Some Saturday reading

A full blog entry is on its way, but in the meantime, here are some ways to spend the time locked inside thanks to the Shanghai rain.
  • Danwei has reposted an archived letter from Taipei-based journalist Ralph Jennings’ advice column, in which a teenage girl with “relatively good looks, a slim figure, good family background and an excellent academic performance” yearns for popularity. Jennings himself says: “here’s where members of China’s only-child generation start paying dues. Children smothered in the formative years by parental compliments imagine it’s impossible to do serious wrong or to fail against public perception. Then they go off to a faraway college where no one really cares.”
  • A Beijing zoo is up there with Shanghai’s notorious counterpart in the extreme stakes. Visitors are discouraged from feeding the hippos, crocodiles or kangaroos, but are allowed to eat them at the zoo’s exotic restaurant, The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts has reported. The offerings have garnered a fair amount of criticism, with bloggers and experts from the China Academy of Social Sciences and the International Fund for Animal Welfare speaking out. Staff have since pledged to revise the menu.
  • Forbes’ Gady Epstein has reviewed The Party, a new book by the FT’s Richard McGregor, which exposes the pervasive workings of the CCP in business and public life. The money quote comes from a Renmin University professor who told McGregor, “the Party is like God. He is everywhere. You just can’t see him.”
  • The Dalai Lama yesterday held an hour-long online chat with Chinese netizens via Twitter. In reference to China’s policies in Tibet, the spiritual leader said, “the government made these tensions, not the people.” An English translation of the conversation is ongoing (click here).
  • With much talk going on regarding China’s social injustices fuelling the recent spate of school killings, the China Elections and Governance blog has offered a detailed look into the source of citizens’ resentment. Mao Yushi claims the CCP’s violence and force in dealing with social unrest is futile. He says, “when selecting a state leader, two parties should finally turn to voting to break the deadlock. If we set up such a voting system, our society can become reasonable again. Stability can thus be maintained, and citizen resentment will be gone.”
  • Gulp…if I ever needed a final push to revamp this blog, Adam Daniel Mezei has certainly provided it. He argues for a drastic reduction in the number of China blogs out there (agreed) that are “doing scant more than than making noise and rattling people’s cages.” Right then…
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Other than Google: bankrupt language schools, warplanes to Venezuela and a word on Gao Zhisheng

While the Google/China drama occupies most of the radar, some other great stories have been surfacing over the past few days. Check them below.

  • Tessa Thorniley has investigated the bankruptcies and “suicidal mismanagement” faced by language schools in China and the foreigners that flee from them. Remember Kai En?
  • Making the US a little more uncomfortable is openDemocracy’s news that China has supplied Venezuela with six warplanes. The official line is that these jets will be used for training missions and to target drug traffickers, and President Hugo Chavez said he was forced to turn to China because of US export controls. On a television broadcast he thanked the PRC: “The empire wanted to leave us unarmed. Socialist China, revolutionary China appeared and here are our K-8 planes.”
  • The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts has given us this horrific account of lead poisoning in China. Chinese authorities defended the six-month detention of lead poisoning victims in Hunan who were seeking medical care, saying the punishment was necessary for “public education”. The 53 villagers who were on their way to get health checks were mistakenly believed to be planning a protest. China Digital Times have also linked to an AFP story detailing the closure of a factory in Sichuan after its pollution caused lead poisoning in 100 people, 88 of whom were children.
  • On Tuesday, China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang called for greater medical reform in the country, the People’s Daily reported. He put great emphasis on working towards establishing a basic health care service system and improving health care services at grassroots level.
  • The New York Times reported that light has finally been shed on the Gao Zhisheng saga. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Mr. Gao had been sentenced to prison for subversion. Yang also denied Gao had ever been tortured. That said, we still don’t know where Gao is or what this sentence refers to.
  • There’s been a lot of coverage of China’s hukou system. Tania Branigan has looked at how migrants’ children are bearing the brunt of the household registration, and provided video footage here. Carl Minzner from the LA Times has also written this op-ed outlining the changes necessary in hukou reform. Finally, yours truly has also looked at what bloggers have to say on Global Voices.
  • Ai Wei Wei is still my ol’ reliable. This time, he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that “China’s government has no humanity”, and he has faith that new media can effect change in China. And while we’re on the subject, China Media Project has summarised a talk by popular blogger Yang Hengjun discussing the Internet and social change. Yang said, “I can guarantee that if the Web did not exist I would not find a place to express what I wished to express.”
  • China Digital Times has linked to this piece in the FT summarising the “test of ties” Obama faces with Beijing. Further discussing the currency spat going on between China and the US, this editorial in the New York Times today asks “Will China listen?”
  • On a lighter note, this opinion piece in the Global Times has slammed the 2010 Miss Laowai China beauty pageant. Apparently, it’s female expats’ “inner grace and intelligence that sets them apart from their counterparts back home.” Aw.