Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Smallness playing large

Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 28, 2012

AT what point does one’s reaction to the absurdities of South Korea’s preoccupation with Japan pass from amusement at a diversion that resembles the ramblings of a wild-haired street corner preacher to sadness tinged with dismissive indifference at the frenzied intensity of smallness playing large? This excerpt from an article written by Seon U-jeon that appeared in the Chosun Ilbo — which the newspaper translated into Japanese — comes close to defining that passage for me. It’s titled, What South Korea has but Japan doesn’t.

It’s tempting to answer, “Crazed irrationality about a neighboring country”, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

There are 290,000 foreign students in China, of which the most, 60,000, are from South Korea.

Japan once sent many students abroad 100 years ago, but it has lost its vitality. This is reflected in the sharp decline in students going abroad, the popularity of Korean pop culture, the strength of Korean corporations, and education.

Today’s South Korea is just like Japan a century ago. From the 19th century to the early 20th century, the number of Japanese going abroad to study reached 24,700. They sent more students overseas than any country in the world. There were 43 students accompanying the Iwakura mission (1871-1873) to visit the Western powers, six of whom were young women. That gives one an idea of their passion for studying abroad at the time. The stunning development of modern Japan resulted from their bringing learning back with them, though many were dismissed overseas as monkeys. They served as a bridge to the Great Powers. It was these students who broke the chains binding Japan during its period of isolation.

The number of Japanese students now in China is fewer than half the number of South Korean students. The number of Japanese students in the United States is just 28% the total of South Korean students. It is not that Japan is a country with nothing to learn from other countries. Even after Japan became a member of the advanced countries, it continued to send many students abroad into the 1980s. The sharp decline in the number of overseas students began when economic growth stalled and society lost its vitality.

Students studying abroad are an accurate reflection of a country’s hopes and the strength of its people. We view Japan’s rightward lurch as the floundering of out-of-control old men, because we now have what Japan had 100 years ago. The passion for Korean pop culture sweeping the world is as resplendent as the Japonism that swept Europe and the United States a century ago. The ability of Korean companies to seize markets is reminiscent of Japanese corporations after the war. Times have changed.

Some observations, though you surely have many of your own.

* I’ve read some of the records of the Iwakura mission, which are still in print. They’re boring and not worth reading in their entirety because they are nothing but hundreds and hundreds of pages of the most basic travelogue. They’re like a postcard expanded into a book. The Meiji-era Japanese were literally visiting a new world beyond their imaginations. Nowadays, Japanese of average means can — and do — hop on a flight to New York after work on Friday to catch a Saturday night concert by a favorite performer and return in time for work Monday morning.

* Mr. Seon might be more accurate in his assessment than he suspects. In this article, Koreans do come off like the Japanese 100 years ago — going abroad to marvel at a new world beyond their imaginations. That says more about Korea, its degree of openness, and its entrapment in the mindset of a previous century than it does about Japan and its vitality.

* What is it exactly that Japanese students need to learn by studying at a Chinese university? Other than getting advanced practice in the Chinese language, very little. And what, for that matter, is it that Japanese students have to learn as undergraduates or masters candidates at the exorbitantly priced cesspools of political correctness that American universities have become?

* Japan sent so many students abroad a century ago because it was so far behind the West and wanted to catch up. Exactly what learning would they be bringing back from China?

* If Japanese universities are so inadequate that education needs to be supplemented by overseas universities, why are so many Chinese and South Koreans coming here to study?

* The only real reason that so many Koreans are studying in China is commercial — that’s where they think the money is. But then Koreans have a long history of fealty to the Chinese imperium.

* The Japonism of a century ago was a result of the admiration for the aesthetics of Japanese art and culture, such as ukiyoe and ceramics. Do Koreans think they have supplanted the Japanese in the West by offering chewing gum pop culture?

I’m glad I won’t be exposed to the internal Korean dialogue when the world forgets about Gagnam Style and they have to pick themselves up off the floor in a daze after the crash of the mother of all sugar highs.

* It always bears repeating: Saying that Japan has lost its vitality is prima facie evidence that the speaker knows next to nothing about today’s Japan.

* And yes, Japan is still the gold standard by which the Koreans judge themselves.

When he was assigned to Japan, the author of this article received the Japan-Korea Cultural Exchange Award as the representative of a Korean newspaper.

Speaking of Korean education, here are some photos of a demonstration earlier this month in front of the Japanese embassy conducted by primary school students and their teachers. Got to start washing those brains early, eh?

Japanese people apologize!


Japanese people, recognize your errors! (That’s a photo of the comfort woman statue on her sign.)


Apologize for the comfort women!


The photo prop on the left is the comfort woman statue and the photo prop on the right is holding a sign saying that Takeshima is our land.


If Korean primary school take their students on field trips such as these, it is a matter of extreme urgency for even more students to study abroad when they reach university age. Even at Chinese universities

Posted in China, Education, History, I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Social trends | 65 Comments »

Matsuri da! (139): Drunken elegance

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 26, 2012

DID you get well and truly sloshed over the long weekend that included Christmas Eve and Christmas? The percentage of Japanese slumped face down on the bar or snoring in their easy chairs was probably no larger than it would be for any other weekend, however. Christmas is a working day here, unless it falls on Saturday or Sunday.

drunken elegance

Besides, not everyone in this part of the world behaves badly when they redline on liquor. In fact, there’s a certain tradition of drunken elegance that’s been turned into a religious ritual and dance. It’s called the konju, which originated as an imitation of the movements of some Chinese guy in ancient times who got a snootful and started rambling. It arrived in Japan in 736, but doesn’t survive in its original form. That’s because it was modified during the reign of the Emperor Ninmyo, which places it somewhere in the early to mid-Eighth Century.

The dance is so elegant, in fact, it’s often performed at Shinto ceremonies throughout Japan. One example was its presentation at the Bugaku festival of the Hodaka Shinto shrine in Matsumoto, Nagano. The folks at the Hodaka shrine thought it would be fun to couple a traditional dance festival with their Daisengu Festival, which rolls around once every 20 years. The konju was part of the choreography.

