Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why Beijing Always "Wins"

With the recent events in China -- including the sentencing of Liu Shaobo, the January 1st demonstrations in Hong Kong, and the withdrawal of Google, I am reminded of a exchange I had ten years ago with a Chinese friend.

Wang was a post-doc in mechanical engineering at Northwestern. We had become partners in a new Internet venture -- a "global online marketplace for metalcasting" -- Castingtrade.com! He had come from one of the most prestigious universities in China, and he was active in organizing Chinese students at universities in the Chicago area.

Artist Zhang Huan with
Chinese character meaning "no".
One day, I was expounding to Wang on my observation that many of China's best and brightest were remaining in the United States after university studies here. I attributed this at least in part to political repression in China. I told Wang that I thought this had two main implications.

First, China's loss was America's gain. Our country had always benefitted from being a magnet to the best and the brightest. More than anything else, America's competitive advantage in the world lies in the fact that we will always win the "war for talent."

Second, that equilibrium would eventually re-establish itself. Once China's leaders woke up and smelled the coffee -- and realized that they were suffering a debilitating brain drain -- they would realize they had no choice but to opt for political liberalization. (According to this theory, the best way for the United States to help China was to continue bleeding them of their best and brightest at an accelerating pace!)

Wang smiled and said, "That's good as far as it goes, but there's one thing you don't understand. What you are calling "the best and the brightest," the leaders in China call "troublemakers." A hundred thousand Ph.D.'s stay behind in the U.S.? Two hundred thousand? A million? Fine! Let them! There's more where that came from! China's got nothing if not people!"

China's conflict with Google -- in fact, with the entire Internet -- is turning a powerful magnifying glass on this phenomenon. Maybe Beijing will continue to "win." I shudder, however, to think what victory looks like . . . .


Related posts


What does it mean when we see the signs of protest written on the human body?

(See The New Face of Social Protest In Hong Kong )









It may be difficult to see today that the success of our movement in the future will depend on Chinese activists having the same freedoms that activists in the West enjoy. But, I predict, that is precisely what will make all the difference.

(See What is the US Peace and Justice Movement Doing for Dissidents in China?)





Doesn't politics and diplomacy call for the deft engagement with figures such as Ilham Tohti, in order to find breakthroughs that accommodate everyone, rather than a scorched earth approach? One answer that comes to mind: power holders in China are much more familiar with other ideas about how to "send a message."

(See CHINA: Where Minority Nostalgia is One Thing, Minority POLITICS Quite Another )


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Latest HK Prohibition

This is one of a series of photos shared via Twitter from demonstrations in Hong Kong on January 1, 2010. The images were aggregated with the term #0101hk.

I liked this sign before I even knew what it meant:


NO gongneng zubie!


(Source: dookaz, BachLau on Twitter)

Of course, I knew it was saying "No [something]!" but it took some effort before I figured out that it meant "No functional constituencies!"

Perfect! It can go right in the gallery with these other examples of wordless bureaucratic-speak from the unparalleled world of Hong Kong civil society:


Leisure and Cultural Services Department (Hong Kong)
No playing of remote controlled model car
No dogs allowed
No damage of plants
No hawking. Offenders will be prosecuted
No drying of linen and clothes
No skateboarding
Please keep clean
No cycling


(Other 1/1/10 images from Hong Kong discussed in Scarry Thoughts.)


Related posts

In the January 2010 Hong Kong demonstrations, black- and white-costumed protesters with placards that said that "functional constituencies trample workers" reminded me of commedia dell'arte characters.

(See Black and White in HK )













Large protests in Hong Kong have been occuring in Hong Kong for decades. Street demonstrations at the beginning of 2010 exhibited a new high in diversity, expression, and energy.

(See #0101hk: Visual Imagery of Hong Kong Protests Jan 1 2010 )






The universal sign for "forbidden." If only it were that easy . . . .

(See the No Drones Network webiste. )

Black and White in HK

This is one of a series of photos shared via Twitter from demonstrations in Hong Kong on January 1, 2010. The images were aggregated with the term #0101hk.

This image really caught my eye:


"Functional constituencies trample workers."


