 1725, will be reopened after five years of restoration work on Tuesday. The palace was used by Yongzheng, the emperor during the heyday of the Qing Dynasty, as his office and garden. It fell into ruins after it was plundered by the allied forces of the U.K. and France in 1860 following their occupation of Beijing. Restoration began in 2001, when China won the bid to host the 2008 Olympics. The palace will now be restored to its original state despite the opposition many people expressed when the work began.
The Taihedian or Hall of Great Harmony, the biggest hall inside the Forbidden City where the emperors held their coronation ceremonies, was already reopened on July 16 after about two years of restoration. All the work is aimed at presenting foreign visitors during the Olympic events with memories of the empire. Many predict that the opening ceremony on Aug. 8 will focus on the heyday of the Tang Dynasty and its huge empire dating from 618 to 907 A.D.

Confucius and socialism
China has put Confucius at the head of the project to revive its glorious history and link the past with the present. Out of about 200 Confucian shrines across the country, the Confucian Temple in Beijing has recently been renovated, its sign reading, "Thanks to the effect of Confucianism, China's GDP in 1800” -- middle of the Qing Dynasty -- accounted for 33 percent of the entire world’s GDP, far outdistancing that of the whole of Europe at 28 percent and the U.S. at 0.8 percent."

The Confucian Temple in Beijing has separate exhibition halls displaying Confucian precepts, such as "Shaokang" (well-off society) and "Yirenweiben" (making people the center), which modern Chinese communist leaders such as Deng Xiaoping and current President Hu Jintao have favored.
Behind the face of Confucius, who has been reinvented as a kind of Chinese superstar, a home-grown, reform-minded socialism has been promoted.
Daniel Bell, a professor of political philosophy at Tsinghua University, says China is changing into a “Confucian socialist republic."
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A'Mouth-watering' and insightful Aljazeera program on Beijing's culinary delights:

Can't wait for the opening ceremony!!!:):) Just 10 more days to go, wooohhhooo!!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sydney Italian, Writer's, Jazz,....and Film Festival:)

Above: I wandered past this at the Strand Arcade.....i loved the Chinese-style cheongsam lady poster and the entire Chinese style look (the poster as the backdrop n fan w red lantern) of the window decor and thus took some photos of these...
I went to the Sydney Italian, Writer's, Sydney Jazz and Blues, as well as the 55th Sydney Film Festival in the past month or so...Sydney being one of the world's pre-eminent and cosmopolitan cities, hosts a myriad of festivals throughout the year...

Here's the updates of the events: :)

Coffee/Cocoa with Blueberry Cheese Cake with cream AND ice-cream at a cafe in Newtown...
cos one person wanted just the cheesecake by itself, whilst i wanted with cream and another person wanted with ice-cream, we ended up with the above;)

1) The Sydney Italian Festival:
I went to the Sydney Italian Fiesta with my housemates back in late May and superbly and immensely enjoyed our time there....there was plenty of great food, great music, and great atmosphere with flags fluttering around overhead us...There was even a wonderful little joyful skit at the end....later, we had a quaint nice dinner on Stanley Street at this warm intimate restaurant which served delicious food, with a price tag that was...but the lighting and atmosphere was great i think...good place for friends to have a nice little dinner as well as for romantic couples..:)

2) The Sydney Writer's Festival: I went to this writer's speech and book-signing event at Ultimo Community Library for Jan Wong's 'Red China Blues'. She is a Canadian-Chinese author from Montreal whom was at the Sydney Writer's Fest to promote her new book 'Beijing Confidential'....I enjoyed her talk greatly as she reminiscined on her time in Beijing as a starry-eyed Maoist in the early 1970s when she travelled to Beijing and was one of only two foreigners to study at the prestigious Peking University...

I promptly bought her first autobiography 'Red China Blues' after the session and had her autograph it for very first book autographed by the author on the first page!!:) It was a great read too!!

3) The Sydney Jazz and Blues Festival, Darling Harbour:

This is the annual Jazz and Blues Festival in Sydney and i went this yr, but it was not particularly fantastic...or maybe i expected too much, though it could have been the dreary weather as it was raining quite heavily that day...but nevertheless a good experience...

4) The Sydney Film Festival:

This is the 55th anniversary of the Sydney Film Festival. I applied and became an official volunteer of the Film Festival given my interest in films and i thought it would look good on my resume having been an official international film festival volunteer. It was a good experience, counting ballots for voting forms, ushering people, answering patron enquiries, and having access to the cinema hall where your usual cinema-goers would not have access to....also met the director of 'Tokyo Sonata' a Japanese film and 'Up the Yangtze' by Canadian-Chinese director Yung Chang..went to a director's talk and got to see Yung Chang up close....i even asked him a couple of questions if i rem correctly!:):)

We volunteers also received complimentary tickets for the closing night film 'Persepolis' which is an animated motion picture on the life of a 9 yr old Iranian girl during and the immediate aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Below: An old-time favourite feature of my blog-Food Pix!!!!:):)

Above: Miso Tofu with Rice and Nichigo Press, the Australian Japanese Newspaper, which i try to read to keep up my Nihongo level (despite making no progress since i've never found the time to actually get down to it!!) at a japanese restaurant somewhere in the city...

Below: Sashimi Don, Raw Fish on Rice with Miso Soup at Ramenkan, Haymarket.....