The performance was held at a site just as elegant for its beauty. The backdrop was the 3,190-meter-high Mt. Okuhodaka in the Japanese Alps. The stage was placed next to a bridge and a pond.

Come clean, now — that’s not how you behaved at the office Christmas party, was it?

Here’s a performance of the dance at a different time and different place. He does look a bit ripped, doesn’t he?

Posted in Arts, China, Festivals | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Ichigen koji (267)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 22, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Those people opposed to participation in the TPP negotiations do so on the premise that Japan will absolutely lose. In that case, can we win with in a free trade agreement with China and South Korea, the EPA/EIA with the EU, or the RCEP with ASEAN? We won’t know unless we try. The key is what happens when the treaty provisions are written into national law at the end of the process. It would be pointless to sign a treaty without the attendant domestic law.

– Takahashi Yoichi, economic advisor to the Japan Restoration Party, Your Party, and others

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, China, Government, International relations, Quotations, South Korea | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Voting with their feet

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 22, 2012

ACTIONS speak louder than words, it’s said, and here’s a report on the actions of some Chinese VIPs that speaks very loudly indeed. The emphasis is mine:

When given the chance, officials of the People’s Republic of China continue to rush for the exits. During an eight-day period from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 when two holidays were celebrated, over 1,100 public servants who traveled abroad did not return, according to a statement issued on Oct. 15 by the Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the Central Organization Department.

Note that this is not speculation from an outside source; it is confirmation by the CCP itself.

Here’s the reason:

These holidays were right before the 18th National Party Congress. The PRC is estimated to have over one million “naked officials”—individuals who park their bank accounts and families overseas in expectation of eventually joining them.

The measures the government is taking to prevent this seem like a reprise from the border controls of the old Soviet bloc:

The command group increased personnel to guard key seaports, airports, and borders. It also dispatched over 8,000 special police to these places before Sept. 28. At the same time, over 350 of the latest instruments for the detection of counterfeit passports were installed in these airports and seaports.

It is beginning to look as if the race is on in China among three runners. The first is the one representing greater openness and democracy fueled by prosperity. While that is what the world is rooting for, I would not put my money on it hitting the tape first. The real race is between the other two.

The second is that representing the malevolent hegemon colossus standing astride the globe. It is not possible to deny that this is the objective of a significant portion of the Chinese leadership and population both. They wouldn’t call themselves malevolent, of course. In keeping with centuries of Chinese tradition, they would call it “correct”.

And the third is that representing the end of the mass corruption, despotism, and spiritual and physical pollution in collapse, disorder, and internal violence, leading to the breakup of the Chinese state into several smaller entities.

It would seem the 1,100 officials cited in this article have already placed their bets.

Is that big Beijing wheel going to explode?

Posted in China | 3 Comments »

Ichigen koji  (263)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, December 18, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Most of the Anglosphere media refers to Japan’s Land Self-Defense Forces as the Army, and the Maritime Self-Defense Forces as the Navy. That’s probably to make it easier for their readers. Why then do they so faithfully use the formal name of the People’s Liberation Army for the Chinese forces?

– The Tweeter known as Aceface

Posted in China, Mass media, Military affairs, Quotations | Tagged: | 1 Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 14, 2012


Foreigners are making a big commotion about how Japan is moving to the right, but that’s all those people have been saying for the past 60 years. We’re not on some clock, and even if we are moving rightward, militarism is not going to return. So, just how far to the right is Japan moving then?

– The Tweeter known as Aceface

JAPAN will go to the polls on Sunday to select 480 members of the lower house of the Diet, and, as a consequence, a new government. This will be an important election for several reasons. One is that it will be the first election after the Democratic Party of Japan betrayed the public’s trust in the same way the Liberal-Democratic Party did post-Koizumi, while demonstrating unspeakable incompetence in the bargain. Thus, the politicians are facing an electorate who does not want to get fooled again.

Another is that it will be the expression of the political will of a younger generation of Japanese for whom debate of events several decades ago in a world long dead and gone has no meaning. Why should they? Their parents were born after the war. It is as of little interest to them as America’s victory in that war is for the Millennials in the United States, many of whom don’t know the difference between Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.

Regardless of who wins — and it looks now as if a negotiated coalition could result — there will be more people in the Diet representing ideas that make some people outside the country uncomfortable. There is growing interest in amending the Japanese Constitution to remove the indignity of Article 9, the peace clause. Everyone has the right to defend themselves, including the Japanese. Americans once thought, and many still do, that self-defense is a natural and inalienable right. Events over the years have shown the Japanese are no more likely to become involved in malevolent adventures abroad than any other country. Events in recent years have shown they are a lot less likely to become involved in those adventures than some of their neighbors.

Osaka Mayor Hashimoto Toru isn’t running for the Diet, but he —- and Chinese behavior — has made constitutional reform a legitimate issue for public discussion. Some detractors label him a dictator and use the word Hashism as a code word for his movement. That reaction to what he represents shares much in common with those in America who tar with the racist brush those who criticize Barack Obama for spending too much time on the golf course or employing the poison ball brand of Chicago politics he was schooled in.

Dictatorial? Mr. Hashimoto wants a national referendum on the question. What could be more democratic?

The Osaka mayor also said:

We must create the defensive capabilities and policies for Japan to defend its sovereignty and land by itself.

He and many like him would draw the line with China which needs to be drawn and continue cooperation with the United States. He’s written:

China has become a great power with responsibility, so it also has to behave responsibly. Demonstrations are one thing, but they have to stop the violence. It would also be a good idea to end the childish threats to cut off all relations whenever disputes occur. The international community jeers at them behind their back….

…Japan should be proud of the path it has taken in the postwar period. It should be proud of the more than JPY 3 trillion in ODA they’ve given to China. It should say what needs to be said to China. But we should also be aware that it won’t be so easy to wash away our past behavior.

As for other territorial disputes:

We cannot change South Korea’s effective control of Takeshima with military force.

He therefore proposed joint management of the islets while taking the case to the International Court of Justice. (Prime Minister Noda’s government is backing off their threat to do so. They’re waiting to see who wins the South Korean presidential election and thought sub-ministerial discussions with the Koreans have gone well lately. All of that is pointless considering the hard-wired Korean intransigence.)

