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Americans Are Fake and the Dutch Are Rude!

Batja Mesquita wrote . . . . . . . . .

Do all human beings have emotions, just like we all have noses or hands? Our noses have different shapes and sizes but when all is said and done they help us breathe, and let us sniff and smell the world around us. Our hands can be big or small, strong or weak, but regardless they help us touch, grasp, hold, and carry.

Does the same hold for emotions? Is it true that emotions can look different but, in the end, we all have the same emotions—​that deep inside, everybody is like yourself? It would mean that once you take the time to get to know somebody, you will recognize and comprehend the feelings of people who have different backgrounds, speak different languages, come from other communities or cultures. But are other people angry, happy, and scared, just like you? And are your feelings just like theirs? I do not think so.

The first time I became aware that my emotions were not like those of people from another culture was when I moved to the United States. I was raised in the Netherlands, and, save some short ventures to other European countries, that was where I had lived until I was about 30 years old. In many ways, my transition was easy. My English was conversational when I first came to the States, because I had used it professionally. My American colleagues at the University of Michigan could not have been nicer. The day I arrived, they welcomed me with a faculty dinner. One of them invited me to their Christmas family dinner; others gave me small end-​of-​the year presents. Yet, I remember my first year in the United States as rocky. I often felt a little off.

In my own country, I was used to being a socially adept and emotionally intelligent person. But when I arrived at the University of Michigan in November 1993, I felt emotionally out of sync.

In my own country, I was used to being a socially adept and emotionally intelligent person. But when I arrived at the University of Michigan in November 1993, I felt emotionally out of sync. My new colleagues were gracious, happy, and outgoing. They exchanged niceties with each other and with me. I liked their company, and I liked how they treated me. Yet things were not easy, because I was unable to reciprocate in appropriate ways: I felt my own emotional shortcomings. In conversations, it did not come naturally to me to be outgoing and appreciative, to offer compliments, or to acknowledge effort and intention. I was not happy or grateful enough; not as happy as I clearly felt I ought to be, given the situation and given how everybody else was acting.

It bothered me that I was emotionally underperforming, and I was not merely imagining that I was. I simply was not smooth. One day, a colleague asked me if I would like to have lunch with her the next day. I replied in truth, “Tomorrow I can’t.” My new friend Michele Acker overheard the conversation, and coached me privately that I could have been more forthcoming and pleasant: “I would love to go out for lunch with you, can we do it some other time though? I already have plans for tomorrow …” Instead, she said I sounded rude. Rude? It certainly wasn’t what I meant to be; in my mind, it was simply informative.

I also had difficulty making sense of others’ emotions. When Michele and I entered a drugstore, and she greeted the store clerk with an enthusiastic “How are you?,” I asked her if she knew this woman (she did not). The interest she displayed in the clerk’s well-​being did not seem to fit the situation. The clerk, without missing a beat, reciprocated with a smooth, “Wonderful, and what about yourself?” I was left wondering what I had missed in this enthusiastic exchange between strangers.

She said I sounded rude. Rude? It certainly wasn’t what I meant to be; in my mind, it was simply informative.

Likewise, it was hard to gauge the state of my relationships: Did people like me? Did we have a friendship? I was not sure what the daily reassurances meant exactly, and I could not tell if people really cared for me. Or was that even a question to ask? One time, I had new friends over for dinner. The meal was tasty, and the conversation was engaged, and at times intimate. We had fun. It seemed to me that this could be the beginning of a real friendship; that is, until my guests left and thanked me for dinner. I felt crushed, because it had now dawned on me that we had failed to make a true connection. The way I was raised, where there is gratitude (i.e., thanking someone for dinner), there is no room for friendship. “Thank you for dinner” felt to me as an act of distancing, rather than an expression of appreciation. I would have liked my guests to say that they were looking forward to spending more time with me, that they really liked the evening together, or that they felt happy or connected to me.

