Category Archives: M

From another guest at Danny’s party

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See also Sirdan’s birthday party — Rosebery.

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Posted by on August 10, 2009 in Australia, events, M, photography, Sirdan


Last night: Oz Lit, refugees and other matters

Sunday dinner rather than Sunday lunch at M’s yesterday.

There were in fact three guests of honour. Nicholas Jose I mentioned here. Yes, we did talk about the new Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. No, I can’t say what was said because any detail is embargoed until the official launch later this week, but I can tell you it is big (around 1,500 pages) and anyone interested in Australian Literature will want one. There may be some surprises.

The second guest was Claire Roberts.

Claire Roberts is Senior Curator Asian Arts and Design, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and a Research Fellow with Geremie Barmé’s Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship project at The Australian National University…

Claire is a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University for 2009-10.

She has a Master of Arts in Chinese language and art history from the University of Melbourne and a PhD in Chinese history from The Australian National University.

Nick and Claire are both about to go to Harvard for a year. That is why M had the gathering.

The third guest I shall call M2. He works in Thailand with refugees but may soon be going to Africa or the USA. He was briefly in Australia because of family matters. He is an old friend of M, so M took the opportunity for us to catch up. In one of those small world moments I discovered he met my ex-student Evan Ruth in Peshawar in 2001.

Also there was William Yang. I was interested to hear that William is currently reading Anthony Venn-Brown’s autobiography. He is really impressed with it, as was I.

There were several other friends there, and of course Sirdan.


Instead of the planned post

Being at M’s waiting for his new water heater, I haven’t had time to write the deep and meaningful post I planned. 😉

Instead, reflect on what this tells you about cultural adaptation in our wonderfully cultural plural country Australia:

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M grew up in Shanghai. See also Memorabilia 20: M and William Yang.


Sunday lunch: Simon H’s place, Randwick

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Sirdan and Simon

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View from Simon’s verandah

M also joined us. He and Simon engaged in vigorous but mutually enjoyable cross-cultural debate.

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Posted by on July 5, 2009 in Australia, M, personal, Sirdan, Sunday lunch


I too was offered a free trip to China…

… and M was once thought to be a Chinese spy.

Back in 1990 when I first met M, then very recently arrived in Australia, I was living in Paddington at PK’s place – and a nice place it was too. The first morning M appeared at breakfast PK was quite nonplussed – being of Lithuanian background he had fairly strong Cold War views in some respects, though not in others. He did indeed suggest soon after that M may be a Chinese spy. He later changed his mind and may even deny the story today. 😉

No doubt among the very large influx of Chinese students at that post-Tiananmen time there would have been some spies, mostly there to monitor the other students. Chinese were used to being monitored. M solved the problem back home in China by joining the neighbourhood spooks – hiding in plain sight, you could say. The neighbourhood committee of spooks also had a benign role; as well as reporting suspicious activity they were agents too of social welfare. M claimed he was particularly lax on the reporting side, especially given his own association with quite a few westerners.

My students at the language college I then worked in more or less assumed someone could be a spy, or “a boss” as they tended to say, and sussed one another out before they started opening up about certain topics.

About a decade later I was offered a free trip to Shanghai by the parents of one of my SBHS students – and not to influence me, as it was offered after the exams. As M said, they were just being Chinese and were grateful I had helped their son. I found a face-saving way of refusing the gift.

Where I tutor in Chinatown there is a prominent display on the wall of photos of the principals in the company with leading pollies, including Mr Ruddock. This is part of the Chinese way of business – establishing your connections or guanxi.*

“Guanxi” literally means "relationships", stands for any type of relationship. In the Chinese business world, however, it is also understood as the network of relationships among various parties that cooperate together and support one another. The Chinese businessmen mentality is very much one of "You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours." In essence, this boils down to exchanging favors, which are expected to be done regularly and voluntarily. Therefore, it is an important concept to understand if one is to function effectively in Chinese society.

The importance of "Guanxi"

Regardless of business experiences in ones home country, in China it is the right "Guanxi" that makes all the difference in ensuring that business will be successful. By getting the right "Guanxi", the organization minimizes the risks, frustrations, and disappointments when doing business in China. Often it is acquiring the right "Guanxi" with the relevant authorities that will determine the competitive standing of an organization in the long run in China. And moreover, the inevitable risks, barriers, and set-ups you’ll encounter in China will be minimized when you have the right “Guanxi” network working for you. That is why the correct "Guanxi" is so vital to any successful business strategy in China.