He’s also in favor of downsizing government, rethinking the government’s social welfare responsibilities, decentralizing government authority, and controlling the out-of-control public sector unions.

Another result of the election is that Abe Shinzo, who also wants to amend the Constitution, and who passed the legislation enabling national referendums during his term as prime minister, might be serving a second term.

That the Chinese, the South Koreans, and some in the United States throw up their hands as if they were maidens threatened with violation and exclaim “extreme right wing!” or “nationalism!” says more about them than it does about the Japanese. Ending the renunciation of warfare and enforced pacifism is not right-wing, nationalistic, hawkish, or abnormal. The abnormality lies with those who object because they might lose their favorite diplomatic weapon. Are Japanese born with some geopolitical original sin that afflicts no one else?

The real complaint is that Japan is moving to end the postwar regime. That would inconvenience too many people not only in China and South Korea, but also the United States. Who knows? If they keep going down this road, Japan might actually start to tell the Americans no. Can’t have that, can we?

William Choong in the Straits Times of Singapore understands. He discusses both Mr. Hashimoto and Mr. Abe in this article, and says:

(I)t is important to see things in perspective. Japan’s rightward shift does not mean that it will go all the way right and revert to its odious World War II-era aggression. Instead, Japan is moving right to the centre.

In the long run, Japan will become a “normal” country – it will retain the right to wage war, assemble a standing army (as opposed to self-defence forces), and contribute substantially to the provision of regional and global security.

(Forgive him the “all the way to the right” line. Pre-war Japan had fascist political tendencies, and those are always statist — and therefore of the left.)

Mr. Choong also quotes University of Macau Prof. Wang Jianwei on China’s proper response:

Japan should sign a formal statement of apology for its wartime crimes, ban visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by its prime ministers, relinquish its bid to control the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands and resolve the dispute through negotiation.

If Japan were to agree to such conditions, China could, writes Prof Wang, recognize Japan’s “normal” country status and even support Tokyo’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.

Why the Chinese need another apology from the Japanese government after having received more than 20 already, JPY 3 trillion in ODA as de facto reparations, and signed a treaty normalizing relations that pledged to let bygones be bygones is not explained. In any event, China would be no more likely to keep its promise about supporting a Security Council seat than the South Koreans have kept their promises in bilateral negotiations over the years.

In a larger sense that few people outside the country can understand, Sunday’s election is not about government. Japan has all the government it needs, and like everyone else, needs a lot less of what it has.

Rather, the vote on Sunday will be another step in Japan’s reclamation of its nationhood. When that reclamation is complete, then it will be normal again.

It’s been a long and winding road.

Posted in China, Government, International relations, Military affairs, Politics, Social trends, South Korea, World War II | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Letter bombs (25): Chugoku or Shina?

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ishihara Shintaro (top) and Miishima Yukio in Tokyo, 1956

Ishihara Shintaro (top) and Miishima Yukio in Tokyo, 1956

READER Avery Morrow submitted a comment related to Chinese sinocentric culturalism with a link to an academic paper titled Shina as a toponym for China.

The Chinese call their nation 中国, or the country in the center (of the world), and also refer to China adjectivally as 中華, the flower in the center of the world. The standard name for the country in Japan is Chugoku, which is the Japanese reading of the characters that the Chinese use.

Some Japanese, however, prefer to use the term Shina. Avery quotes the paper:

The term Shina (支那) was originally popularized as an alternative to Chugoku 中国 because Japanese Rangaku scholars realized China was not actually the center of the world, but there are seven continents and over a hundred countries scattered around it.

The paper also points out that the term China was not standardized as the name for the country in English until the 20th century. The author adds:

As arguably China’s keenest observer and, on occasion, mercurial assessor, Japan had nothing to gain or lose — toponymically speaking — from which of the various names for China would carry on and which would be swept into the dustbin.

The Japanese who most often use Shina for China today are the sort of people that the self-anointed enlightened ones consider extreme right-wingers. The most well-known of these people is Ishihara Shintaro.

This upsets the Chinese, because it means that the upstart inferiors of Little Japan do not render them the proper deference due the flower in the center of creation.

Everyone, however, still refers to the East China Sea as the Higashi Shina Kai, and no one gets upset about that.

Last month, Hosono Goshi, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Japan’s Policy Research Committee and one of the party’s boy wonderfuls, complained about Mr. Ishihara’s word choice during an appearance on a television program. (The former Tokyo Metro District governor has published roughly 35 fiction and non-fiction books. Three have won awards, and his first novel, Season of the Sun, was the Novel of its Generation.)

Said Mr. Hosono:

It is a mistake for Ishihara Shintaro to call China Shina. China should also not call Japan “Little Japan”.

As if anyone in China cared what Mr. Hosono thinks. His statement was reported in China, and here are some of the Internet comments:

* That government official doesn’t seem to know that the use of the word Japan itself constitutes denigration. Big or little has nothing to do with it.

* I’ve never used little Japan. I’ve always used riben guizi or Japanese beasts myself. (Riben guizi is 日本鬼子, or very roughly, Japanese demon, but it packs a lot of history and negative associations.)

* How about if we use Little Japan Guizi?

* Let’s use Japanese devils.

* What’s the difference between Little Japan and Japan?

* What difference does it make? They’re just one of our provinces anyway.

No, Mr. Hosono is not ready for prime time, but then neither was his party.

Author and critic Kure Tomofusa explained the reason for the Japanese switch from Shina to Chugoku in the 19 November 2010 edition of the weekly Shukan Post. Here it is in English.

For more than 60 years after the war, Japan has associated with the country across the sea by muddling the examination of right and wrong. I write “the country across the sea”, and that country is known throughout the world as Shina or something of similar pronunciation. But only Japan and the countries on the Korean Peninsula have been compelled to call this country Chugoku. Both the government and the public have contributed to the muddling of right and wrong through this irrational control of speech.

I first pointed out this irrationality during the days of the Zenkyoto student protests. I insisted that the country should be called Shina. I have not wavered from that position even after becoming a commentator, though that position has been to my detriment several times. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.

