Not for the faint of heart or weak of bladder, Wang Bing’s two-and-a-half-hour “Three Sisters” documents extreme poverty in rural China with the compassionate eye and inexhaustible patience of a director whose curiosity about his country’s unfortunates never seems to wane.
Filming for six months in a remote hillside village in 2010, Mr. Wang follows the spirit-crushing lives of a short-tempered peasant and his three little daughters….
“Three Sisters” makes its point in lice-infested hovels and with the bleeding feet of endlessly coughing children. A communal meal at a great-uncle’s house reveals village elders sniffing at the government’s proposed “rural revival,” knowing that it really means extra land fees for already strapped peasants. Clearly, the country’s economic boom is not trickling down, leaving them frozen in a way of life as ancient as the ground beneath their feet.
From The Times' review (a Critics’ Pick) of Three Sisters (no relation to Chekhov’s), a documentary opening today in the States.
Not sure I can stomach this one, but it sounds eye-opening, for sure.
When superhero film “Iron Man 3” makes its Chinese debut, it will include top Chinese actress Fan Bingbing and some footage shot inside China - additions aimed at tapping into the country’s lucrative and booming cinema market….
Ben Kingsley plays the “Mandarin”, a half-Chinese villain - the kind of thing that could be a red flag for censors. In the Chinese version, however, the name is translated as “Man Daren”, removing the overtly Chinese connotation.
The Chinese reaction to [Jon Stewart] ranges from bewilderment—his Peter Dinklage reference in a joke about Kim Jong-un’s height may have lost something in the translation—to envy. His homage this week to his Chinese viewers sparked a discussion of its own. “I hope everybody sees this. Don’t mistake it for just a comedy show,” wrote one person on Weibo, the micro-blogging site. “When will China have its own Jon Stewart?” asked another.
[Here is the “Big Ratings in Giant China” segment from The Daily Show.]
The corruption, income inequality and environmental degradation that have accompanied China’s breakneck economic development over the last 30 years have provoked social unrest. In 2010, China had 180,000 “mass incidents,” the official euphemism for protests — a fourfold increase over the previous decade. Methods of social control that once worked like charms are now losing their efficacy. So the Central Party School and its provincial subsidiaries, which train China’s leaders, are revamping curriculums. Each year they send student-officials to Harvard to study Western management.
But they are often finding that it’s the old feudal customs, so repugnant to Mao, that help them keep a grip on society.
Life for the almighty Chinese government official has come to this: car pools, domestically made wristwatches and self-serve lunch buffets.
In the four months since he was anointed China’s paramount leader and tastemaker-in-chief, President Xi Jinping has imposed a form of austerity on the nation’s famously free-spending civil servants, military brass and provincial party bosses.
The cost of environmental degradation in China in 2010 was about $230 billion, or 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, an official Chinese news report said this week….
The estimated loss for that year was three times that for 2004, in local currency terms. The $230 billion figure, or 1.54 trillion renminbi, is based on costs rising from pollution and damage to the ecosystem, but the figure was incomplete because the researchers did not have a complete set of data.
Some of the thousands of terms included on the lists are predictably political. Translations show they include “student demonstrations,” “oil protest,” “Tiananmen slaughter,” “Amnesty International,” and “Reporters Without Borders.” But there are also a large number that are sex- and pornography-related—like “sex chat,” “live nude chat service,” and “kinky cinema.” Some cover violence, such as “Molotov cocktails” and “hired killer.” And it doesn’t end there. The software scans for references to drugs like ecstasy, methamphetamine, and ketamine—while bizarre terms that translate into English as “ancient horse recipe” and “throwing eggs” could also land users on a watch list.
Two million tombs in Zhoukou, one of the oldest cities on the mainland, have been removed over the past few months under a new provincial government policy to make more land available for agriculture.