Although developing and nurturing the "Guanxi" in China is very demanding on time and resources, the time and money necessary to establish a strong network is well worth the investment. What your business could get in return from the favors for your partners are often more much more valuable, especially in the long run, and when you’re in need. Even domestic businesses in China establish wide networks with their suppliers, retailers, banks, and local government officials. It is very common for individuals of an organization to visit the residence of their acquaintances from other organizations, bringing gifts (such as wine, cigarettes, etc.). While this practice may seem intrusive, as you spend more time learning the Chinese culture, it will become easier to understand and take part in this practice that is so central to successful Chinese commercial activity…

We should keep this in mind as we contemplate the Joel Fitzgibbon affair and the activities of Ms Liu. Still, the narrative is very much, and not entirely wrongly, taking what I may call the PK route. See Greg Sheridan in today’s Australian.

NO nation makes a greater espionage effort directed at Australian military and commercial technology than does China.

It was because of China’s massively increased espionage activities in recent years that in 2004 the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation set up a new counter-espionage unit.

But the problems China poses for a country such as Australia in the security and espionage field extend far beyond what might be regarded as traditional espionage.

Beijing has the most unified and co-ordinated sense of national power of any big nation on Earth. Modern China is not a democracy, but it is a very effectively functioning modern state.

It has a highly competent bureaucracy that seeks to penetrate all sectors of Chinese society and serve what the ruling Communist Party regards as the broader national interest. This includes monitoring, and where possible influencing, Chinese business people and students in their activities overseas.

This is a highly elusive matter, extremely difficult to quantify.

The overwhelming majority of people of Chinese ethnic background living in Western societies such as Australia or the US have no relationship with the Chinese state.

And most of those who do have any relationship with the Chinese state have an entirely wholesome one, such as doing business with the Government or promoting cultural exchange.

But the Chinese Government seeks to use every resource it can to gain information and to exercise power. That includes, on the testimony of Chinese defectors and Western intelligence agencies, often using business people and students as agents where it can recruit them…

He isn’t entirely wrong, far from it in fact, and does at least qualify what he says; but the framing of what he says does tend towards suspicion of Fitzgibbon and Liu, and Fitzgibbon must have been especially dense not to have declared those two trips.

And of course they spy, we gather intelligence – but that is another matter.

Back in the mid 90s I had the opportunity to meet the former Minister of Culture Wang Meng who was visiting from Beijing. He was at that stage on the outer, as he had publicly refused to congratulate the troops after Tiananmen. He still had plenty of guanxi though, apparently. After all, he had been able to come to Sydney. I was interested because I had read some of his stories (in English of course) and they were rather good. M was not so interested and didn’t go, saying he simply didn’t trust anyone in a high position.

See also Australia China Connections.


* Helen Liu sure gets around.


Kind of relevant… See Strange Maps: 368 – The World As Seen From Chang’an Street.


Nice, but hot

Over on the photoblog I mention it was 39C today – not what the news says, but that’s what it was out of the wind and in the sun on M’s balcony at noon. I was doing a brief house-sit, for reasons I won’t bother with here… But you can see one of his plants.

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It was at least cool inside, and it did keep me away from the computer most of the day. 😉 (Today’s other posts went up via automatic pilot just after midnight last night.) Called at The Mine too.

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No. Not too close… Photographing school boys is a no-no.

nephew Speaking of no longer school boys, English/ESL scored a visit via my grand-nephew’s (right) MySpace blog. He’d written last year (and I hadn’t seen this before):

With a new school year set to start today, I just thought that I should spread a little bit of cheer in the form of information. Yay!

HSC is a bitch, as we all know, and English is a subject everyone does, and it is a pain in the ass right across all levels. I, however have found a website that takes a little bit of the strain off the extensive English workload.

This website, hosted by former English HT of Sydney Boys HS (along with several other High Schools and Universities) and my Great Uncle…was one of the best resources I had when I was studying HSC English Advanced. But not only does this website cover English Advanced curricula, but ranges from ESL, English Standard, and even to Extension, and includes tips as to how to write proper essays, and guidlines on how to stick to answering the question.

I rate this website to anyone studying the HSC this year as it saved me a few times last year.

So Check it out!

Bookmark it!

Maybe it will save your HSC too…

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No, I’m not linking him, but I was also pleased to read (and he is a Shire boy) a really impassioned statement on racism.

…I understand racism still exists. It is appalling that in today Australia, that barriers still exist. I for one am NOT a racist. However, I am an Australian. My heritage is that of English, Scottish, Mauritian, Aboriginal and a bunch of others. I have cousins of Malaysian descent. I was born in Australia and live my life as an Australian. I do not mingle in the business of others, and I certainly do not take offense nor exhibit prejudice to the heritage that of my own nor other around me.

I do, however, take offense to others who label me as a racist, BECAUSE I am what is ignorantly labelled as White Australian. It is an ugly term to be thrown around. My love for who I am and where I live and those who have lived before me does not make me a racist, nor does it make others like me racist. It is, in fact, those who use that term to label others who are the racist ones.