Shina is derived from 秦 (Shin, or Manchu Dynasty), and it became the internationally accepted term for the country. In English it is China, and in France it is Chine, both of which are similar to the Japanese Shina.

This usage was prohibited in Japan in 1946 through a notification from a deputy foreign minister. At that time, Japan was occupied by the U.S. and the other Allied powers. News reports were submitted for screening prior to publication, and the publication of printed matter was suspended. With this as a backdrop, this unusual restriction on speech was issued requiring that the country be called Chugoku. The notification also included the frightening phrase that Shina was not to be used, “with no argument”.

Japan regained its sovereignty in 1952 with the peace treaty, yet both the mass media and educational institutions still use this unusual notification by a deputy minister. Have they not noticed that Chugoku was used through compulsion? Instead, many people believe in good conscience that Shina should naturally be prohibited because it is discriminatory and symbolic of the invasion.

Great Britain ended its invasion of China with the return of Hong Kong in 1997. Portugal ended its invasion of China with the return of Macau two years later in 1999. Both Great Britain and Portugal use the China/Shina terms, so where is the problem?

The meaning of Chugoku is “the country in the center of the world”. It is an arrogant word that denotes contempt for other countries. Shina is trying to force this on the surrounding countries that were once in its sphere of influence. The subject of discrimination is Japan. We must clearly differentiate right from wrong. Saying what should be said is the most basic of basics.


Posted in China, History, International relations, Legal system, Letter bombs, World War II | Tagged: | 8 Comments »

Ichigen koji (257)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, December 12, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

(Joong-an Ilbo headline: South Korea-China summit — Territorial disputes are due to Japan’s rightward shift)

Even if Japan were shifting to the right, the general public of those countries would not have been provoked to shouting discriminatory slogans and engaging in violent behavior by government agitation, unless the leader of one of those countries had not landed on an island under dispute. Otherwise, there would be no reason for concern in neighboring countries. In other words, there are no modern states built on the rule of law among our neighbors.

– The Tweeter known as Aceface

Posted in China, International relations, Quotations, South Korea | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Sex in today’s China

Posted by ampontan on Monday, December 10, 2012

During the height of Maoist collectivism, puritan ethics ruled the day…Since the 1980s the glorification of “eating bitterness,” the endurance of hunger, the taboo of sex, and the denial of sexuality have been largely replaced by the glorification of wealth, the perfection of the culinary art, the explosion of eroticism, and anxiety over sexual prowess and sexual appeal. The individual body seems to take priority over the body politic. Many people see the current Chinese indulgence in food and sex as an emancipation of natural human desires from the shackles of former political oppression.

– Hsu Pi-ching

WHILE Hsu wrote that in the context of a review of a book whose author does not agree with the premise, it’s clear that a new kind of Cultural Revolution is underway in China. Read the English-language websites of some Chinese newspapers and growing number of English-language blogs written by Chinese, and it’s easy to see why some people would draw the conclusions expressed in the above quotation.

Let’s start with the Want China Times in Taiwan. The headline of a recent article is Sex Toy Trade Swells in China. I’ll bet!

As Chinese attitudes to sex evolve, products for the bedroom are becoming more commonplace; from hotel mini-bars to convenience stores and in the country’s booming retail outlets specializing in sex toys, the things are everywhere, news agency Reuters reports.

Thirty years ago, the mere image of a couple in passionate embrace on the back of a magazine could trigger fierce criticism and a whirlwind of complaint from the public, the report said. Yet beginning with the national wave of modernization ushered in by Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up” policies, public attitudes toward sex have transformed. This, coupled with the wide open access to new information the internet has brought, means the sex toy market is throbbing and it presents big opportunities to farsighted entrepreneurs.

And here I thought Japanese convenience stores took a radical approach to inventory. They don’t have any vibrators or dildos in the outlets in my neighborhood.

The Chinese seem to have caught up to the wicked West rather quickly. People have already become so blasé about semi-nudity at auto shows they have to find other ways to push the envelope:

Visitors to an auto show in central Wuhan City were shocked to see a five-year-old girl wearing only a bikini and a wig blowing them a kiss while her other hand gently caressed a car.

She was one of three child models, aged four to five, wearing bikinis and striking “sexy” poses at the auto exhibition in the Hubei Province capital last Friday….

…. In a set of photos and a video recording, the three bikini girls are seen posing with other adult models. In one picture, a girl is seen trying to mimic a “sexy” pose by bending over while holding a car’s rearview mirror.

My first reaction was, Beijing or Shanghai, I might understand, but Wuhan? But that was before I did some quick research and found that 10 million people live in Wuhan.

Of course there was a reaction:

The display may have been at attempt to amuse visitors bored with the usual array of scantily-clad young women but instead the overwhelming reaction was one of outrage.

Tens of thousands of netizens expressed their fury at the girls’ parents and show organizers for “being willing to ruin their children’s lives for money” and “attracting public attention by crossing the moral red line.”

The revolution encompasses all the flavors:

More than 30 gays and transsexuals paraded in Changsha on Nov 24 to struggle for the gays’ rights and urge an end to violence and discrimination.

They were letting it all hang out, too. One of the marchers held up a small sign that read: I love LGBT.

Now here comes the backlash. This is primarily a photo post, but here’s the text. Note the last two sentences:

This is the first beauty pageant in China. (N.B.: It looks like the 1950s.) It was organized by Youth League Committee of Guangzhou city. It was called “The first beauty pageant of Ram City”. (Ram City is a nickname for Guangzhou.) It is not only the first beauty pageant in Guangzhou, but also in China… In that beauty contest, Guangzhou China hotel invites make-up specialist from Hong Kong to dress and help contestants apply cosmetics. It was the first time that make-up specialists abroad to come to mainland. The corruption entering China via British occupied Hong Kong, something that continues til this day. Nothing helps violate women’s rights like British influence via Hong Kong, and reverse all the progress made by Chairman Mao.

That sounds as if sex is being used as a political weapon. Sure enough:

The story of the recent purge of a minor official in China, who became infamous after a sex video in which he was involved surfaced online, has shed light on the usually secret machinations of minor Party officials and shady developers, and shows how corrupt cadres are punished when the political winds shift.

