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China’s Paternalistic Attitude toward Korea

Image by BON-SIL KOO from Pixabay

The Diplomat has a piece on the backlash in South Korea against Chinese undermining of Korea’s cultural authenticity.

I noticed when I lived in Beijing a distinctly paternalistic air would come from Chinese people when the subject of Korea — North or South — came up (but especially South). There’d be a tone of incredulity in their voice and a look of skepticism would come across their face, as if to say, “You don’t really take our little Korea seriously, do you? They’re not even a real people; they’re just a wayward band of Chinese from the old days.” There’d sometimes be comments to that effect to go with it, as though Korea were a renegade province.

They waved off mentions of the accomplishments of South Korea, too. Never mind that it takes a lot more effort and responsibility of a country’s people to run a democracy, much less one of the most successful democracies in the world, one that kicked its corrupt president out of office and then had one of the most effective responses to COVID-19 in the world, despite — like Taiwan — being on the doorstep of the country where the outbreak started. It riles China to have these awkward counter-examples to its authoritarianism right next door.

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Chinese censors physically remove pages from print editions of The Economist

You probably have heard of China’s “Great Firewall” that blocks outside news sites and social media. But somewhat to my surprise, I saw firsthand that the country also censors print publications.

My surprise wasn’t in the censoring so much as it was in the method: physically removing stories from print newspapers. I had a print subscription to the weekly newspaper The Economist, and the copies would show up with stories on China removed. Often the entire section on China had been taken out.

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A Glimpse of Hong Kong Subversion

It’s very satisfying to at last be able to put up this post. It is full of — gasp! — messages against China’s central government. I visited Hong Kong in late November, about a month before leaving China for good. There I was able to take many photos of graffiti and other anti-government messaging put up by protesters.

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Gallery: China Zun

This building has become in my mind a symbol of my time in Beijing. It’s the first thing I found myself absorbed in when I first arrived. It’s across the street from where I work and was right outside the window of the first place I sat down at there, at a little hallway table meeting with an HR person. It was visible from the roof of the first apartment building I lived in, where I’d go at sunrise to stretch and drink coffee. It’s visible from my current apartment.

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An insightful visit to the National Museum of China

Shenzhou 5 spacecraft reentry capsule, from China’s first manned space mission in October 2003, and the spacesuit worn by the astronaut who was inside it, Yang Liwei

Seeing a new strain of wheat being touted in the same room as the spacesuit of China’s first astronaut was the moment that awakened me to the country’s perspective. It went from being the backward agrarian country American parents once used to guilt their kids into eating their vegetables (“People are starving in China, and you won’t even finish your plate!”) to being an economic powerhouse, in just a few decades.

This came during an October 2016 visit to the National Museum on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and was surely the reaction curators hoped to elicit. The Chinese people are coming from a point of view the rest world overlooks, underestimates, or is just plain unaware of.

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Fiat Currency

My fascination with Chinese money continues…

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Hong Kong Money is Cool

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Street Banner Exhortations

Throughout China’s capital are red street banners with white lettering urging people to be more civilized, root out dark forces, not smoke, and engage in better behaviors.

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Pocket Documentary: Commute to CCTV Tower

Stuck an old iPhone in my shirt pocket and hit record for my commute to and from work. That’s it. Raw, simple way to preserve a period in my life and to give the curious an idea of what it’s like to commute in Beijing by shared bike.

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Tiananmen Ride

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while: Stick my phone in my shirt pocket and let it record while I ride a bike through Beijing traffic.

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Views from My Cell

My second apartment in Beijing is, despite its sometimes prison cell-like feel, much better than my first. It’s tiny but was redone from floor to ceiling before I moved in. The floors are covered in big marble-like tiles that are so polished and new they have a mirror effect. The cupboards and sinks and windows and everything are new.

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Beijing Bike Rides

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“Limited Capacity for Civil Conduct”

How public rules are expressed in China.

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The Dongyue Temple ‘Departments’ in Beijing

One of the “departments” of the Dongyue Temple, Beijing

The Dongyue Temple in Beijing — one of the most astonishing things I’ve come across in my years living in Asia.

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Surreal Jershway

This is one of my surrealist video works.

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Gallery: Beijing’s Olympic Park and Palace Museum

Welcome to Beijing’s Olympic Park

Many times I have ridden a bicycle from my apartment past the Palace Museum (Forbidden City). After three years living in Beijing, it was time I went inside. And I finally hit another spot I long needed to see, the Olympic Park in Beijing.

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The ‘Grassroots’ Propaganda Trip to Yunnan

Doorway of home in Yunnan province ethnic village. Christmas wishes aren’t sanctioned Party messaging, a producer explained.

In late January, CGTN sent me to Yunnan province in southwestern China. This was as part of a “grassroots trip” to “bring foreigners a better understanding of China”. I was on a four-person crew — cameraman, planner, producer, and myself. We were joined by crews from CGTN’s other foreign language channels: Russian, Arabic, Spanish, and French. There were about 25 of us in total.

CGTN regularly holds these trips to China’s farther-flung regions, such as Xinjiang and Tibet. The tours are meant to give the impression that they in involve genuine in-the-field reporting. Not coincidentally, these regions are where China draws the sharpest rebukes internationally over its oppressive policies. They are home to many of the country’s “ethnic minorities”, as opposed to the main Han ethnic group that makes up more than 90 percent of the population.

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Gallery: Visit to the Great Wall of China

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A visit to Beijing’s Tiantan Park

Gallery: Beijing’s Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) park

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Making of a Jianbing

Beijing’s only real street food worth mentioning, the jianbing is a worker’s breakfast of tasty, greasy, slightly spicy, fried batter, egg, meat, and other fixins. I got a video of it being made on my way home from visiting the Public Security Bureau in Dongzhimen to pick up my renewed work permit for my second year in China. This street vendor was right outside the entrance to the Dongzhimen subway station.