A spokesman from the city’s civil affairs bureau, which is in charge of the grave demolitions, said the city government had no intention of halting the campaign, even though the State Council last Friday struck out a clause from regulations that allowed for forced demolition of grave sites.
“We are still clearing graves for farmland and we will definitely continue doing that,” he said. The spokesman said the State Council announcement only meant the civil affairs bureau had no right to carry out compulsory demolitions. “The courts and the police bureau will instead take responsibility for execution,” he said.
The revised version of the funeral and interment control regulation removed a sentence in Article 20 that allowed for forced demolitions.
The title is apt. It’s basically 300+ pages of a man and woman chastely waiting for the man to extricate himself from a loveless marriage so that they can marry. More thrilling plots have been devised, but I’d recommend it for readers who revel in detailed observations and sensory language. I suspect it won the National Book Award largely for just those qualities — details about daily life in 1960s - ’80s China must have seemed especially novel (as it were) in 1999, when the book was published.
For the last four months, Chinese hackers have persistently attacked The New York Times, infiltrating its computer systems and getting passwords for its reporters and other employees.
After surreptitiously tracking the intruders to study their movements and help erect better defenses to block them, The Times and computer security experts have expelled the attackers and kept them from breaking back in.
The timing of the attacks coincided with the reporting for a Times investigation, published online on Oct. 25, that found that the relatives of Wen Jiabao, China’s prime minister, had accumulated a fortune worth several billion dollars through business dealings.
For years, many China observers have asserted that the party’s authoritarian system endures because ordinary Chinese buy into a grand bargain: the party guarantees economic growth, and in exchange the people do not question the way the party rules. Now, many whose lives improved under the boom are reneging on their end of the deal, and in ways more vocal than ever before. Their ranks include billionaires and students, movie stars and homemakers.
Few are advocating an overthrow of the party. Many just want the system to provide a more secure life. But in doing so, they are demanding something that challenges the very nature of the party-controlled state: transparency.
I first noticed that something odd was happening around midday on Saturday, when Beijing passed the first of a series of unscientific measurements I use to take stock. First came the “indoor smog” test. When my wife and I walked into a mall in Beijing on Saturday, the air inside the vaulted-glass atrium had the color and weight of fog over a fishing village at dawn. We hadn’t noticed it before we got there because we’ve largely engineered our lives to avoid having to dwell on the issue. We live in a one-story house with windows that face the yard, in part because we discovered, years ago, that sweeping views from a high floor are just a daily reminder of all that you can’t see. We gave up running outside years ago and bought a treadmill, after a doctor-friend weighed the issue and concluded that running inside was better than going without exercise. This weekend, I climbed on the treadmill and wheezed to the end of a half an hour before deciding that we had now passed my next threshold: the “screw the treadmill” test.
By Sunday, Beijing was advising people not to leave their houses. The airport cancelled dozens of flights because pilots couldn’t see, and the capital ordered cars off the roads. Factories were shutting down, and the Web site of the environmental-monitoring center crashed….
“China has been running the world’s largest and most successful eugenics program for more than thirty years, driving China’s ever-faster rise as the global superpower…. For generations, Chinese intellectuals have emphasized close ties between the state (guojia), the nation (minzu), the population (renkou), the Han race (zhongzu), and, more recently, the Chinese gene-pool (jiyinku). Traditional Chinese medicine focused on preventing birth defects, promoting maternal health and “fetal education” (taijiao) during pregnancy, and nourishing the father’s semen (yangjing) and mother’s blood (pingxue) to produce bright, healthy babies. Many scientists and reformers of Republican China (1912-1949) were ardent Darwinians and Galtonians. They worried about racial extinction (miezhong) and “the science of deformed fetuses” (jitaixue), and saw eugenics as a way to restore China’s rightful place as the world’s leading civilization after a century of humiliation by European colonialism.”—Evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller, responding to Edge.org’s 2013 Annual Question: “What should we be worried about?” His essay is fascinating, though the final paragraph — in which (far as I can tell) he basically validates the eugenics program and directs his concern towards the West’s potential reaction — seems at odds with the rest of it.