Lei Zhengfu, former Party secretary of the Beibei District of Chongqing, a municipality in the southwest, was by all accounts a bit player in Chinese politics. He was sacked on Nov. 23 after a sexually explicit video with him in it emerged online.

The move appears to be part of a house-cleaning operation by the new Party boss in town, ridding the city of some of the remnants of the era when Bo Xilai and his deputy Wang Lijun effectively ran Chongqing through a combination of heavy-handed neo-Maoist propaganda and brute force. Bo Xilai is a former member of the Politburo who is now in custody, and whose wife was sentenced to prison earlier this year for the murder of a Briton.

And that was just the start:

An independent investigative reporter sought help from police on Sunday after he received threats for his exposure of a video featuring a senior Chongqing official having sex with a young woman.

Zhu Ruifeng, a reporter with counter-corruption website, told the Global Times Sunday that five more sex videos featuring other Chongqing officials, some of whom still hold important positions with the government, will be released once he has obtained enough proof of their authenticity.

He said all the videos were provided by Chongqing police.

It’s already well known that a nasty political struggle is underway between the neo-Maoists and the Moderns, for want of a better word. The disgraced Bo Xilai was part of the former group. The recent anti-Japanese demonstrations and riots in China seem to have been one aspect of that struggle in disguise.

And now the ideological battle appears to be moving to the bedroom. That should be entertaining for people outside the country, if nothing else.

Where that will lead is anyone’s guess. But if people can write in all seriousness that the first Chinese beauty pageant with Hong Kong cosmeticians violates women’s rights and will reverse the progress made by Chairman Mao, at least one thing is certain:

It won’t be long before the Western media starts referring to the neo-Maoists as “right-wing”.

Posted in China, Sex | 1 Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Friday, December 7, 2012

THE concept of Sinocentric culturalism — that China is the flower at the center of the world and Chinese behavior and etiquette is the correct form to which everyone else must be measured — is familiar to people outside of East Asia. Less well known is that the Koreans have their own version of it. That brand also involves looking down on the Chinese for being periodically corrupted by barbarian invasions, while the Korean brand remains pure.

One example of the manifestation of that belief is found in this previous post. It features an interview with Dankook University Prof. Kim Yong-un, who was born and grew up in Japan. He tells a story that is too infrequently heard: The overwhelming majority of Koreans who moved to Japan during the 1910-1945 period did so for the same reason most Europeans emigrated to the United States in past centuries. That was to seek a better life with a greater chance for affluence. Coercion was not a factor.

At the end of that post is a note that Prof. Kim planned to publish a book claiming that his research shows the Korean language is derived from the old Silla language, and that the Japanese language is derived from the old Baekche language.

Just before it was published, the Global Times of China ran an article that discussed the book and the professor’s research. His research subjects included the Samguk Sagi, or History of the Three Kingdoms (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla), and a text in the old Goryeo language. The professor also claimed that Japan’s 26th emperor, Keitai (507-531), was also Konshi, the younger brother of the 22nd Baekje king.

The reaction of the Chinese public to the Global Times article was enlightening. They too are well aware of the claims of some Koreans that Confucius was Korean, the Koreans invented Chinese characters, and even that Christ was Korean. The Koreans have also registered the Dragon Boat Festival as a UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, though it is widely thought to have originated in China. Thus the Chinese share with the Japanese the recognition that the Koreans distort history to place themselves at the center of events or to suit their own purposes.

The Japanese thought it was entertaining to read the comments to the article submitted by the Chinese readers. They included:

* After China, Japan. Which country will be next?

* The Koreans really are creative. This is probably making the Japanese dizzy too.

* God in heaven is also probably Korean.

* The solar system was also a Korean invention.

* After reading this, I realized the Japanese-Korean merger was the right thing to do.

The problem with Prof. Kim’s research is that serious linguists have covered this same ground and reached conclusions that were less ethnocentric. Scholars of East Asian languages are aware of the areas of similarity between the Japanese and Korean languages, both in structure and some vocabulary elements. Here are the opinions of Iksop Lee and S. Robert Ramsey, linguists who wrote The Korean Language, published in 2000.

(T)he general structural characteristics of Japanese are almost identical to that of Korean. Concrete lexical and grammatical correspondences may be thin compared to this strikingly close structural resemblance, but there continues to be optimism about the possibility that the two languages might share a common genetic origin. The probability that Japanese belongs to the Altaic family is believed to be somewhat less than that of Korean. Even G.J. Ramstedt and N. Poppe,, who were enthusiastic advocates of a genetic relationship between Korean and Altaic, hesitated when it came to placing Japanese in the Altaic family. Moreover, there are also those who advocate a relationship with Austronesian for Japanese — a “southern hypothesis” as it were.


The significance of the Goguryeo language is that it seems to share vocabulary not only with Silla, on the one hand, but with Japanese, on the other hand. Because of the Japanese-like vocabulary of Goguryeoan, some foreign scholars have thought it likely to be a close relative or ancestor of Japanese, but that idea ignores the fact that much of the vocabulary is clearly Korean. The relationship that Goguryeoan had with Japanese lies tantalizingly beyond our grasp.

In other words, the linguists have been there and done that. Those linguists also include Japanese scholars, many of whom also suspect their language might be Altaic.

But none of them feel the need to wave the flag about it.

At least Prof. Kim takes a stab at scholarship. Not all Joseon-centric culturalists do. For an example, try this article from the weekly Shukan Post for 18 November.

“A portmanteau word has been created to define the concept that Japanese culture originates in Korea. This word is urijinaru, a combination of the Korean word uri (our) and original. This extends to all aspects of Japanese culture. Now that Japanese cuisine has become popular around the world, it extends to that as well.

“One recent claim is that Japanese sake has its roots in magkeolli, which is being aggressively promoted by some Korean restaurants (in Japan). That seems plausible at a glance, but Japanese sake was created from doburoku, and the history and fermentation processes of magkeolli and doburoku are different.

“Also, the Korean-language Wikipedia page for wasabi states that it was originally grown in Korea and is now cultivated near rivers in Korea and Japan.