Were these instances merely differences in conventions? Or were my emotions really different from the ones experienced by the American people I encountered? In later years, when relatives or friends from the Netherlands came visiting, I observed how they similarly failed to conform to the social and emotional norms. My dad, accepting a very generous dinner invitation by a local American friend, confirmed it was “fine” to come over for dinner on a Friday night during his stay—​not only failing to use a superlative, but also failing to give proper recognition to the extraordinary effort on the part of his host. At that point his behavior made me cringe. Friends, coming to visit from the Netherlands, were friendly and jovial with waiters and shopkeepers, but without praising or thanking them. Their jokes and joviality emphasized the connections between everyone involved, but failed to mark the efforts of the service person.

More interesting yet: Dutch friends and relatives privately commented to me that the American emotions they encountered seemed “fake” or “exaggerated.” My son’s schoolteacher, Jill, exclaimed excitedly to my mom, who was visiting, how wonderful it was that my mom came to spend time with her grandchildren. She next asked my mom if she were enjoying herself. My mom confided to me that the teacher’s excitement seemed “fake.” On another occasion, my American colleagues praised the presentation of a visiting European scholar, saying it was brilliant. The European scholar shrugged and later told me that their praise “meant nothing,” and that it was likely “fake,” or “exaggerated.” How else would a European explain the unfailing generosity, interest, praise, and enthusiasm that, in their eyes, many Americans display in circumstances that from a Dutch perspective do not “naturally” give rise to those emotions?

The way I was raised, where there is gratitude (i.e., thanking someone for dinner), there is no room for friendship. “Thank you for dinner” felt to me as an act of distancing, rather than an expression of appreciation.

As individuals from these two Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) countries, the United States and the Netherlands, we experienced emotions that were different enough that each party judged the other’s emotions negatively, as either “rude” or “fake.” People from the same national cultures arguably would not have condemned them. The emotional differences at first seemed random to me, but over time they gained meaning.

I came to understand these emotional differences as serving divergent relationship goals. Pleasant emotions that would be appropriate in the Dutch context prioritize the connection between equals. At the end of a dinner party (or throughout, actually), you would emphasize the connectedness between people, referring to the get-​together as gezellig, a Dutch word that has become a collector’s item of culture-​specific emotion words. Derived from the word for “friend” (gezel), gezellig describes both the physical circumstances—​being snug in a warm and homely place surrounded by good friends (it is impossible to be gezellig alone)—and an emotional state of feeling “held” and “comfortable.” Stressing the connection is prioritized over acknowledging the host’s efforts.

In U.S. contexts, by contrast, appropriate positive emotions often prioritize the articulation of the unique efforts, talents, and contributions of another person. Friends and acquaintances contribute to each other’s sense of value or self-​esteem. When my son’s teacher told my mom she was being appreciated as a grandmother, she emphasized that my mom was special to her grandchildren—​a domain over which she could claim to have some authority, being the teacher of my son. This is not fake at all: it is just a feeling that comes from a focus on those features or accomplishments that would give the other person reason to feel good about themselves. You are a wonderful grandmother, or in the case of my colleague, your talk had some really novel ideas (“is brilliant”).

White lies are less acceptable in the Dutch context: they are not taken to mean that you protect your friend or relative, as they clearly are to some of my American friends. They rather have the meaning of keeping you out, and of breaking connection.

In America, you praise and acknowledge each other whenever you can. This too could not be more different from the Dutch context, where no one should feel or act any better than another person. No worse, but certainly no better either, than another person. My mom used to tell me “that acting normal would be crazy enough,” usually in response to me doing something that—​in her eyes—​caught too much attention. Nobody should stand out. When I asked my mom, growing up, if she considered me pretty (hoping she would say yes, I guess), she answered: “I think you are about average.” She was telling me the truth, both grounding me and providing “real connection” between her and me.

Differences also show in unpleasant emotions. In the Netherlands, one way of making connection is to speak your mind. It is no coincidence, then, that Dutch people are known to be direct. To be able to identify and express your true feelings (and opinions) is considered both a virtue and a sign of maturity. Rather than making you feel special, a true friend tells you what they feel (about you), whether positive or negative. They say, “You are wrong about that” or “This does not look good on you.” You confront each other with the truth, even if the truth might not always be easy to hear. Being told the truth is always better than not, because it underlines that you have a relationship, as opposed to not. White lies are less acceptable in the Dutch context: they are not taken to mean that you protect your friend or relative, as they clearly are to some of my American friends. They rather have the meaning of keeping you out, and of breaking connection.