(Source: sk0207, stellakwok on Twitter)

(Their placards say that "functional constituencies trample workers.")

The use of costume reminded me of commedia dell'arte costumes:


Pierrot (r, in white)
Vasilij Suhaev and Alexandre Yakovlev:
Harlequin and Pierrot (Self-Portraits of
and by Suhaev and A. Yakovlev), 1914.
Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg.


Il Dottore (The Doctor)


Commedia_dell'arte is a highly allusive form of satirical theater from Renaissance Italy, with a strong emphasis on human frailty. Pierrot, a sad clown, wears white. Il Dottore is "a local, angry, disruptive busybody who doesn't listen to anyone else from any of the fields that he claims to know about, which is many (medicine, law, etc.)."

Wouldn't it be something if China could adopt a language of political dissent that includes colorful allusion and metaphor and symbolism and satire . . . without being considered seditious?

Of course, China has always had colorful allusion and metaphor and symbolism and satire:


Cantonese opera: General arrayed in white


Peking Opera - Jing character
"The bla ck face indicates either a rough and bold character or
an impartial and selfless personality"
(description: China National Tourist Office Sydney)


So what's missing?

(Other 1/1/10 images from Hong Kong discussed in Scarry Thoughts.)


Related posts

Years later . . .  I began to take seriously the importance of demons and demon-quelling as a metaphor. (And that includes here and now in our own culture.)

(See Channeling Zhong Kui (the Demon Queller))











"No functional constituencies!" The jig is up: people in Hong Kong want direct elections.

(See Latest HK Prohibition )
















Can you think of a concrete symbol of a social protest movement that has gained as much traction?

(See HONG KONG'S UMBRELLA: An Icon for the Ages )











Large protests in Hong Kong have been occuring in Hong Kong for decades. Street demonstrations at the beginning of 2010 exhibited a new high in diversity, expression, and energy.

(See #0101hk: Visual Imagery of Hong Kong Protests Jan 1 2010 )

Saturday, January 2, 2010

I {heart} HK

This is one of a series of photos shared via Twitter from demonstrations in Hong Kong on January 1, 2010. The images were aggregated with the term #0101hk.

We always talk about how Chinese characters can be used expressively, but finally someone's actually done it:


"I HATE power patronage."


Translation: "I HATE power patronage." (Source: virtualpanda on Twitter)

The term yin quan or "power patronage," comes from the idea of a tree that grows in the shelter of others. Cronyism and power patronage are a constant problem in Chinese politics.

The element meaning "heart" in the term "hate" -- common to many terms having to do with emotions -- is given negative emphasis here using black, much as Milton Glaser did with a red "love" heart decades ago for the city of New York:


"I ❤ NY"


(Other 1/1/10 images from Hong Kong discussed in Scarry Thoughts.)



Related posts

In the days and weeks ahead, we have an enormous opportunity to better understand how people in one of the most important places in the world think and operate. What would be truly valuable would be for us to convene many more conversations about the underlying issues, and the big emerging directions.

(See Empire, Chinese Style ("Why the Leung Face?") )



Large protests in Hong Kong have been occuring in Hong Kong for decades. Street demonstrations at the beginning of 2010 exhibited a new high in diversity, expression, and energy.

(See #0101hk: Visual Imagery of Hong Kong Protests Jan 1 2010 )






Years later . . . I began to take seriously the importance of demons and demon-quelling as a metaphor. (And that includes here and now in our own culture.)

(See Channeling Zhong Kui (the Demon Queller))

HK: No More Con Games

This is one of a series of photos shared via Twitter from demonstrations in Hong Kong on January 1, 2010. The images were aggregated with the term #0101hk.

I loved this image for its juxtaposition of irreverent Hong Kong swindle-talk with the earnest "Democracy Wall" of the early period of liberalization on the Chinese mainland:


"Not once, not ever!
Say 'NO!' to con men!
Say 'NO!' to the Chief Executive!"


The individual poster is a study in Chinese economy of words: "Not once, not ever! 'No!' to con men! 'No!' to the Chief Executive." (Source: yalpoon on Twitter)

The term lao qian or "old thousand," means "con man" and is a familiar genre in Hong Kong film. It gives the placard overtones of "I wasn't born yesterday."