“Said the South Korean news site Digital Times:

South Korean wasabi has a fragrance that is far superior to Japanese wasabi, which is well-known among Japanese chefs.

“This is of course nonsense, and wasabi is a variety of the plant that originated in Japan. But the South Koreans also claim that sushi is urijinaru, so they had to create this story about wasabi to make their story consistent.”

Now try to imagine if someone with that sort of attitude lived in your neighborhood, and how it might be to associate with them on a regular basis.

Posted in China, Food, History, Language, South Korea | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (129)

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 6, 2012

Students playing board games at Shangxi University in China on National Fitness Day last August.

Posted in China, Photographs and videos | Leave a Comment »

The DiploMad on China

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, December 6, 2012

THE DiploMad website is written by a retired US Foreign Service officer who revels in his new-found opportunity to say what he really thinks.

His strong opinions about China should be required reading for anyone interested in that country and its interaction with the rest of the world. This post would be a capital place to start.

Speaking of two lunch companions, he begins:

They saw the 21st century “belonging” to China in the same way that the 20th “belonged” to us. They made the usual arguments about China’s manufacturing prowess, well-coordinated and determined political class, social discipline, and education–which is the real kind, not the “women’s studies” kind. Their writing reflected these views. This narrative continues today from other purveyors of conventional faux wisdom such as the annoying and boring Thomas Friedman, and the condescending and insufferable Fareed Zakaria.

Don’t buy it. The 21st will prove “China’s century” only if we destroy ourselves; but, if we do, odds are we’re taking China with us–and the Chinese rulers know it (more to follow).

There are observations from his visits:

I have found it impressive over the years to see how China has transformed itself from a poor, brutal authoritarian police state into a poor, brutal, authoritarian police state with large foreign currency reserves. Sorry, but shoddily-built skyscrapers, and streets clogged with Fords, BMWs, Lexus, and Buicks, and lined with luxury stores and restaurants cannot hide the hard facts.

And the leadership:

(C)ontrol of the legal-political system remains with an unelected and corrupt Communist Party cadre. These rulers have agreed among themselves that not one will have the total power once wielded so disastrously by Mao. The top jobs rotate; major decisions are not made solo. Progress? I don’t know. We saw a similar development in the USSR after Stalin: how is the USSR doing these days?

And the real war on women (which I’ve argued before constitutes a crime against humanity):

We hear a lot of heated nonsense about a GOP “war on women.” To see a real war on women, go to China. Thanks to Chinese preference for sons, the one-child dictate means females in China are disappearing: they are being aborted, killed, and given for adoption overseas. This is gendercide, a human rights disaster of major proportions and one almost ignored. Moral issues aside, China is heading for demographic disaster. Marrying age men vastly outnumber women. Among those who can afford it, there is a hunt on for foreign brides. Large groups of young Chinese men charter planes to Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere, and hold “speed dating” sessions at local hotels in the hunt for brides, stoking the anti-Chinese hatred which lies just beneath the surface of many Asian societies.

He also talks about how the Chinese are viewed by its neighbors:

A senior Vietnamese diplomat once told me, “Everybody wants to be American. Nobody wants to be Chinese. Even the Chinese want to be American.” This from a man whose father, he said, died fighting the US Marines in Hue, and whose own son was studying in California.

As well as the so-called economic miracle:

Even in the economic sphere there is less than meets the eye. Most Chinese, the overwhelming number of them, live in crushing rural and urban poverty, work under appalling conditions, and suffer levels of environmental pollution and food contamination that no Western society would tolerate.

It’s so good it’s tempting just to copy and paste the whole thing. But all you have to do is hit the link.

Posted in China | 3 Comments »

The new ruler of the waves

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 1, 2012

ANYONE who’s surprised at this has either been kidding themselves or hasn’t been paying attention. From the China Daily, via the Sidney Morning Herald:

Police in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan will board and search ships which enter into what China considers its territorial waters in the disputed South China Sea, state media said.

From January 1, Hainan police will have the authority to board and seize control of foreign ships which “illegally enter” Chinese waters and order them to change course or stop sailing, the China Daily reported.

“Activities such as entering the island province’s waters without permission, damaging coastal defence facilities and engaging in publicity that threatens national security are illegal,” the English-language newspaper said.

“If foreign ships or crew members violate regulations, Hainan police have the right to take over the ships or their communication systems, under the revised regulations,” it added.

Note the use of the word “police”, rather than navy. The China Times article I found didn’t include all the information cited here, but it did have this headline:

Hainan border police given new powers

Border police, eh?

But not to worry. Here’s another article on the China Times site.

China’s Defense Ministry spokesman on Thursday stressed that the country’s move to build itself into a maritime power has nothing to do with seeking hegemony.

China wants to become a maritime power in order to enhance its capacity to exploit marine resources, develop the marine economy, safeguard the country’s maritime rights and interests, and ensure a sustainable economic and social development, Geng Yansheng told a regular press conference.

That does not mean that China is aiming at expanding its presence at sea, nor at marine hegemony, Geng said.

“Enhance its capacity”…”safeguard the country’s maritime rights and interests”…”Sustainable economic and social development”…Sending all those Chinese young people to the US to study at American universities certainly has paid off, hasn’t it?

The first China Times article did have this passage, however:

It also emphasizes that border police should strengthen the patrol of the waters off Sansha city and coordinate activities with the routine patrols of the South China Sea to protect the country’s maritime interests.

Now you know why the news last July about Sansha was so important, though most people overlooked it.

Meanwhile, Chinese fishery patrol vessels have entered the contiguous waters off the Senkakus every day for more than a month, demanding that the Japanese Coast Guard ships leave Chinese territory at once.

That’s next. The Chinese have the smaller fish of Vietnam and The Philippines to fry first.

And the maroons of the Western media are concerned because of the growing Japanese interest in assuming responsibility for their own defense.

Drive-by pundit Walter Russell Mead, asks, “Your move, Mr. President?”.

You in the back, stop laughing! This is serious!

If Mr. Obama can tear himself away from the golf course long enough for Valerie Jarrett to make up his mind, his “move” will probably be to dispatch someone to China to have a “conversation”. Of course, one of the reasons the Chinese are doing all this to begin with is that they have assayed Mr. Obama’s mettle. The Chinese behavior follows logically from that assessment.

