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A week for mixed messages from China

… or “We’ll decide who comes into this country” – John Howard.

So we’ve had a record deal with the Chinese on the one hand for natural gas into the future, and a rather heavy diplomatic cooling on the other. What’s new?

The Opposition did their best to behave like an Opposition on issues they fundamentally agree with the government on. Clarke and Dawe captured that beautifully on The 7.30 Report last night.

KERRY O’BRIEN, PRESENTER: Time now for John Clarke, Bryan Dawe and Joe Hockey, giving credit where it’s due.
BRYAN DAWE: Joe Hockey, thanks for your time.
JOHN CLARKE: It’s very good to be with you Bryan and good evening.
BRYAN DAWE: You’re pleased at the announcement of this big new gas deal off the West Australian Coast, weren’t you?
JOHN CLARKE: Yeah I’m delighted, Bryan I’m always very keen on anything that goes to the benefit of Australia and Australians, I don’t apologise for that Bryan, neither do I resile from it. I don’t apologise for that at all.
BRYAN DAWE: This is the biggest business deal in Australian history?
JOHN CLARKE: It is, it’s great for the West Bryan, It’s great for business and it’s great for Australia.
BRYAN DAWE: Also, you said it was organised by the Howard Government?…

The Chinese have been particularly miffed by our giving a visa allowing what they see as a “Muslim terrorist” and “splittist” into the country. As The People’s Daily reports:

001aa018f68c0bf5897031 China canceled plans for Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei to visit Australia earlier this month, reportedly due to Canberra granting a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, the mastermind of the July 5 Urumqi riot.

The decision was the latest sign that ties between the two countries are strained.

"Australia very much regrets that China decided to take that response," Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told Parliament yesterday.

China’s Foreign Ministry yesterday refused to comment.

Kadeer, who lives in exile in the US, was allowed to visit Australia, despite strong protests from Beijing…

Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull accused Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat to Beijing, of bringing bilateral relations to "the lowest ebb that they have been for many, many years".

"He obviously has no leverage with China left at all," Turnbull said.

Chen Fengying, an expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said it was "natural" for China to have made the move because it was dissatisfied with Australia granting Kadeer a visa…

On Rebiya Kadeer see Amnesty International.

Since the late 1980s, Chinese government policies and other factors have generated growing ethnic discontent in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. In the past few years, thousands of people there have been the victims of gross human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, unfair political trials, torture, and summary executions. These violations, suffered primarily by members of the Uighur ethnic group, occur amidst growing ethnic unrest fueled by unemployment, discrimination and restrictions on religious and cultural freedoms. The situation has led some people living in the XUAR to favor independence from China.

Crackdowns in the region intensified after September 11, 2001, with authorities designating supporters of independence as “separatists” and “terrorists.” Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, have been the main targets in the region of the Chinese authorities. Authorities have closed down mosques, detained Islamic clergy, and severely curtailed freedom of expression and association.

 

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Confucius says: let the Games begin | The Australian

Pretty observant, Rowan Callick. That the Opening Ceremony was a Mao-free zone did occur to me too. And as for Confucius, perhaps these quotations from Simon Leys’ excellent translation of the Analects are apt:

The Master said: “If a ruler could employ me, in one year I would make things work, and in three years the results would show.”

The Master said: “‘When good men have been running the country for a hundred years, cruelty can be overcome and murder extirpated.’ How true is this saying!”

The Master said: “Even with a true king, it would certainly take one generation for humanity to prevail.” — Analects 13.

That first, it occurs to me, would seem to indicate that NSW right now is in desperate need of Confucius. 😉

Sure, last night was about power; it was meant to be awesome. But it is also good to have been shaken a little from our sometimes Eurocentric idea of civilisation.

NOTE

Yes, I am aware of human rights issues in China. I have after all met people who actually were in Tiananmen Square in 1989. I have met people who went through the Cultural Revolution. M’s own brother was in a re-education camp for two years post 1989… But I have spoken of such matters so many times already.