Behind the demonstrator, you can see "Democracy Wall" (minzhu qiang). The original Democracy Wall was an experiment in expression and liberalization in mainland China in the late '70s during the post-Mao, post-Gang of Four thaw.


Citizen media: Dazi bao ("big character posters") in China


(Image from EastSouthWestNorth - more great images from late '70s China there.)

(Other 1/1/10 images from Hong Kong discussed in Scarry Thoughts.)


Related posts

In Hong Kong's "Umbrella Revolution," umbrella's have become canvases for posters and messages.

(See HONG KONG'S UMBRELLA: An Icon for the Ages )









Large protests in Hong Kong have been occuring in Hong Kong for decades. Street demonstrations at the beginning of 2010 exhibited a new high in diversity, expression, and energy.

(See #0101hk: Visual Imagery of Hong Kong Protests Jan 1 2010 )






The term yin quan or "power patronage," comes from the idea of a tree that grows in the shelter of others. Cronyism and power patronage are a constant problem in Chinese politics.

(See I {heart} HK

Friday, January 1, 2010

HK's Goddess of Democracy

This is one of a series of photos shared via Twitter from demonstrations in Hong Kong on January 1, 2010. The images were aggregated with the term #0101hk.

This political cartoon has special resonance for me:


"Passing the Torch: Tiananmen Square . . . Tehranimen Square"


It alludes to the "Goddess Democracy" statue that was erected in Tiananmen in 1989:



"Goddess of Democracy" statue
Tianmen Square, 1989


I remember at the time being at a meeting in Washington, DC, of business executives doing business with China. A small group of people was talking, and one American woman said, "Yes, but don't you think they went too far with the 'Democracy' statue?"

That was the moment when everything changed for me . . . .


Statue of Liberty


(For a full set of images from 01/01/10 in Hong Kong, see: http://picfog.com/search/0101hk)


See Visual Imagery of Hong Kong Protests Jan 1 2010


Other related posts

Beijing has an intuitive understanding that, in a way that is determined by conditions of unequal information, it can monolithically dictate terms, and that other, "distributed," parties will be hard-pressed to stand up to those terms. Specifically, Beijing observes a cynical cost/benefit calculus which says, "Sure, a few players will always wise up and exercise their options to move away from us; but, by and large, everyone else is too paralyzed to move."

(See Merry Christmas, Mr. Liu: The Prisoner's Dilemma in China)






Despite the difficulties associated with engaging in effective solidarity with dissidents in China, it is important to make the effort. A fundamental tenet of all peace and justice activism is that if we have the power to speak we can do anything, and if "they" succeed in shutting us up, it's the beginning of the end.

(See What is the US Peace and Justice Movement Doing for Dissidents in China?)











"How can it be that no one is speaking directly to what happened?" I wondered. "Should I say something? Is it just me? Can it be possible that most people aren't like me, tremendously troubled by how we should respond to what has happened in China?"

(See Remember June 4)











Recent events have not only proved that dissent is alive and well in Hong Kong, but that creative resistance is a Hong Kong strong suit. The June 4, 2014, commemoration of the Tiananmen Massacre in Hong Kong included these images . . .

(See Hong Kong Keeping the Memory of June 4 Alive (Who Knew?) )



The resistance art on the West Bank wall has become iconic for the movement to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestine. As a part of our preparation for this prayer justice walk on Good Friday, we created some sign boards that replicate art found on the Wall (also known as the Separation Barrier) in Israel. Palestinians and visitors from throughout the world have added their own street art, graffiti, and public art to the Wall, as a sign of protest, an invitation to peace, and a critique of the lack of global intervention. We are posting pictures of our recreations of some of these sign boards in honor of those amazing artists (some known and others anonymous). These signs should help each of us consider what our own role could be in ending the injustice in the Middle East – whether gaining further personal awareness about the Wall, writing to a legislator, reading more about the plight of Palestinian people, or supporting a justice organization working in the Middle East.

(See Completed "Wall" sign boards - for Good Friday event on the Working Group on the Middle East (MCS, ELCA) website.)