Those with the eyes to see…


Really, there’s no longer any excuse for the Sinophiles. The title of this article is Elton John exposes himself as an agent of imperialism.

If Elton John was so concerned about censorship, and political dissidents, then why has Elton never spoken up for the American political dissidents locked down, like Mumia Abu Jamal, and Leonard Peltier? Real political dissidents that oppose real fascism. Maybe because Elton is a fascist himself?


I always hear about how China is authoritarian, and totalitarian, albeit, mostly from shills. Never the less, how is it that these “enemies” of China, and trouble makers keep getting into China, if China was really that authoritarian?

This from the country that arrested its first Nobel Prize winner. The Peace Prize, no less.

Then there’s this:

If I was issuing visas, I certainly would not have allowed Elton in for several reasons. Firstly, he’s an imperialist, and secondly, he is taking away money from China. He most likely “earned” (stole is more like it) millions from Chinese concert goers. Now western demagogues often cite that Chinese enterprises are stealing western jobs, or denying westerners of opportunities. The same principle can be applied here. If people spend their money on an Elton John concert, then they won’t be spending it on Chinese concerts. Elton has just denied opportunities to many Chinese artists. The Chinese government is encouraging domestic consumption to keep the economy alive with a decline in western demand. How exactly is allowing Elton to take away millions, and pump that money into the British economy, helpful to the Chinese economy? It only allows “enemies” like Elton to take away millions of Chinese’ hard earned cash. Trade should be reciprocal. This is a line frequently pitched by western demagogues, and their compradores. When was the last time any Chinese musician walked away with millions of dollars in the west? So why does China keep allowing western “musicians” to walk away with millions of Chinese money? Reminds me of the opium trade. If you truly believe in “fair trade”, then China should not allow any western musicians to perform until the west starts generating millions in profits for Chinese musicians.

See what people mean when they talk about Sinocentric Culturalism?

Replace those flags with the 五星红旗, and you get the idea.

What? You’re not interested in learning Chinese characters?

How unlucky for you.

Posted in China, International relations | 4 Comments »

No surprises at all

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 28, 2012

BY now you’ve probably read that China has issued new passports with a map of the country that includes most of the territory outside Chinese borders they don’t control but insists is theirs. (The Senkakus are not on the map, but they’re small.)

If there is any surprise to this, it would be that anyone could possibly be surprised at Chinese behavior. That is who they are.

This post at China Digital Times presents a concise roundup of regional reactions. The Vietnamese are issuing visas on separate pieces of paper to avoid stamping the passports, and India is stamping the passports with its own map showing non-Sinocentric borders. A government spokesman from The Philippines said it is an infringement of national sovereignty. Certainly the Taiwanese are displeased.

But typically slow on the uptake is the United States. The China Digital Times has a post about the American reaction with the puzzling title, State Dept.: U.S. Does Not Endorse China Passport Map.

Perhaps it doesn’t, but the passage the CDT quotes from a news conference with a State Department spokesman doesn’t inspire much confidence in the American approach. The spokesman actually said:

* Accepting the passport does not constitute the acceptance of territorial claims.

* The spokesman “looked into this a little bit” to confirm the American standards for accepting passports, and “stray maps that they include aren’t part of it”.

“Stray maps”, eh?

She also said they would have “a conversation” with the Chinese about it and there were “a bunch of other issues” involved. She also refused to refer to the use of the maps as provocative. She’ll let the media know the full American position after the conversations. Then the discussion moved on to other pressing matters, such as the anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda. (It’s also worth reading the transcript at the link inside that post to see just how unserious everyone participating was.)

Well, isn’t that dandy — the Obama administration is going to have a conversation with the Chinese about it. If we bet on form, the Chinese will ignore whatever it is the speak-softly-and-carry-a-small-stick government has to say, and the American customs officials will stamp the passports without an official objection. After all, their conversations with other malefactors, including the Russians, the Iranians, and the Egyptians, haven’t been very fruitful. They only get pushy with the Israelis, but those conversations haven’t been very fruitful either.

None of the behavior by any of the actors should surprise anyone at all.

Thus the day moves closer when Japan will beef up its military and eliminate the peace clause from the Constitution.

Those with the eyes to see…

And for more unserious talk, try this:

China’s navy chief yesterday briefed the US secretary of the Navy on test trials of the country’s first aircraft carrier and the successful aircraft landing tests, which Beijing recently confirmed.

Ray Mabus’ visit to China is the first by a US secretary of the navy in 28 years. The visit shows China’s sincerity to improve military ties with the US and Beijing’s growing transparency and confidence, experts said.

The experts were Chinese, of course.

“Despite sometimes bellicose attitudes on both sides, there is also a growing push for greater contact and communication to avoid misunderstandings and build trust,” The Associated Press said yesterday in a report about the meeting.

That might be reassuring if Associated Press reporting about repressive regimes had any credibility.

The real point comes at the end:

“The US used to be the only dominant force in the region. And the Pentagon is not used to a stronger Chinese military with an expanded sphere of activity,” Niu said.

It has nothing to with openness and trust, and everything to do with delivering an unsubtle threat.

Posted in China, International relations, Military affairs | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 27, 2012

MANY South Koreans continue to reveal in word and deed their lack of interest in better relations with Japan, and their antipathy to the idea itself. It doesn’t make any difference what the Japanese do — they’re not going to change.

The photo above shows one of several organized groups of demonstrators in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul last week. The demonstration was to protest the content of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party’s election pledges released on the 21st.

The LDP isn’t calling their promises a manifesto (British style). After the ruling Democratic Party congratulated themselves for bringing manifestoes to Japan, and then used theirs as toilet paper once they took office, manifesto has now become a dirty political word. But back to the story.

It was reported in South Korea that the LDP campaign pledges would “return Japan to a war criminal state that included far right-wing views which will completely repudiate (what today’s Koreans consider to be) the fact that the Japan-Korea merger was a war of invasion.”

