Tag Archives: Video

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.

Tonight on Frontline: Ai Weiwei

Just a note to remember that tonight marks the debut of the abbreviated version of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, a biopic/documentary about one of China’s most internationally prominent artists. Rumor has it that video will be available online soon after.

The film has been the recent work of Alison Klayman and others. I posted links to trailer video previously. I was happy to get a chance to catch up briefly with Ali in New York over the weekend, just back from finalizing the Frontline version in Boston. Very glad to see this coming out!

In other Ai Weiwei news (new to me at least), some of his images in which he shows a finger to iconic locations are on display in the photography section of the Museum of Modern Art. After the jump, an image I made, and Ai Weiwei’s response on Twitter. (Not safe for very conservative workplaces.)

Continue reading

'Please Vote for Me' documentary and political culture

I’m in the midst of watching Please Vote for Me, a documentary based on elections for head student of an elementary school class in Wuhan, China. I am not the first to say it, but this is an excellent film. It does, however, come with a perspective.

Below: full video for both YouTube and Youku.

The message of the documentary seems to be that left to their own devices, children in China will display certain hallmarks of Chinese politics: factions, back-room deals, deception. Maybe I should write my blog post after the film’s over, but I’m going to do this instead: those things can be hallmarks of democracy, too.

Different viewers will read this differently, but the interesting question to me is how much of what we see is “Chinese,” and how much is just life. The children are evidently fairly well-off; one of the candidates for banzhang is the son of the police chief (of all Wuhan?). So whom does this represent? I don’t know.

One way or another, it’s well worth watching, whether you’re interested in Chinese politics or not. Below, the trailer, followed by the first segment of what appears to be the entire film posted on YouTube and Youku*. It is also available for streaming through Netflix.

And the beginning of the film. The Chinese notes that this is “banned in the Mainland.” (China viewers see below.)

Apparently not banned in China, here is what appears to be the full film on Youku (thank Angel Hsu for getting me to look for this).

Video: Hardcore rockers in China burn Japanese flag

On China’s National Day, October 1, fans at the MIDI music festival in Zhenjiang, China, decided to follow up a set by a metal band with an act of their own: burning a defaced Japanese flag while singing the Chinese national anthem. Video at bottom.

When photographer Matthew Niederhauser posted this video on his photo blog, he justifiably sought to clarify that he did not intend to support the burning of a flag. I of course agree.

With the anti-Japanese furor having died down, it might be time to reflect on the way the English-language media have covered the Sino–Japanese dispute after the recent confrontation at the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. When “tensions run high” or “angry” Chinese stage demonstrations, we rarely see reports on the scope of mobilization or the definition of a “tension” in international relations.

One way to understand the significance of this incident comes from the blog Observing Japan. Almost a month ago, Tobias Harris argued that “not much” had changed since Koizumi Jun’ichirō left office and Abe Shinzō entered in 2006. Koizumi, who during his long term as Japan’s prime minister repeatedly inflamed anti-Japanese sentiment by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, was gone. Leaders since then have seen fewer public political problems with China. He argues, however, that the September–October dispute this year shows that Japan’s focus on a “strategic, reciprocal relationship” with China has resulted in little change.

With the unfair advantage of a month’s worth of watching events unfold, I agree half-way. This round of confrontation over the islands resembles many previous incidents in that, although there was a concrete element in the form of the arrested Chinese captain, the dispute was largely symbolic rather than strategic. It is different in that we haven’t seen one of these incidents in a while. So, agreeing with Tobias, I don’t think all that much has changed. Economic and diplomatic relations continue on mostly segregated tracks, and symbolic disputes still exist. But isn’t there something laudable about the fact* that this small mobilization of demonstrators marked the largest such incident since April 2005?

For another day, and here’s something I really don’t know the answer to, how real and how artificial is the division between economic and diplomatic or political relations that we hear about so often in Sino-Japanese relations?

Video below:

Chinese Heavy Metal Crowd Burns Japanese Flag on National Day – MIDI Festival, Zhenjiang, China – 2010/10/01 from Matthew Niederhauser on Vimeo.

*I haven’t checked this thoroughly, but I can’t think of another incident of this size in the interim. Some might object that anti-Japan speech during the pre-Olympic anti-foreign-media demonstrations in 2008 could count, but I believe those incidents were on a separate track and if anything targeted “the West” more than any single country.

Chinese music in the NYT, and a photo blog to watch

Photographer Matthew Niederhauser and New York Times reporter Andrew Jacobs highlight China’s exploding music festival scene in Sunday’s paper and online, where they have an accompanying video.

In other news, Matthew has relaunched his photo blog, where you’ll find coverage of the World Expo, an awkward beauty pageant for foreigners in Beijing, and as always, China’s top independent and underground musicians.

Here’s that NYT video from today:

For the record, Matthew is a good friend, and I have known Andrew slightly, but I promise I would want you to take a look at these regardless.