LATER

See Nagging questions amid ruins of Tiananmen by Nicholas Jose, a review of Beijing Coma by Ma Jian (Chatto & Windus). Nick was in China at the time and close to the action. He is also a long-term friend of M — longer than I have been.

ONE of the easiest ways to get into trouble in China is to go public about Tiananmen Square. The massive protests and bloody crackdown there in 1989 are still taboo subjects. The poet Shi Tao, for example, is in jail for revealing in an email the government’s plans for handling the anniversary of the event in 2004.

By putting Tiananmen Square at the heart of his ambitious new novel, Beijing Coma, Ma Jian takes on what is unspoken and unspeakable in China: the physical and psychological violence done to people in the name of the state.

China has changed almost beyond recognition since the 1980s. A new generation has grown up with little knowledge of the past. Even those who can remember are happy to look forward in the belief things keep getting better. But unfinished business remains, surfacing every time the giant square appears on television, filled with smiling faces, to remind authorities they cannot afford to loosen their grip. During the Olympics, reporting from Tiananmen Square will be the most closely watched of foreign media activity.

The protagonist of Ma Jian’s novel is a Peking University student who was involved in organising the 1989 demonstrations and who now, thanks to a stray bullet on the night of the June 4 massacre, lies in a vegetative state, replaying those calamitous events in his mind. In this brilliant image, memory and paralysis come together…

It is probably asking too much of a novel to provide a coherent analysis of Tiananmen Square at the same time as fictionalising a raw and unresolved moment in history. Ma’s protagonist remains disturbingly ambivalent about the questions at the heart of the novel, coming across as a picaresque traveller through the wreckage of 1989.

Could it have been different? Did the students act in vain? Is there another, hidden story? Is change for justice possible, in China or anywhere? Answers slip away as the novel’s remonstration grinds on. The sardonic hero, imprisoned in a needy ego and a body that refuses to die, is left with only the fading loops of memory.

MONDAY

Geremie Barme offers a fascinating cultural reading of the Opening Ceremony in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Olympics come to life as a painting by Beijing and athletes.

…Zhang Yimou, the renowned filmmaker and director of the show, used a quotation from Mao Zedong to describe the thinking behind the opening: “Using the past to serve the present and the foreign to serve China.”

Most observers noted that Mao Zedong, the party chairman who founded the People’s Republic in 1949 and led the country until his death in 1976 (launching the disastrous Great Leap Forward in the late-’50s and the decade of disruption of the Cultural Revolution from 1966) was entirely absent from this paean to China’s past civilisation. In reality, the Great Helmsman does get a look-in, if only obliquely.

On the unfurled paper scroll that featured early in the show, dancers traced out a painting of mountains and a river, to which is added a sun. It is an image that evokes the painting-mural that forms a backdrop to the statue of the chairman in the Mao Memorial Hall in the centre of Beijing. That picture is, in turn, inspired by a line from Mao’s most famous poem Snow (1936) that reads: “How splendid the rivers and mountains of China.” The poem lists the prominent rulers of dynastic China and ends by commenting on how all these great men fade in comparison to the true heroes of the modern world: the people. The poem is generally interpreted as being about Mao himself, the hero of the age…

But after the spectacular highlights of traditional China, powerful images jostle, appear momentarily and are crowded out as one mass scene after another presses in, or some vignette comes and goes in fleeting glitz. The Chinese voice-over speaks repeatedly about traditional aesthetics and the language of understatement and elegance, but as the show goes on, a certain failure of artistic coherence becomes increasingly obvious.

One Chinese web blogger commented immediately after the ceremony: “We’ve been waiting for this banquet for a long time. Instead what we got was hotpot in which all the flavours have ended up confused.”

People will debate the contents and significance of the visual banquet for some time. What does remain, however, is a Chinese painting which the whole world, through its athletes, has helped co-create.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2008 in Chinese and China, Olympics 2008

 

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Levelling with China | The Monthly | Linda Jaivan

August2008 Levelling with China is just one of the goodies in the August issue of The Monthly, the Aussie magazine which in 2006 brought you Kevin Rudd on politics and religion. Jaivan is well qualified to write on China. She is a friendly critic, but a trenchant one nonetheless, so I have given this the flag. 😉

Every day, we carry on about how the Chinese nation is going through its most dangerous period. Yet, in fact, the Chinese people lack a sense of urgency about the crises and dangers we face. Our overweening sense of self-importance, conservatism and complacency, blind optimism, propensity for idle boasting, flattery, unscrupulous behaviour, self-deceit, and trickery have the most serious consequences for the nation and our people.

He Baochuan wrote those words back in 1988. A scholar of the philosophy of science, he had worked on China’s first computer in the 1960s. His In the Hills of China, blunt and forceful, was one of a number of books, articles and even television shows produced at the time on the subject of what some intellectuals daringly called “the China illness”. Commonly cited symptoms included the burgeoning population, looming environmental disaster, bureaucratic incompetence, corruption and unbalanced economic development. He Baochuan’s editor, Xu Yinong, commented at the time, “In the past, people have talked about Reform as being a process of ‘crossing the river by feeling for the stones’. The real worry now is that in all too many situations we simply can’t find any stones.”

In the Hills of China was banned, along with many other works, as part of the clampdown on dissent that followed the 1989 protests and massacre. The People’s Daily and other state organs published attacks on authors like He Baochuan, accusing them of wanting to sell out China to the West. The shrill language of these attacks bore echoes of Red Guard rhetoric, and was a foretaste of the style of vilification which netizens and other self-appointed guardians of China’s national honour today direct at anyone, Chinese or foreign, deemed to have insulted China’s national pride, often because they have dared to address its problems.

A few months ago, when the violence in Tibet prompted worldwide protests and counter-protests, a mainland student, Grace Wang, tried to encourage dialogue between pro-Tibetan and pro-Chinese protesters at her university in the US. Web vigilantes went after her with viciousness; after her parents’ details were found and published, self-styled patriots smashed the windows of their home in Qingdao and dumped faeces on their doorstep. Wang wrote in the Washington Post that her mother and father had been compelled to flee. The threats on her own life forced her to accept police protection. But she also insisted that there were people on the pro-Chinese side who had been willing to talk with the pro-Tibetans before the more strident voices drowned them out.

Jane Macartney, the Beijing correspondent for London’s Times, received death threats following articles she published earlier this year on the Tibetan situation. Her attackers noted that she is a direct descendent of Lord Macartney, whose refusal in 1793 to kowtow to the Qianlong Emperor is part of the long and vexed history of the West’s interaction with China. In relatively short order, beginning with the Opium Wars of the mid-nineteenth century (which Britain fought to enforce its ‘right’ to export opium from the Subcontinent to China), China experienced military invasion, economic depredation, dynastic collapse, republican revolution and adventurism, warlordism, cultural upheaval, more invasion, war, civil war and Communist revolution. As the Monash University China scholar Gloria Davies so eloquently phrases it, China is “a nation that was hurt into being”…

Click the nice green pic to see what else The Monthly has to offer.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, Chinese and China, current affairs, magazines

 

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Chinese authorities’ broken promises threaten Olympic legacy | Amnesty International

I thought I would help friends in China out by drawing attention to Amnesty International, particularly to the recent report on the eve of the Beijing Olympics — which I do hope go as well as can be expected.

I further am helping out by tagging certain entries on this blog China forbidden topic. Now that will save the censors over there quite a lot of trouble, won’t it? So kind of me.

Finally, over the fold you will find your very own copy of the Amnesty Report. Can’t be more generous than that, can I?

The day that there are no Five Forbidden Topics will be the day China will have really stood up! 1949 was an interesting start and much good and bad has happened since. I like China and Chinese people, I really do; I mean that.

But there is a goal to aim for… No more Forbidden Topics!

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Posted by on July 31, 2008 in challenge, Chinese and China, Olympics 2008

 

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China blocks internet access for foreign media

Just in from Radio Australia: China blocks internet access for foreign media.

Bright of them, isn’t it?

Despite everything I am determined, if I can, to enjoy these Olympic Games as I usually do… And I am sure they will be spectacular, and I perfectly understand the ordinary Shanghainese or Beijinger being really proud and upbeat. However, that Chinese Government. Oh dear yes… The wind can be fickle in Beijing.

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Channel 4 – News – Dispatches – Undercover in Tibet

This is the documentary shown last night on Four Corners on ABC: Undercover in Tibet.

As Tibetan protesters take to the streets in the biggest and most bloody challenge to Chinese rule in nearly 20 years, Dispatches reports on the hidden reality of life under Chinese occupation after spending three months undercover, deep inside the region. Dozens are feared dead after the recent clashes and crackdown by Chinese troops, but with reporting so rigidly controlled from the region little is known of living conditions inside Tibet.

To make this film, Tibetan exile Tash Despa returns to the homeland he risked his life to escape 11 years ago, to carry out secret filming with award-winning, Bafta-nominated director Jezza Neumann (Dispatches Special: China’s Stolen Children). Risking imprisonment and deportation, he uncovers evidence of the “cultural genocide” described by the Dalai Lama.

He finds the nomadic way of life being forcefully wiped out as native Tibetans are stripped of their land and livestock and are being resettled in concrete camps. Tibet reveals the regime of terror which dominates daily life and makes freedom of expression impossible. Tash meets victims of arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and “disappearances” and uncovers evidence of enforced sterilisations on ethnic Tibetan women.

He sees for himself the impact of the enormous military and police presence in the region, and the hunger and hardship being endured by many Tibetans, and hears warnings of the uprising taking place across the provinces now.

There is no doubt about it. What the Chinese government is engaged in is colonisation, and a systematic and ruthless colonisation at that. What else in all honesty could it be called?

Watch this for yourself and make your own judgement.

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Posted by on July 15, 2008 in Chinese and China, current affairs, TV

 

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Some of life’s little ironies — well, not so little…

Most others will have forgotten, such is the short-term memory loss in our world of blogs and instant media and information overload, but less than a year ago we had a Prime Minister named John Howard, a Foreign Minister named Alexander Downer, a visit from George W Bush, an Immigration Minister named Kevin Andrews, and our very own international Islamist Terrorist investigation into one Doctor Haneef. My memory is online and uncensored of course: here.

Now we open up the Sydney Morning Herald to read:

LESS than a year after he was locked up in Brisbane as a suspected terrorist, Mohamed Haneef has shared a podium with the Dalai Lama at an anti-terrorism conference in India.

Which is pretty amazing, when you think about it.

The Indian doctor, who was arrested and then cleared of terrorism charges last July, told young Muslims across the world to beware, because they have been typecast as terrorists.

“I am a living example of how the menace of terrorism has affected innocent lives and the phenomenon of how Muslims are stereotyped as being terrorists or sympathisers of terrorists whether they are guilty or not,” he said.

Dr Haneef was a guest at a conference in New Delhi on Sunday organised by the Jama Masjid United Forum, an Islamic organisation in India that aims to “eradicate the root cause” of terrorism.

It was also addressed by Islamic leaders and Indian ministers and MPs.

Dr Haneef told the conference that the “entire world” was watching Muslim youths. “I am here not as an individual but as a representative of innocents who are victims of terrorism,” he said…

The Dalai Lama used his speech to strongly condemn terrorism, but called for “unbiased initiatives” to combat it. He said it was wrong to malign any one religion because of terrorist acts. The Tibetan spiritual leader also said India’s tradition of religious tolerance was a role model for the world.

However, that tolerance has been tested by a devastating terrorist bomb attack in Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state, three weeks ago. The series of blasts, which killed 60 people and injured about 200, have been blamed on Muslim extremists.

After the attack an influential conservative Muslim seminary in India, the Darool Uloom Deoband and its political arm, Jamiat-i-Hind, issued a “fatwa” against terrorism. The 150-year-old institution, which influences thousands of smaller Islamic schools across the subcontinent, issued the fatwa at a meeting attended by thousands of clerics and students in Delhi.

Moving on to China, we may reflect that this being June it is nineteen years since the events of Tiananmen Square. Much has changed in China since then, but much hasn’t. As I have mentioned before, I have met quite a few people who were in China at that time, including eye witnesses of Tiananmen, and of related events: M was such an eye witness in Shanghai where he saw the once almost equally famous events that occurred at Shanghai railway station. I have met one of the leaders of the Tiananmen protests. So I think I know about it, and I know the Chinese government continues to lie about it, and continues to have a bad record in many areas. On the other hand, I know also that the actions of the Chinese government (and people) in relation to the recent and ongoing earthquake tragedy in Sichuan have been utterly commendable, especially in contrast to the uniformed dickheads who run Burma — though we must question whether the system, or corruption, subverted building codes to make the Sichuan tragedy worse in the first place. (By the way, I still say “Burma” because the name “Myanmar” is the brainchild of those uniformed “leaders” and excludes parts of the Burmese population.)

The Sydney Morning Herald remembered today:

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Posted by on June 4, 2008 in Asian, Australia, Chinese and China, current affairs, events, human rights, Islam, John Howard, M, memory, peace, South Asian, terrorism

 

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Chinese items

wildchina 1. Wild China on ABC 1 last night

This is the program I meant to write about from Sunday night’s TV watching, until Compass distracted me. It is a BBC production in six episodes, Episode 1 last night dealing with rice cultivation areas mostly, but extending to some of those amazing Chinese mountains, including the Yellow Mountain which I have heard much of from M; I have added some images to the VodPod in the side bar. Do look, as they really are very beautiful. Wild China is also very beautiful, but even more it really is very informative. I certainly learned quite a few new things even in Episode 1 and will make sure I see the rest.

2. Chinese Face Reading

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Posted by on May 19, 2008 in Asian, Chinese and China, environment, TV, weirdness

 

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Other blogs

There’s food for thought on Jim Belshaw’s blog in two recent posts. I think it is fair to say these posts transcend party politics, as they refer to a managerial style that cuts across the party divisions; it is a style I am only too familiar with from my experiences in the NSW Department of Education in the last ten to fifteen years. Whether Jim is entirely on the mark or being just a little bit nostalgic I will leave you to judge, but it is fair to say he writes from considerable experience.

The posts are:

Wombat’s Waffles is back on the air. Davo has obviously had quite a time of it in the last twelve months, but the recent posts show that the steps he has taken seem to be paying off:

After the trauma, despair and angst of the previous year, my life has settled into an almost zen-like pattern of simplicity, peace and tranquility (though there are still a few ‘legal’ tentacles from the past that have yet to be dealt with – choking off any attempt to truly ‘break free’; more about that, later).

After many months, perhaps years, of intermittent and sparse rainfall – the weather Pixies have blessed this area with a gentle, soaking patter of rainfall which began yesterday afternoon and has continued all night. I don’t, as yet, frequent the pubs around here so don’t know much about the local “gossip”, but do know that some of the farmers in the area began “dry seeding” last week, in anticipation. One can only hope that “follow up” rains happen in the months to come, and not – yet again – disappear and deliver that cruel blow to dry-land grain farmers of watching the half-grown harvest wither and die into the shrivelled husks of despair.

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Posted by on April 30, 2008 in Australia, blogging, Chinese and China, current affairs, human rights, Jim Belshaw, Kevin Rudd, other blogs, Political, politics, TV

 

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Beijing agrees to Tibet talks

I found Rowan Callick’s report in today’s Australian very interesting.


CHINA last night moved to reopen talks with the Dalai Lama in an effort to prevent the Olympic Games from being engulfed in controversy over its stance on Tibet.

The official Xinhua news agency said Beijing would start negotiations with a personal representative of the exiled Tibetan leader “in the coming days”.

It said the first talks in almost a year followed repeated requests “made by the Dalai side for resuming talks”.