#0101hk: Visual Imagery of Hong Kong Protests Jan 1 2010

I've been posting selections from a series of photos shared via Twitter from demonstrations in Hong Kong on January 1, 2010. The images were aggregated with the term #0101hk.

(Background of the January 1, 2010, Hong Kong New Year's protests on Wikipedia.)


The New Face of Social Protest In Hong Kong

Flag Symbolism in Hong Kong

Long-suffering and Faceless in Hong Kong

HK's Goddess of Democracy

HK: No More Con Games

I {heart} HK

Latest HK Prohibition

Black and White in HK

Related posts



Beijing has an intuitive understanding that, in a way that is determined by conditions of unequal information, it can monolithically dictate terms, and that other, "distributed," parties will be hard-pressed to stand up to those terms. Specifically, Beijing observes a cynical cost/benefit calculus which says, "Sure, a few players will always wise up and exercise their options to move away from us; but, by and large, everyone else is too paralyzed to move."

(See Merry Christmas, Mr. Liu: The Prisoner's Dilemma in China)






Despite the difficulties associated with engaging in effective solidarity with dissidents in China, it is important to make the effort. A fundamental tenet of all peace and justice activism is that if we have the power to speak we can do anything, and if "they" succeed in shutting us up, it's the beginning of the end.

(See What is the US Peace and Justice Movement Doing for Dissidents in China?)











"How can it be that no one is speaking directly to what happened?" I wondered. "Should I say something? Is it just me? Can it be possible that most people aren't like me, tremendously troubled by how we should respond to what has happened in China?"

(See Remember June 4)











Recent events have not only proved that dissent is alive and well in Hong Kong, but that creative resistance is a Hong Kong strong suit. The June 4, 2014, commemoration of the Tiananmen Massacre in Hong Kong included these images . . .

(See Hong Kong Keeping the Memory of June 4 Alive (Who Knew?) )

Long-suffering and Faceless in Hong Kong

This is one of a series of photos shared via Twitter from demonstrations in Hong Kong on January 1, 2010. The images were aggregated with the term #0101hk.

What is the cultural referent of this image?


"This is a warning: Youth have run out of patience with dog-officials.
[We are] preparing for riot and bloodshed."


The sign says: "This is a warning: Youth have run out of patience with dog-officials. [We are] preparing for riot and bloodshed." (Sourced from: #0101hk @virtualpanda Does the SAR [Hong Kong] government really see without comprehending?)

It simultaneously appears refer to the ubiquitous Chinese migrant laborer attire:


Women working


And also to the Palestinian intifada:


Kaffiyeh


("A demonstrator wears a Palestinian kaffiyeh as she takes part in a demonstration, against Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, in Strasbourg January 10, 2009." Source: http://www.daylife.com/photo/0dL17vTbVF4jZ)

(Wikipedia explains the use of the keffiyeh as a Palestinian national symbol.)


(Other 1/1/10 images from Hong Kong discussed in Scarry Thoughts.)



Related posts

In a composition suggestive of a yin-yang symbol, a woman in a burka (but wearing audacious red glitter platform heels) is surrounded by genie-ish tableaus of the many male obsessions/pastimes that some of us rail about frequently -- sexualized pop singers, professional sports -- as well as some that we probably should rail about more (such as patriarchy in religion and political violence).

(See VIOLENCE: " . . . and the women must live with the consequences . . . " )







Jeans jacket plus veil?

(See Why Does Iran Arouse So Much Hostility?)














Can you think of a concrete symbol of a social protest movement that has gained as much traction?

(See HONG KONG'S UMBRELLA: An Icon for the Ages )












Large protests in Hong Kong have been occuring in Hong Kong for decades. Street demonstrations at the beginning of 2010 exhibited a new high in diversity, expression, and energy.

(See #0101hk: Visual Imagery of Hong Kong Protests Jan 1 2010 )






Posterboard and markers: $21.79
Leaflets: $7:50
Bullhorn: $99.99
Standing up for peace and justice when everyone around you is saying "Get a job!" and "GO F**K YOURSELF!": PRICELESS!

(See Dissent: PRICELESS!)