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China is talking – bits of Weibo

Every weekend, Yaxue will present a column called “China is talking” in which she will translate some items she finds online that has interest her. By doing so, we hope to give you a small taste of some of the things that are making the rounds in Chinese cyberspace.

  • Feng  Xiaogang (冯小刚, Chinese movie director): The price you pay for saying a bit of truth is very steep. First of all, my wife wouldn’t let me sleep, begging me plaintively: Could you please not speak your mind for the sake of the children and me? Then, there are good friends who scoffed me: Will you die if you don’t speak honestly? What Daoming (陈道明, Chinese actor) said stung me in particular. He said: “It won’t concern me at all if you strike a fortune [by doing so], but it would hurt my interest a lot if you suffer fallout from it!” All I did was speaking a bit of truth and it has caused such unease among my family and friends. So I give up and keep my mouth shut. You will have to forgive me if you don’t hear any honest talk from me anymore. (link)
  • After the news of Steve Jobs’ death came, Pan Shiyi (潘石屹, a Chinese real estate tycoon ) updated his Weibo several times to offer his condolences. Yesterday (Oct. 6) morning, he said on his Weibo that “Apple’s board should make an immediate decision to manufacture iPhone and iPad that sell for below 1,000RMB, so that more people can afford Apple. That would be the best way to remember Steve Jobs.” Shortly afterwards, a netizen reposted Pan’s post with the following comment: “Mr. Pan, when you die, will your company please sell houses that cost 1,000RMB/square meter? One billion plus Chinese will all remember you.” The comment has been reposted many times and netizens gave Pan Shiyi a nickname “Pan 1,000”. (link)
  • note:Tsinghua University has recently celebrated its 100 anniversary by highlighting, among its other achievements, the 29 outstanding scholars and scientists who were educated in at the school. All of the 29 great people were educated in Tsinghua before 1949. Tsung-Dao Lee and  Chen-Ning Yang notwithstanding who [left China to study in the US and later] became American citizens  (both were winners of Nobel Prize in Physics), among the 27 living in mainland China, two committed suicide; two others died of persecution; 13 of them were beaten down, with their homes being ransacked, and sent to labor camps. Those who were spared were mostly working in the military. (link)
  • Bai Yansong (白岩松, CCTV host): In most of the countries, it is easy to speak the truth and to say what it is what it is. It does not require courage, nor sacrifice. On the other hand, it takes quite a bit of courage to lie, because there are consequences to lying, and you could get done for it. But here in China it is the opposite: It’s very easy to tell lies; you spew them out without your face blushing and your heart thumping; while it takes extraordinary courage to speak the truth, and you could even be tempting imprisonment. The upside-down of truth and lie is, in essence, the reverse of right and wrong.
  • I remember that, when I was in primary school and again in secondary school, every year on the National Day, we stood in the middle of the Tiananmen Square in the early morning, with bouquets in hands, to form words. When I became a worker during the Cultural Revolution, every year we were taken out from our jobs, a month and a half before [the National Day], to practice formation. To earn the smile of the Great Leader on the Tiananmen, we the “Capital’s Militia Division” would practice goose stepping for more than a month, often to the point of our legs becoming swollen and our throats inflamed … Thank goodness, now that I am in my middle age and I finally understand that the National Day should a holiday for the people who live on this land! They alone are the masters of the country. As masters, they should be enjoying gatherings, relaxation, fall excursions, etc.; families and friends should be speaking what their hearts dictate and giving each other the love and friendship that’s humane. (link) You might also want to read Yaxue’s reflection on her experience on National Day 1984
  • Zhang Ming (张鸣, Professor of Political Science at People’s University of China) : A female graduate student of Yu Dan committed suicide. Reporters contacted Yu Dan (a professor at Beijing Normal University, known for her kitsch TV lectures on Analects of Confucius). Yu Dan said she couldn’t come, because she was in the middle of attending a meeting of the Party representatives. (link)

10 Comments

  1. This weekend roundup would be invaluable for those who can’t read Chinese. Thank you. A valuable contribution.

  2. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    Yaxue: I always wonder what is happening on Weibo. Thank you very much for this post. Very illuminating!

    • Yaxue C. says:

      That’s the idea, 美丽 and thenakedlistener. I spend time online everyday and read some interesting things. While it is not much trouble at all for me to pick and translate a few items, it can give our non-Chinese speaking audience some idea of the current sentiment in China.

  3. Adams says:

    Excellent post.

    Being a teacher, I compulsively correct.
    “with boutiques in hands” – should be “with bouquets in hands”.

    Feel free to delete this post after correcting the article.

  4. Lao Why? says:

    Regarding the comments on speaking the truth, I really believe that the cultural penchant for avoiding confrontation is just as important a factor as fear of bad things happening if you speak out. One is a 5000 year old custom and the other is the byproduct of a totalitarian regime. These two forces work in tandem to create the basis for a society where nothing is as it seems. Coverups happen regularly. Citizens are perpetually restrained from seeking the reality of the situation: either it is not your place to question the professor or the boss or it is harmful to you and your family to seek the truth of a government official’s malfeasance. Ultimately, people either become callous and nontrusting of everyone else or they become intellectually lobotomized, failing to think about anything beyond just making ends meet.
    The story of the Emperor’s Clothes certainly comes to mind.

    • Baobo says:

      The opposite is the obnoxious, ill-mannered state where I am presently trapped. Polite people are stifled and annoyed by loud, arrogant attention-seekers. When you admonish their behavior they act hurt, confused, even offended… I could go on….

      I know Asia has problems, but I’ll keep repeating this: don’t become like Americans! That won’t solve anything.

      • Lao Why? says:

        Wouldn’t want Chinese to become Americans. However, I don’t know how you confront those problems without having an open dialogue without all the double speak and illogic that pervades the society where I am presently trapped; a place where you call people out for serious lying and they get angry because you don’t give them face.
        As to politeness, I could also go on about Beijingers but that would divert attention from the main point, a point so well made above by Fang Xiaogang and Bai Yansong

  5. Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 says:

    A bit of a cultural divide between Baobo and Lao Why? what!!!!! How about throwing a bit of British reserve into the mix! Would that help? Only joking!

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