This needs to stop. We need to live together under the one flag. That is what the Australian Flag represents. It represents unity. It represents mutual respect…

Nothing to do with me, I assure you, all his own unaided thoughts. (I don’t see him all that often, though we just had a quick MSN chat in response to the English/ESL link, which I thanked him for.)

I was chuffed though.

Must correct my g-nephew: I was never H(ead) T(eacher) — just a dogsbody crew member, and of course ESL head, in the sense there was only ever one of us!


Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 3

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Posted by on January 25, 2009 in Australia and Australian, Chinese and China, events, friends, M, multicultural Australia, personal, Surry Hills



Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 2

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Posted by on January 25, 2009 in Australia and Australian, Chinese and China, events, friends, local, M, multicultural Australia, personal, Sirdan, Surry Hills



Very rare and special: pics from M’s Chinese New Year Party 1

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Posted by on January 25, 2009 in Australia and Australian, Chinese and China, events, friends, local, M, multicultural Australia, personal, Sirdan, Surry Hills



Christmas Day in Surry Hills and East Redfern

I refrained from taking photos of the little gathering at M’s place – just G, M, Sirdan, A (a Japanese friend of M) and I. It was however a very pleasant day. Sirdan stayed on longer and had, he tells me, a lovely time, while I left a little earlier to accompany G to Central Station.

I did take some pics of M’s garden balcony.

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And on the way back home from Central took one of Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, which you could call “the Christmas Day effect”.

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Only on Christmas Day are the streets of Surry Hills so free of traffic!

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Posted by on December 26, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, events, friends, local, M, multicultural Australia, personal, Sirdan, Surry Hills


A year ago…

Good heavens, is it that long?

From M:

in pucon in chile on my way 2 antarctica

Oh dear!


The actual trip didn’t happen for another month. M loved it.

I see the same trip has hit trouble again just this week:

A Chilean navy vessel on Friday evacuated all 89 passengers, including 11 Australians, from an Argentine cruise ship which had run aground in Antarctica, an official in charge of the operation said.

They were taken off the cruise liner Ciudad de Ushuaia, which became stuck on Thursday in Wilhelmina Bay, part of the Antarctic peninsula that reaches towards the southern tip of South America, Commander Alan Nettle said.

Argentine authorities on Thursday said the passengers and 33 crew members were all unhurt and the vessel was in no danger of sinking…

Other accidents have happened in the past to cruises in the region.

In December 2007, a Norwegian cruise liner, Fram, floated adrift for two hours before rescue in the same region with 256 passengers and 70 crew on board after its engines failed.

In November 2007, a Canadian-owned ship, Explorer, sank after hitting an iceberg. Its 154 occupants abandoned ship in lifeboats and were rescued without injury, though a massive fuel slick sullied the pristine protected nature zone.

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Posted by on December 6, 2008 in M, memory, personal


And that is as far as you get…

Called over to M’s this morning…

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…and this is on his door, but that is as far as we go.

Then I went to SBHS, not far away, just as a social call. But I thought I would collect something for Jim Belshaw…

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I also caught a bit of Old Sydney for Ninglun’s Specials, but you can go there to see that.

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Posted by on November 26, 2008 in M, personal, Salt Mine, Surry Hills


Progress in the plant world

One of the plants put in by M two weeks ago is getting ready to flower…


Compare with Surry Hills 88: overgrown (November 6, 2008). Every day a drink via the watering can.


And then tonight it bucketed down. We haven’t had such a dump for quite a long time…

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— Photos by Neil 14 November 2008

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Posted by on November 14, 2008 in M, personal, Surry Hills


Good heavens! Where does time go?

Yes, it will soon be twelve months since Kevin 07 became our PM, and while Kevin 08 has retained his strong lead in the polls, much has happened in the world, even if, it could be well argued, not as much has happened here as might have done… Even so, I really wish Canberra would get over the old games of politics and give some indication of being serious about where we find ourselves – I refer particularly to the Opposition. The whole paradigm sucks – but I have said that before.

And as for NSW right now – well, probably not as bad as today’s Daily Terror would have us believe, but bad enough. I guess there are degrees of incompetence. Unfortunately NSW since last November has hardly been a great blessing for Kevin 08… And I do rather like Barry O’Farrell; I just am not sure about the baggage train in the NSW Libs. I am no longer sure fixed parliamentary terms are such a good idea; NSW really ought to be going to the polls.

Politics aside, I am really reflecting on the fact that it is a year since M was at Machu Picchu. I guess he reflects on this too. I have to pinch myself to accept that so much of 2008 has gone by.

I’ve tagged this personal – even the political ruminations above are no more than personal. I have more years far behind now than there are in front.

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Posted by on November 13, 2008 in M, memory, personal