The U.S. Embassy in Iceland might be 70 people. Europe’s largest presence is France, with only a 20 person embassy. Why would China need one with 500 people?
The answer? Natural resources. Aluminum, rare earth metals, oil, gas, copper, gold, and possibly diamonds are irresistible wealth opportunities in the Arctic region. Melting ice will give way to new mega-mining operations like never seen before.
Then Mr. Degeorges answered his own question about China’s need — or desire — for such a large embassy in Reykjavik: “It gives you the long-term perspective that you can expect in Iceland.”
Everyone is jostling for space in the melting Arctic these days, it seems, as my colleague Elisabeth Rosenthal recently reported. That includes China, which has no Arctic territory.
Yet as the Arctic ice cap melts, it is revealing riches — principally minerals, including important rare earths, but also water, oil and gas. Greenland potentially has up to 10 percent of the world’s freshwater reserves, Mr. Degeorges said.
The coldest winter in decades is causing blizzards in northern China and threatens electric power supplies in the south where the government is not used to dealing with such freezing temperatures, China media said Wednesday.
About 180,000 cattle have died in the north while hundreds of emergency shelters have opened in southern China to help people who do not have adequate housing or heat to survive the below-average cold.
China’s leaders have tried honoring Ai Weiwei and bribing him with the offer of high positions. They have tried jailing him, fining him and clubbing him so brutally that he needed emergency brain surgery. In desperation, they have even begged him to behave — and nothing works….
There has been a monastery in Tagong since A.D. 652, when the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo built the last of a series of 108 monasteries he had ordered constructed across his kingdom. (It is said to be where his Chinese bride had stopped on her way to their wedding in 640.) Over the next millennium and a half the monastery rose and fell in importance, changing allegiance several times to different Buddhist sects before its destruction during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). In the 1980s work began on rebuilding the monastery, and today’s temple is slowly returning to some of its former glory and size.
As Bill Bishop wrote recently on DealBook, China’s management of the Internet “has not been encouraging for those who want to believe the leadership will push reforms.”
“I have lived in Beijing since 2005, and these have been the most draconian few days of Internet restrictions I have experienced,” he said last month.
“Indiscriminate blocking of major parts of the global Internet is not going to help China in its quest to internationalize the renminbi and make it a reserve currency,” Bill said. “Internet controls at the level of the last few days may also deter foreign firms from moving their regional headquarters to China.”
A rejoinder to the much-blogged “You’ll Never Be Chinese,” perhaps? Particularly apropos for me, as my stint in China comes to a close (though if I had to predict which viewpoint I’ll align with two months from now, I’ll go out on a limb and guess it will remain the original, not the rejoinder).
On Dec. 14, the same day that Adam Lanza shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School, there was a rampage at another elementary school in China’s central Henan province that left 23 young children bleeding and wounded.
Amid that horror, Chinese netizens gave an outpouring of condolences for Americans affected by the Newtown tragedy. Throughout the weekend, thousands of Chinese shared online images of lit candles and heartfelt expressions of sympathy for the 20 children and seven adults who were killed in Newtown, Conn….
As in the US, some Chinese pointed to the stark difference in death tolls as an illustration of the differences in gun policies between the two countries. (The Chinese government bans gun ownership outright.)…
Yet these arguments were less numerous than people in the US might have guessed. Instead, many netizens in China were pointing out a different contrast: the relative lack of information about China’s own rampage. In fact, many directed their anger at the state-run news agencies for playing up America’s tragedy while ignoring their own.
In the days following both attacks, China’s state-run media focused heavily on America’s tragedy, and provided very little real reporting on the school stabbings in Henan.
Not so new now, I suppose, since this article is from 2008. But I just read it and still found it relevant and interesting. A should-read for anyone interested in China + international relations and/or politics and/or economics.