Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Blogging Break, Or Something Like That

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I haven't blogged much over the past few weeks. There are two reasons for this. 

First of all, living in Hong Kong is good for my life and my mood, but it's not good for my blogging. I simply love this city so much and I want to enjoy it to the full, that's why I find it quite difficult to sit for many hours and write posts. Some people don't like Hong Kong; they believe it's just a small, overcrowded city, with no history, no interesting sights, and only good for shopping and visa runs. I disagree. I think Hong Kong is one of the world's most amazing cities: an international, dynamic, modern, exciting metropolis, where different cultures and lifestyles meet, and with so many nice and open-minded people, either local or foreign. Perhaps I will blog about this at some point in the future.  

Second, I have other things to do at the moment. Contrary to what some people may think, blogging is not easy. It requires a lot of time, energy and concentration. It usually takes me a few hours, if not a few days, to write a post, depending on its length and the complexity of its subject. I don't have so much time right now. That's why I will have to take a (sort of) break for one or two weeks.

However, since I like blogging, I will try to keep this site alive. But I will mostly write about more or less trivial news - a way for me to practice Chinese and keep up to date with what is happening in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.  

I hope that each and everyone of you is enjoying his or her summer : )

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Bitter Rivalries - Behind The Facade Of The Harmonious Chinese Family

In the Chinese-speaking world, traditional values play a central role in public discourse and education. The governments in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore promote concepts of filial piety and social propriety, which they regard as natural, pragmatic and lofty principles. Many citizens, too, are proud of such values and define them, more or less consciously, as important elements of their own individual identity. 

According to Zhang Lihua, a resident scholar at the prestigious Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and a professor at the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University, “[t]he traditional cultural values that influence the psyche of the Chinese people are harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, and filial piety. Of these, the core value is harmony,” which means “proper and balanced coordination between things”.

Confucian ideals were belittled and denigrated in China under Mao Zedong (for example during the "Criticise Lin, Criticise Confucius" campaign). The reform and opening-up policies initiated by Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s ushered in an era not only of modernisation, but also of re-evaluation of the old Chinese culture and ethics. The Communist state now seeks to incorporate Confucian values into its official ideology (Confucius is quoted 31 times in Xi Jinping's book The Governance of China). 

“Given China's brilliant, longstanding culture, Chinese have adopted many fine traditions,” writes the government-sponsored website Women of China. “Family traditions, which embody families' established moral standards and ways of life, are part of Chinese people's fine traditions.”

But are these traditions as noble and pure as the official discourse assumes? 

I shall argue that neither in theory nor in practice was the traditional Chinese family ever a universal model of virtue. Chinese-speaking societies often avoid to mention polygamy, concubinage, arranged marriages, women’s low status and foot-binding, which were important aspects of China’s old family ideology. This collective amnesia is but a way to idealise the past. 

One aspect of the old Chinese family which the official discourse rarely pays attention to is the fact that men could have more than one wife as well as concubines, as long as they had the financial means to support them. 

While such practices have been abolished by law, they still exist unofficially, thriving under the surface of family harmony and happiness.

Conformity to social roles and hierarchies – euphemistically called “harmony” – is supposed to guarantee that everyone internalises “proper” moral values and fulfils the expectations of society. The truth is that the rigidity of the Chinese social fabric creates deep conflicts, tensions and power struggles. 

The following two examples illustrate how social roles, hierarchies and individual ambition may lead to bitter antagonism and, ultimately, even to extreme actions. The first story is taken from a recent newspaper article published on Xinwen Chenbao. The second story is an excerpt from the late-Ming novel The Golden Lotus

The Enraged Xiaosan

At a friend’s party, Mr. Gong met a young woman surnamed Wu. Not long afterwards, they started a relationship and moved in together. Mr. Gong told her that he already had a wife, and Wu replied that she did not mind. It was a clear deal. Wu agreed to be his xiaosan, i.e. his mistress. Mr. Gong paid her a monthly allowance of 20,000 renminbi (around US$3,222) for her “expenses”. Their relationship lasted for four years. 

Sunday, 2 August 2015

18-Year-Old Chinese Girl Kills Her New-born Baby By Stuffing Her Mouth With Toilet Paper

Xiaoying (fictitious name) is an 18-year-old girl from China's Gansu province. Shortly after graduating from junior high school she left her hometown in order to find a job in a big city. She moved to the capital Beijing where she worked part-time to support herself. In 2013 she met a boy named Dumou. In February 2014 they started a relationship, but they broke up one month later. Yet their brief love changed her life forever. 

Xiaoying discovered that she had got pregnant. Alone and without money, she didn’t know what to do. In the sixth month of her pregnancy she decided to have an abortion. She went to a hospital, but the doctor told her that the operation would cost around 10,000 renminbi. She hadn’t got so much money. She gave up her plan and just waited.