Saturday, December 29, 2007

Response to E-mail Correspondent Explaining Circumstances of My Being at University in China in the 1970s

The circumstances of my attending Fudan were that when Canada and China established diplomatic relations in 1970, our foreign minister at the time, Mitchell Sharp, and Premier Zhou Enlai signed an agreement to send 10 students to each other's universities every year. I was on that program. The current Chinese ambassador to Canada, Lu Shumin, was one of those who came to Canada. At the time Fudan had only 13 foreign students --- conditions were quite bad for us at the time compared to universities in the America and Europe due to crowded living condition. no heat or running hot water (or even fans in the heat of summer). rationing, poverty, xenophobic and "class struggle" politics etc. I had a very good experience anyway. The guys in my class were mostly already 30 years-old and took good care to protect me from political hassles. For example when I would listen to the Voice of America Jazz Hour at night, they would report that I was listening to "our nation's radio broadcasts late into the night using headphones to improve my Chinese language ability and general knowledge of China" We always had to consult before they made their reports to make sure that they did not get into trouble if I was up to something bad --- which I was all the time by the standards of that repressive time --- seems we got away with it in the end. I am told by someone who later got access to my file that I was perceived as a model foreigner by the president's office, albeit a bit dimwitted (bu congming was how this was evidently expressed in the file).

Now most of those classmates are in Beijing and evidently much richer than me, but I am not sure where all the money comes from.

But the class keeps in close contact even after all these years which is very much cherished by me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sadness at the Death of Benazir Bhutto

When I was a student at Cambridge University, Benazir Bhutto was at Oxford, and well-known to us as president of the Oxford Union. She was an outstanding member of our student cohort of those days in the mid-1970s. For reasons I cannot quite sort out, I feel quite affected by her untimely and tragic death earlier today.

Article about Problem of Lack of Accountability for Red Guard Atrocities

This article is worth checking out:

On Mao’s 114th Birthday, Past Catches Up to Former Red Guard Leader

Comment by me: Now 40 years later, it is not just the former Red Guards who are guilty of convenient forgetting. Even more seriously it is now evident that the Communist Party cadres who persecuted intellectuals in the Cultural Revolution will never be made accountable for what they did. After "rehabilitation" in the late-'70s and early- '80s the people who suffered confinement, physical abuse and loss of property, while cleared of all the false charges against them, returned to work units where the cadres complicit in their terrible ordeal continued with their careers as if nothing had happened. Many of these cadres later achieved considerable wealth after "opening and reform."

I have a lot of detailed information about the horrendous things that happened at Fudan University at that time as my teachers (including my thesis supervisor, Yan Beiming, the "#1 target for attack at Fudan") having just returned to campus from exile as farmers and manual labourers and prison talked long and with remarkable dispassion about what had happened to them in 1966 and thereafter. It was very apparent to me that they were still suffering from something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder to varying degrees in those years. This may have been the reason for their obsessive detailing of their Cultural Revolution experience to an outsider like me.

Whenever I return to the Fudan campus the shadows of memory of those terrible times haunt in a way that is almost palpable.

The young students on that campus today know little or nothing about this past.

Please read the comments on this posting below.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deaths by Disappointment in Shanghai?

I called Beijing this morning to speak with one of my room-mates from my student days at Fudan University . I wanted to get an up-date on the condition of one of our classmates who is currently being treated for liver cancer. Seeing as I have one of those "unlimited long distance to China" cheap 'phone plans now, we got to talking at length and the subject turned to prematurely deceased members of our class. He said: "You notice how all of them are natives of Shanghai? It is the culture there. There is so much pressure on Shanghai people to be a success. They die early because of disappointment."

I am not sure if this claim would stand the test of a social scientific survey. Another explanation is that the water in Shanghai has always had a bad flavour that one suspects indicates something unhealthy about it.

But my college room-mate`s theory for why our classmates from Shanghai evidently tend to die younger than those from other regions did give me pause for thought.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Prime Minister of Australia Speaks Chinese Very Well

Here is a link to an interview with the Prime Minister of Australia broadcast on Central China TV: _Minister_Kevin_Rudd_On_China _Central_Tv

This may be a harbinger of a future age when most foreign leaders will have Chinese as their first foreign language.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ultimate Beneficiaries Speak in Euphemisms

Selection from article with this title published by Howard French in the International Herald Tribune on November 30, 2007 entitled "The thuggery behind the harmonious facade"

"In cities where huge urban redevelopment projects are underway, places like Shanghai, for example, residents who resist forced relocation without anything resembling due process are known to have been summoned to the police headquarters and retained there just long enough for the wrecking crews to knock down their homes in their absence.

Those who protest too much are often simply carted off to teach them a lesson.

Alternately, in another favored tactic, relatives are threatened that if their family member continues to be a nuisance, there could be consequences for others in the family.

Worse still is the contracting out of enforcement to genuine thugs. Here we're talking about local toughs who are deputed to take care of a "bad element," or suppress a demonstration using their fists or a few lengths of pipe. One could cite many examples, like Lu Banglie, who was badly beaten two years ago at Taishi, in Guangdong Province, when he brought a Western reporter with him to investigate the rigging of a village election.

This tactic, which seems to be spreading in China, has the advantage of deniability, since the police are usually careful to remain out of sight while heads are cracked.

Practices like these sometimes draw comparisons to the Wild West, but the more apt parallels belong to old-fashioned dictatorships like the Haiti of Papa Doc, with his notorious Tonton Macoutes.

. . .

Chinese leaders relish stability above all, and an image of harmony and of enlightened modernity. But like their ceaselessly renewed battles against official corruption, the likelihood of reining in contemporary thuggishness seems remote. This is because the very officials who speak in euphemisms when addressing it are its ultimate beneficiaries."