Saturday, 21 February 2015

Papa Xi “Beats The Tiger” – Xi Jinping’s New Year Propaganda Cartoon

On 17 February Beijing Chaoyang Studio (北京朝阳工作室) released three cartoons which aim at spreading among the people the values of the Xi Jinping administration in a way that is closer to the common citizen and less stiff and cold than traditional political propaganda.

One of the three cartoons is entitled “Has the mass line been truly implemented?” (群众路线动真格了?) The animation revolves around Xi Jinping’s fight against corruption, a phenomenon which, according to the leader of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), runs counter the Communist Party’s mass line.

The cartoon condemns the vices that the official party language describes as “The Four Decadent Customs” (四风)and “The Three Abuses” (三公).

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily (南方都市报), the animations represent a departure from the previous style of government communication, which was too cold and detached from the people. “In the past,” writes the paper, “the Chinese people only saw pictures, portraits or official videos of their leaders, while it was extremely rare to see them in animated films.”




Friday, 20 February 2015

Taiwan, Breathtaking Miniskirts and the Wrong Laowai

I am not a big fan of hiking, but I love to take long walks in the city, where I can observe people and see interesting buildings. If I have to go somewhere, I usually go on foot instead of taking the MRT. Yesterday evening, too, I walked from Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to Xindian.

Before going home I went to Family Mart because I needed toothpaste and milk. While I was looking for the things I wanted to buy I suddenly saw a girl, one of the many girls one sees in Taiwan who will take your breath away. She looked young (I would guess between 18 and 20, but here you never know, she might have been 30, as well). She had a petite, slender body, and long dyed brown hair. Her clothes were simple and reflected the common and to me inexplicable Taiwanese habit of wearing winter clothes on the upper body and summer clothes on the lower body. 

In fact, she wore a black hooded sweatshirt, which definitely suited yesterday's cold and windy weather. Below she wore a tiny, really tiny skirt that revealed her gracefully long, slim legs, and high-heeled flip-flops. She was bending over the ice cream compartment, and her skirt was so short I could see a part of her panties. 

That girl was so pretty that I just forgot why I had gone to the store in the first place. I began randomly taking stuff off the shelves - a chicken salad, a potato salad, two boiled eggs, a chocolate croissant - none of which I needed. The girl kept standing there, moving gently to the right and to the left, searching for an ice cream. After a few minutes she took one out of the freezer and went to the cashier. I had finished my random purchases and I queued behind her. She asked for a packet of cigarettes. She paid and left. I realised I was buying things I didn't need, but it was too late to put them back. 

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The 10 Questions Taiwanese Are Afraid To Be Asked on Chinese New Year

One might think that Chinese New Year is a time of rest and joy, of warmth and love. And to a certain extent it is. Family members eat together, exchange 'red envelopes' (i.e. cash gifts), chat and relax. Yet there is more behind the apparent happiness of this event, a less bright and merry side. As the family holiday par excellence, Chinese New Year is also a period in which people face a lot of pressure, a pressure that is often quite unbearable.

In Taiwan as in the rest of the Chinese-speaking world, the family was traditionally the most important thing in one's life. What a single family member did - his or her job, relationships, offspring, property and reputation - were not individual matters, but collective matters that concerned the entire family. Although in a weakened form, much of this still holds true.


The proof of this is the number of articles published in Taiwan before Chinese New Year which discuss how to deal with family pressure and with the dreaded 'questions' that relatives will ask to the younger members of the family - usually those in their twenties and thirties.

What people are so afraid of are questions regarding their private lives, and especially family planning and work. That's because, due to the specific social structure of the Taiwanese/Chinese family, which I have discussed in other posts, family members are extremely competitive and "face"-oriented. Not that this doesn't happen in Western families, as well. But since there has never been in the West a kind of family ideology as powerful and institutionalised as in Confucian societies, in the West family pressure is, as a rule, less fierce.  

According to a poll conducted by Apple Daily among its readers, the most feared questions are:

Friday, 6 February 2015

Getting Scammed in Beijing

After two lazy months I am trying to update my blog again more regularly. There was a time when I used to write one post each day, but it's a really hard pace to keep for a long time. 

There's also something that's bothering me. A week ago I was in Beijing and I got scammed. I'm kind of ashamed of admitting that, since apparently everyone knows that Beijing is famous for its scams. So was I the only one who didn't know? Obviously not, since these scammers find new victims each day among the naive and trusting foreign visitors. 

The funny thing about that is that I always felt totally safe in Beijing, especially in Wangfujing, Dongdan, Tiananmen Square, Jianguo Road and in the hutongs. Even in Dongzhimen in the evening I never had any problem. 

Beijing is one of the most militarised places I've ever visited. In Tiananmen, Wangfujing and the whole of Jianguo Road there are policemen and soldiers everywhere. Who could have imagined that in this country, with its all-powerful army and police, scammers thrived undisturbed in the city centre of the capital of the biggest Communist dictatorship on earth? 



Isn't this the state that detains people just because they have shared a picture online, or because they have "spread rumours"? Isn't this the state where in 1989 the army put an end to the democratic aspirations of an entire generation of students? And yet this almighty state can't handle a bunch of swindlers. Suddenly, the police need "proofs" and "evidence". Come on, this is the place where the CCP makes the law, and when it wants, it arrests, punishes, censors and blocks websites, and who cares about "laws"? 

But when it comes to stopping criminal activities that have been known to the authorities for years, they are, all of a sudden, powerless, weak, slow. The stern and menacing faces of the people in uniform turn into lazy, annoyed grimaces. 'Another one of those naive laowai who got scammed,' they seem to say, 'there's just nothing we can do to help you.' 

I am writing an account of how I got scammed, but it's getting too long, already over 10 pages, so I won't post it here. Moreover, I can't remember the details exactly, so I have to fill the 'blank spots' with my imagination. So I decided to write a kind of "short story" and upload it as an ebook. I would like people to see what shrewd and talented actors the scammers are, and what sort of psychological relationship, what an ambiguous interplay of true and simulated feelings, there is between the swindlers and their unsuspecting (and credulous) victims. 

I have been to mainland China several times. I wouldn't like to live there because I don't like censorship and the many restrictions on personal freedom (restrictions that are intensifying under Xi Jinping). However, I am very interested in the country and despite this annoying incident, I won't give up returning there if I get the chance to. Nor do I feel inclined to blame the entire Chinese people because of a few bad apples. 

But one thing is sure. As a traveller, and especially as a foreigner, it is much better not to trust people. The honesty that one may take for granted in Hong Kong and Taiwan, is a point of weakness in mainland China.