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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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Robinhood Traders, Unite in a Stock Strike

Robinhood traders and young investors have been a big factor in this year’s gravity-defying bull market.

That means they have the markets over a barrel.

I have long thought about how new forms of general strikes could have more impact than marches and other watery campaigns. If large numbers of traders agreed to pull out a mere 5-10% of the value of their portfolios on the same day in a stand against, say, climate change, the powers that be would be forced to stand up and pay attention.

Photo by Sides Imagery from Pexels

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WeChat Censorship Example

Last June, I sent my friend in China a voice text while I was back in the US for a visit. I ranted about annoying people in my home state. (I was on a short kayaking trip, and while transporting a kayak someone intentionally ran over my paddle that fell onto the street.)

My message rambled into talk about living in China, and in the process I mentioned Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet.

Surprise, surprise — it never went through. And the “resend” button that usually appears if it’s a network issue never popped up either. I checked with my friend when I returned to Beijing and even looked at his side of the thread on his phone. Nothing had ever appeared on his end.

On my end, the message just pulsed ominously. Almost two years later, it’s still doing the same thing.

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DJ GB

After much fiddling around, I have finally gotten my Soundcloud page organized. Though I don’t DJ anymore, it’s nice to have some of the mixes I made over the years collected and reachable in place. And for my loyal fans, all three of you now can listen to them at will and don’t have to ask if I still have the mp3 files!

Good workout music too.

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Idea Sketch: Carbon League of America

Carbon dioxide molecule
Courtesy of Royalty Free Vectors by Meggi - Vectorstock 21149685
Carbon dioxide molecule
Courtesy of Royalty Free Vectors by Meggi – Vectorstock 21149685
Idea

Local groups organized through employers get together to plant trees. The groups make up a larger national network called the Carbon League of America that as whole would represent a massive endeavor to capture carbon that people have pumped into the atmosphere since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. A 2019 research project by the Crowther Lab in Switzerland showed the earth has a lot of extra space for planting trees, enough to put a major dent in this accumulation. The work would extend to protecting existing forests and helping them flourish.

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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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Last Storage Trip from Beijing

I stepped outside on Christmas Day 2019 to a gloriously foggy morning. I was overjoyed. Fog is my favorite weather.

“Ah, that’s right! Michigan has weather! This is why I moved back.”*

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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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Gripping Collections of Packaged Foodstuffs

A special edition Japanese brand DyDo soda with Dragon Ball Z character Detective Conan (according to a cursory online search). Some people even sell empties on eBay.

One day I noticed I had a long-running habit of photographing packaged food items. These photos run back to Jecheon, South Korea, 2003. Others were taken in Detroit, 2013 and 2016. Most were taken in Beijing in recent years.

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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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Early Workplace Impressions

The old CCTV News control room, or “gallery” as it’s called internally

Once I arrive to work at CCTV Headquarters, I make my way to a newsroom in “Tower Two”.

This tower is treated as the lesser of the building’s two legs. One coworker who carries around a handheld air quality tester recently noted to me that Tower One has much cleaner air. That’s where management offices are housed.

When I first got here in 2016, I wondered if the newsroom would be a caricature of a tight-assed commie environment, with humorless Party hardliners stomping around everywhere, giving gimlet-eyed glares at everyone as they tried to spot hints of subversion. A strict camp for party doctrine.

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Views of CCTV Headquarters

Window view from CCTV Headquarters with side of tower in frame

CCTV Headquarters has exactly the feel one would expect from a paranoid control state’s base of media operations.

The predominating experience inside is that of walking through nondescript passageways, gray in color and climate.

Sidelong glances, outright stares, and even suspicious glares from passing Chinese staffers in the halls are a constant feature of work-life. I get expect them as soon as I leave the newsroom. Even though I’m still in the work area of CGTN, the channel I work on, there will always be people immediately outside the glass walls of our newsroom who will look at me askance.

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Love Letter to a Storage Yard

Every time I fly back home, it takes a full day just to leave the Detroit Metro Airport area. This is despite having two cars nearby. They’re at a storage yard only four miles away, but getting them requires going through an elaborate operation involving hiking and hotels.

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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.