I visited the LDP website and read the Japanese version of the document. (It’s not in English yet.) Under the Education category, the LDP promises to encourage students to take pride in traditional culture, to improve and revamp textbook screening, and to remove the “neighboring country clause” adopted in the 1980s for including considerations of the wishes of neighboring countries when editing textbooks.

There’s nothing in there about any repudiation of a “war of invasion”. (Which is not to say that there shouldn’t be, if that is cited in history textbooks.)

But telling the truth would deny a significant portion of South Korean society its favorite pastime. They just aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy about Japan.

Then again, this same element thinks Prime Minister Noda is also of the “extreme right”. That eliminates any possibility the Japanese will take what they say seriously.

No other governments at the time seemed to think it was a war of invasion, by the way. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt even thought it was an admirable example of the yellow man assuming the white man’s burden. Here’s an old map in English you’ll never see in South Korea. (It’s also worthy of note to compare the borders of China then with those of today.)

Here’s an excerpt from an Chosun Ilbo editorial that appeared on 22 November.

“The Liberal Democratic Party’s promise to elevate Shimane Prefecture’s Takeshima Day into a national event is proof that Japan has lost its reason. There are now concerns that if this is accompanied by a promise to deny the government coercion of comfort women, it will be impossible for Japan to return to a normal path. It is clear that this denial will not only anger China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. There is no one in Japan who can put the brakes on this. The LDP promises include the stationing of personnel on the Senkaku islets, which are the subject of a territorial dispute with China.

“The first South Korea-China-Japan trilateral summit was held in Fukuoka in December 2008, and it has continued every year since then. But if LDP President Abe becomes the next prime minister with these campaign promises, it will not be possible to continue these summits. The next prime minister, the next Korean president, and the Chinese prime minister will not be able to discuss together the future of Northeast Asia.”

* Hysteria is the only word that can be used to describe this.

* Taiwan, The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia will not be angered by any of this, because they haven’t been before. In fact, the Indonesians years ago told the Japanese human rights hustlers trying to establish the same comfort woman scam there to get lost. The only countries to get angry are the two trying to use historical issues for rent-seeking.

* What Japanese government personnel are stationed on what part of Japanese territory is certainly not the business of the Chosun Ilbo. But then this is from a country that can’t get it up to do anything when another country sinks its naval vessels or unleashes an artillery barrage on its territory, killing military personnel and civilians both.

* The three leaders will not be able to discuss the future of the region as long as two of them insist on reopening and discussing past issues that were resolved by treaty decades ago.

There has been for many years an official Japan-South Korea Legislators’ League to promote ties between the national legislators of both countries. Former Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro was particularly active in the group.

The position of chairman on the Korean side has been vacant for six months, which is an unusual state of affairs. They finally got around to naming a new secretary-general, who is responsible for the actual liaison work with their Japanese counterparts.

The new man is Kang Chang-il, an opposition member of the assembly. In May 2011, he indulged in the Korean version of gesture politics by visiting the Northern Territories, the four small islands illegally seized by Russia after the Japanese surrender in the war.

And these are the people who are supposed to be most interested in creating stronger and friendlier governmental ties? With friends like these…

Now comes word that a Korean group in Detroit wants to erect a comfort woman memorial in that city, and are waiting for final authorization from the city to proceed. In addition to wondering who among the people remaining in that dying city will much care about it, one also wonders what the Koreans think they will accomplish other than poisoning bilateral relations into the future.

The only way to describe this is to say that some people seem to enjoy being aggressively obnoxious. That isn’t a good strategy for creating friendly relations with anyone. Even if people not directly involved aren’t the immediate object of that obnoxious behavior, they realize on some level that it could just as easily be directed at them someday.

The Japanese Cabinet Office released the results of their periodical survey of the public’s views of foreign affairs. Here are some of them.

Do you feel friendly to South Korea?

Yes: 39.2%, down 3.0 points from the previous survey

No: 59.0%. This percentage is higher than the one for yes for the first time since 1999.

How would you characterize bilateral relations?

Bad: 78.8%, a 42.8-point increase

Good: 18.4%

They also asked the same questions about China.

Do you feel friendly to China?

Yes: 18.0%, down 8.3 points from the previous survey. It is the lowest percentage since the question was first asked in the poll in 1978.

No: 80.65, a record high

How would you characterize bilateral relations?

Bad: 92.8%, a 16.5-point increase

Good: 4.8%, down 14 points.

There are at least two conclusions that can be drawn from these results.

The first is that one out of every 20 people you encounter might as well be living in a different galaxy. They sure aren’t paying attention to events in this one.

The other is that the Japanese are reaching, if not past, their limit of tolerance for Korean and Chinese behavior.

As this previous post indicated, new varieties of the Korean alcoholic beverage makgeolli have become popular in Japan in recent years, mostly among women. South Korea shipped 39,000 tons of the hooch to Japan in 2011, an increase of 2.5 times from the previous year.

That isn’t happening this year. South Korean customs reported that makgeolli exports for the January – September period so far this year totaled 21,743 tons. That’s a 28.6% decline in volume from the same period in the year before, and a 28.0% drop in value.

South Korean attitudes and behavior aren’t leaving a good taste in people’s mouths. It’s getting harder to get makgeolli past the throat in those circumstances.

NHK-TV has decided not to invite any K-pop performers for its famous New Year’s Eve musical program, Kohaku Uta Gassen. Three groups appeared last year, and those three are still performing in Japan, but the network decided they would not be conducive to creating a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere for the holidays.

The big attraction this year will be actor/singer Tachi Hiroshi singing a medley of the late actor/singer Ishihara Yujiro’s hits. As a young man, Mr. Tachi was associated with Ishihara’s production company, Ishihara was the leading male star of his generation, and he was the younger brother of Ishihara Shintaro.

Here’s a video of cluelessness on a level approaching that of Joseph Biden. A South Korean man is performing parlor tricks with alcoholic beverages for the amusement of an international audience. He gives the tricks the generic title of “bomb liquor”.

About three minutes in, he performs what he calls the Hiroshima trick. It forms a boozy mushroom cloud. The Japanese ambassador is in the audience.

Then again, maybe it isn’t Bidenesque. Biden is a cloth-headed demagogue. This guy just doesn’t care.

Posted in China, History, International relations, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »