Tag Archives: Evan Osnos

Pics: U.S. VP Joe Biden visits in Beijing neighborhood eatery

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Beijing is designed to lay the groundwork for later meetings between U.S. officials and rising leader Xi Jinping, who is currently Biden’s Chinese counterpart. Opting for a local favorite rather than a sterile array of table cloths and serving dishes, Biden made some waves on Weibo and in the U.S. media for mingling with local Beijing residents.

Evan Osnos has a write-up and a pool photo.


From Weibo, a picture in the vicinity, apparently while Biden was eating near the Drum Tower.


Someone's cell phone shot of the VP's party at Yaoji Chao Gan.

And from a past meeting between President Obama, President Carter, President Hu, and Vice President Biden:

President Barack Obama, along with President Hu Jintao of China, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and Vice President Joseph Biden, listen to former President Jimmy Carter during a reception in the Yellow Oval Room in the Residence of the White House, Jan. 19, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Compassion and political advertising: the RNC's new China ad

Evan Osnos pointed out a new advertisement that apparently marks the first use of China as a political tool in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. The advertisement imagines a future in which Barack Obama is reelected and paints a picture of increasing unemployment and higher debt to China.

Leave aside the irony of claiming debt will continue to rise while the same party is engaging in “hostage-taking” and brinksmanship in raising the debt ceiling. And even forget the presence of Hu Jintao, who is widely expected to be succeeded by Xi Jinping long before 2017, appearing before a large assembly of some kind in the ad.

This and the “Chinese Professor” ad from the 2010 midterm elections and seems to signal that at least some politicians will continue to use scare tactics about a rise of China to score domestic points.

I think it’s worth bearing in mind the humanist implications of demonizing a country that is home to about a fifth of the world population for nothing more than economic success. There are absolutely reasons to criticize China, but when the message is so simple as “they’re beating us, and that’s bad,” the humanity of those living across the Pacific can be forgotten.

Obama’s message of hope, change, and compassion has been criticized recently in light of what many see as an ineffectual middle-road approach to several significant national issues. I doubt any candidate in the near future will get far on a message that underlines the humanity of non-Americans, but that, I suppose, is the compassionate change I would hope for.

Who is Liu Xiaobo, and what does the Nobel mean?

‘I have no enemies’ Liu Xiaobo in his own words from 2009, published at Foreign Policy (中文). This is published by Human Rights in China, headquartered in New York and Hong Kong.

The scene outside Liu’s house. Used under Creative Commons from China Digital Times, by Jordan Pouille.

What kind of man is he? Evan Osnos describes Liu when they last met in 2007: “Liu had always been a classic type of the Chinese intelligentsia—lean as a greyhound, bespectacled, with a wry, knowing sense of humor—but on this December day he looked even gaunter than usual: his belt looked it like was wrapped nearly twice around his waist, and his winter coat drooped. Unlike some Chinese scholars popular in the West, he exuded no aroma of privilege: he had no dual appointments at universities abroad, no obvious awareness that he could be the toast of New York or Berlin, no Davos-worthy polish. Nor did he have the posture of a firebrand.” [more]

Liu Xiaobo, the first ‘digital’ peace laureate: Jillian C. York will not be the only person to note the importance of the Internet in Liu’s activism and his prominence. Luckily, as one of the first, her argument strikes a balance between celebrating the prize as an affirmation of Internet activism and framing the Internet as merely a tool for individual actors. [more]

Has the world been too tolerant of Chinese authoritarianism? Gady Epstein observes: “Many of us around the world, including perhaps even members of the Nobel committee, have shown something akin to tolerance for China’s authoritarian instincts over the last decade, as the memories of Tiananmen Square faded and the era of the Chinese boom dawned.” Aside from the unfortunate phrasing “authoritarian instincts,” this is an interesting point. I wouldn’t expect a huge change though. [more]

Hurting Sino-Norwegian relations. The Chinese Foreign Ministry followed its earlier statements on a potential Liu win with an admonition that the prize was being awarded to the wrong kind of person and that it threatened bilateral relations between China and Norway, the home of the prize. China Media Project will not be the last to note that reporting on this matter is nowhere to be found in Chinese media. [more]

Obama’s demand: “We call on the Chinese government to release Mr. Liu as soon as possible.” [more]

UPDATE: And a few seconds before I hit “publish” came the China Beat round-up, which is also excellent and covers different ground.


UPDATE III: Ella Chou offers her first thoughts.

'Conquer English to Make China Stronger!'

Ampontan points out that the media’s love for Li Yang’s instructional rallies and methods, called Crazy English, recently included a New Yorker article by Evan Osnos.

I’m pretty happy with myself because with my Mandarin tutor today I finished a textbook. But our meetings at a Beijing cafe are nothing like Crazy English.

One by one, the doctors tried it out. “I would like to take your temperature!” a woman in stylish black glasses yelled, followed by a man in a military uniform. As Li went around the room, each voice sounded a bit more confident than the one before.

In Shanghai at a gallery whose name I’ve forgotten on Moganshan Lu, I saw a photographic exhibition composed of massive prints of Li Yang’s instruction. The scenes were astonishing. Student-teacher ratio was actually optimized to be very high. The events in these images and in other reading on the subject emerge as motivational events, and one of Li Yang’s primary methods is to increase confidence in his students.

But there is a nationalist element. The title of this post, “Conquer English to make China stronger,” is Li’s motto, according to the New Yorker. Ampontan points to another article that contains this passage on China and Japan.

During a question and answer session with the crowd, one student told Li that he hated the Japanese for their rape and occupation of the mainland prior to World War II. The student then said he didn’t want to study Japanese because of this hatred.

“If you really hate the Japanese, then you will learn their language,” Li told the student and the crowd. “If you really want revenge against Japan, then master their language.”

Nationalism, I suspect, may be a tool to reach audiences and to keep his massive events (along with the potentially millions of books sold) from running afoul of the government. This, from the first article, may tell you something about his deeper motivations:

On the couch at the hotel, Li turned one of our interviews into a lecture for his employees, who crowded around to listen. (Someone recorded it on a video camera.) “How can we make Crazy English more successful?” he asked me, his voice rising. “We know that people are not going to be persistent, so we give them ten sentences a month, or one article a month, and then, when they master this, we give them a huge award, a big ceremony. Celebrate! Then we have them pay again, and we make money again.”

He turned toward the assembled employees and switched to Chinese: “The secret of success is to have them continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached.” Then back to English: “How can we make them pay again and again and again?”

I wonder how much the students learn.