Here Be The Middle

Keeping an eye on china

Posts tagged china

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New Blog for 2013-2014!

Hi Followers! This blog was relatively dormant as I finished up a master’s degree in East Asian Studies at Yale this last academic year. I just graduated in May, and now I’m doing a year of language study at Tsinghua University in Beijing. I’ve had the opportunity to do this thanks to funding from the amazing Light Fellowship at Yale. As part of the fellowship requirements, I’ll be keeping a weekly blog of my thoughts and observations. Since Herebethemiddle houses my more academic thoughts about China, I didn’t want to mix in light cultural observations and language study thoughts and tips. I chose to start a separate Tumblr blog for this at:

Hopefully I’ll find the time to update Herebethemiddle from time to time, but I’ll be pretty busy, so stay abreast of what’s going on in my head at my new blog if you’re interested!

Filed under chinese tsinghua yale lightfellowship language beijing china iup

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China Sea Island Conflict: Round…Inifinity

After some Japanese activists apparently slipped past Japanese border officials and made it to the Diaoyu (or Senkaku, depending who you ask) Islands recently, waving around Japanese flags as a statement to the world, mobs of Chinese took to the streets to express their decided disapproval by smashing Japanese cars and restaurants.

I’ve covered related incidents on the South China Sea in the past. This is not new. And the issue has clearly not progressed at all. Which probably means that it has deteriorated as both (or should I say “all”?) countries involved stew over the problem.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No one seems to have any legitimate claim in this land dispute. Take Japan for instance, since they’re the ones pissing in the sea this time: “China claims the islands have been a part of its territory since ancient times, but Japan says it took control of the archipelago in the late 1890s after making sure they were uninhabited.”

I assume the BBC is only touching the surface here, but, first of all, the 1890s weren’t that long ago, relatively speaking. And they took control of the islands after making sure they were uninhabited? What the hell is that? “No one’s here. I guess we’ll just take the lot of it, then,” as they thrust the Japanese flag into the earth. What about people who fish? What about traders? Other seasonal inhabitants? Even if there truly wasn’t anyone there, what about geography? Take a look at a map. The islands are much closer to China than Japan. Is “Finders Keepers” a justifiable defense here?

I don’t exactly mean to take sides. I’m American, after all. I live on land overtly taken from people. And we own Hawaii. How did that happen? Ethnically, I’m Belgian and German, and I’m sure you’re all aware of those roads of historical horror. But, hey, guys, come on. It’s the 21st century. No one lives on these islands. The Japanese claims are clearly tenuous. The islands are much closer to China. Let’s wrap this up with a bit of adult rationale, especially considering Japan’s atrocities against China during the war. The least they could do is turn around and say, “Hey, here you go guys! We’re sorry we raped, pillaged, and attempted to colonize your country. We get that you’re angry and we want to start over.” Can you imagine that? It’s not going to happen any time soon, but wow. That would be a wonderful thing for contemporary global politics.

Unfortunately, natural resources and military use come into the picture, not to mention the politics of the whole thing, which is the real crux of the issue. He (or she) who backs down loses his public legitimacy, right? But there are ways. Can’t the islands be sold, for instance? We all love money, right? And that would take care of the legitimacy problem, or at least greatly soften it.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Filed under diaoyu senkaku islands japan politics international relations china south china sea

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Uh oh: Bursting my bubble

After saying just yesterday that the BBC’s ghost town article wasn’t a good argument for the bubble-bursting theory in China (I still think it’s not), a friend sent me a frightening article about the current state of global finance, which closes with a section on how China is possibly moving toward a cliff-edge.

Sounds like the bubble may burst sooner than I thought — if the Chinese government doesn’t make any regulatory moves, that is. But I would find inaction surprising. Haven’t we learned anything from the United States?

Filed under bubble real estate finance economics china bbc marketwatch financial crisis

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FYSE: +1 for human rights in China

Some excellent perspective and interesting information from the fine people at FYSE:


FYSE: Although it’s really great that they are having more and more drag type performances and this shows that they are less constrictive to gender norms, that doesn’t really have all that much of an affect on trans…

Filed under drag trans transsexual transgender gay lgbt china li yugang gay rights

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China’s road to nowhere

Has China’s bubble burst?

No, I don’t think so. And the recent BBC coverage of another Chinese ghost town failed to convince me. There are many of these empty towns and housing complexes all over the country. Careless Chinese developers have even built some in Africa.

Even if the economy is coming to a slow-down and the long-prophesied bursting of the Chinese real estate bubble is nigh (and, again, I don’t think we’re there yet), this certainly isn’t a convincing harbinger of doom. Again, these ghost towns and projects are not new in the Middle Kingdom. Many Chinese developers tend to have a “build it and they will come” attitude toward real estate development, in contrast to the Western approach of doing market research first. With this Chinese mindset, you win some, you lose some. It’s a gamble if you’re not properly looking into the viability of your investment beforehand.

The bubble has to burst sometime, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t think it’s today, BBC.

Filed under china real estate economics bbc housing bubble ghost town development africa

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+1 for human rights in China

China often leaves me pleasantly surprised in its general treatment of and outlook on the LGBT community. Human rights certainly need improvement in China, to say the least, but women’s rights and LGBT rights are quite good, everything considered.

I was in the outskirts of Beijing a couple of months ago and saw an outdoor show in which a man performed an incredible vocal set dressed as a beautiful woman, hitting notes most of the crowd could only dream of. In the middle of the show, the man went into the crowd giving hugs to men in the audience as he sang. These gestures were received with smiles and exhilaration from the crowd. And let me note again that this was in the outskirts of Beijing, with a high proportion (if not majority) of rural hukou holders in attendance. Try putting a dress and makeup on a man in the rural midwest in the United States and asking him to sing like a woman and hug random men in the crowd. See what happens.

This is one of many examples of the increasing level of LGBT rights in China. Just about every time I go to a nightclub, I see men dancing with each other in ways they would probably hesitate to in a straight club in the United States. In Chinese society, there seems to be little of the LGBT shaming we see in the West (outside of the family proper anyway), and none of the fear of openly associating yourself with the LGBT community (again, with the exception of within the family and perhaps the workplace).

Do some research on the national obsession with 李玉刚 (Li Yugang) for another excellent example of LGBT positivity. I have yet to meet a single Chinese person who doesn’t like this performer. And I’ve asked dozens of people — men and women, young and old.

And take a look at this article about the recent coming out of China’s ‘oldest transsexual’ and the positive reception of her decision.

Hats off to China for some outstanding progress in human rights. 加油!

Filed under china gay gay rights human rights lgbt politics li yugang transsexual transgender queer lesbian bi sociology

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Bigger than the censors?

We know Big Brother is always watching in China, particularly when you’re spouting off on the internet about key sensitive issues and trigger words. But in a recent plot twist, researchers in academia are now apparently watching the watchers. Armed with new software, teams at Harvard and University of Hong Kong are keeping tabs on what the censors are censoring. This will doubtlessly provide very interesting databases of censored information to speculate about. Can’t wait to see what patterns come out of it all.

Filed under censorship china politics economist internet censorship harvard university of hong kong