But the approach also follows the transformation of the “journey of harmony” – as the international Olympic torch relay is known – into a war of words and frequent violence between Chinese nationalists and supporters of the Dalai Lama.

The Australian leg of the torch relay in Canberra on Thursday was marred by scuffles between Chinese and Tibetan supporters, leading to seven arrests.

Tenzin Takla, a spokesman for the 72-year-old Dalai Lama, last night welcomed the offer as “a step in the right direction”. He said the issue could only be resolved by face-to-face meetings.

Within China, the reaction to international criticism over Tibet has sparked a nationalist surge, heightening anxiety over the impact on the Olympics, which start in Beijing in just 15 weeks.

International leaders, including Kevin Rudd during his trip to China this month, have urged Beijing to return to the negotiating table with the Dalai Lama, who has said that he seeks only autonomy, not independence, for Tibet, and that he does not want to disrupt the Olympics…

Callick goes on to quote Liu Xiaobo:

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One of the most pathetic examples of humanity on the planet…

mugabe_mag1

Those nasty Brits are responsible for my country’s ruin, never me, Mummy!

… but I have my friends…

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Posted by on April 19, 2008 in Africa, Chinese and China, current affairs, human rights

 

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On Kevin Rudd in China: Geremie R. Barme and Paul Monk on Lateline

If you want an extraordinarily well-informed view, visit Lateline where you may watch the segment or read the transcript.

I encountered Geremie Barme’s work in the early 1990s when I was preparing my book From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt; I subsequently met him through Nicholas Jose and Claire Roberts — that in turn through M. (I also met Sang Ye, mentioned below.) From  Geremie Barme’s ANU profile:

Biographical Statement

Geremie R. Barme; head and shoulders

After graduating in Asian Studies from the ANU (majoring in Chinese and Sanskrit), I studied at universities in the People’s Republic of China (1974-77) and Japan (1980-83), with periods working as a journalist, freelance writer and translator in Hong Kong and China. My research work in Chinese culture and intellectual history has been interspersed with film, web site and writing projects in the United States, China and Hong Kong.

Research Interests

20th century Chinese intellectual and cultural history; contemporary Chinese cultural and intellectual debates; modern historiography; Ming-Qing literature and aesthetics; Cultural Revolution history (1950s-70s) and Beijing, its history and reconstruction.

Key Publications
  • The Gate of Heavenly Peace, three-hour documentary film (associate director and main writer), 1995.
  • Shades of Mao: The Posthumous Cult of the Great Leader, Armonk, NY, M.E. Sharpe, 1996.
  • In the Red: On Contemporary Chinese Culture, New York, Columbia University Press, 1999.
  • An Artistic Exile: A life of Feng Zikai (1898-1975), Berkeley, University of California Press, 2002, awarded the Joseph Levenson Prize for Modern China, 2004.
  • Morning Sun, two-hour documentary film (co-directed and co-produced with Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon; co-written with Carma Hinton), 2003, awarded the John E. O’Conner Film Award, The American Historical Association, 2005.
  • (ed. with Miriam Lang) China Candid: The People on the People’s Republic, by Sang Ye, University of California Press, 2006.
  • (ed. with Claire Roberts) The Great Wall of China, Sydney, Powerhouse Museum, 2006.

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Posted by on April 11, 2008 in Chinese and China, current affairs, human rights, Kevin Rudd

 

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Instant punditry

1. Zimbabwe

Dogmatic, impractical, time-warped, totally uncaring, corrupt, totally delusional, and power-mad. Oh, and a strong competitor in the World’s Worst Leader stakes. What a tragic comedown for a one time liberation hero. I actually hope he dies, soon.

shitehead

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Posted by on April 8, 2008 in Africa, challenge, Chinese and China, current affairs

 

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Meet another blog

Given some of the discussion here lately, this WordPress blog is worth a visit.

stupidpig

For example, Chinese on Tibet.

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Posted by on March 25, 2008 in blogging, Chinese and China, current affairs

 

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