True connection also means to share your innermost feelings, even if these do not paint you or the relationship in the most favorable light. Telling close others that you are jealous or angry, or even that you feel hurt by their behaviors, shows you as authentic, human, and willing to make connection. The Dutch virtue of “honest authenticity” is so ingrained in me that I have found myself on many occasions (politely) expressing my views or making revelations about my emotions to American colleagues, schoolteachers, and friends, only to realize how “Dutch” I had been. Who was asking for those opinions? Who wanted those revelations? (No one!)

Even to me, as a cultural psychologist who studied emotions for a living, it was impossible to see my own emotions as products of culture, until I had a real stake in being part of another culture.

I often realized that there was no need to share my feelings and thoughts in an American context only after having divulged my inner self. After decades of living in the United States I still catch myself doing it occasionally. My American friends punctuate my self-​disclosure, as when my friend Ann Kring pointedly commented, “Thank you for sharing,” after I had explained in great detail some convoluted story about my emotions (how I had felt rejected when I thought I was not included in some breakfast arrangement, only to discover that people had tried to include me, and that I was mistaken). She did me a service, the Dutch way, by telling me that my self-​disclosure was inappropriate, and in the process, socializing me.

Coming to America made me aware, for the first time, that my own emotions were not like those of people from this other culture. This would not have been remarkable, because it was the first time I had lived outside of the European continent—save for a small, but important detail: I had just spent the preceding six years studying cultural variations in emotions. Given that my research expertise was the role of culture in emotion, my failure to recognize my own emotions as cultured goes to show the difficulty of recognizing our own emotions as anything but natural. Even to me, as a cultural psychologist who studied emotions for a living, it was impossible to see my own emotions as products of culture, until I had a real stake in being part of another culture—until I became an immigrant to the United States.


Source : Behavioral Scientist

Quiet Quitting: The Phenomenon of Young Professionals Rejecting the Idea of Going Above and Beyond in Their Careers

躺平 in the Western World

See large image . . . . . .

No Matter What Weird Language Biden Prefers, Today Is Still Mothers’ Day

Laramie Seven wrote . . . . . . . . .

The word “mother” is being erased by the federal government, in accordance with the executive order that President Biden signed on his first day in office on January 20, 2021. Along with other sexed words (father, brother, husband, wife, daughter, son), the edict “Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation” is leading to the elimination of traditional terminology.

The proliferating bastardization of the language would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting:

  • Birthing parents
  • Childbearing people
  • Gestational carriers
  • Bodies with vaginas
  • Menstruators
  • Postnatal people
  • People with a uterus

The Ministry of Truth (AKA the new Disinformation Governance Board that has been created under the Department of Homeland Security) no doubt will be helping us all get used to the new usage.

As George Orwell observed, “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

At Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland, the Wokerati have started instructing students on the care and treatment of pregnant males, and future midwives are being trained to be able to catheterize a penis during “labor.”

I’m not a biologist, but I did pay sufficient attention in high school to know that a uterus and cervix are required equipment for giving birth. I also understand biology sufficiently to know that it is not possible for any mammal to change sex. Sex is not just the obvious features such as genitalia; sex is embodied in every cell of the body and plays a part in every aspect of health and wellness. Sex is determined at conception and remains static until death.

The advocates of so-called “inclusive” language claim that their goal is to be kind to everyone. The object of avoiding the word “mother” is to be sensitive to those who are biologically female but do not wish to be referred to with sex-specific terminology. One on one, this can be accommodated. But when messages intended for everyone are modified to avoid basic words like mother, what happens to everyone else?

The goal of communication cannot be to eliminate all possibility of offense. Trying to include everyone with overly broad terms can lead to ambiguity and even alienation. Phraseology such as “bodies with vaginas” and “people with a uterus” offensively reduce mothers to a series of body parts. Consider the woman who adopts a baby and struggles heroically to breastfeed; she is not a “birthing parent,” yet she deserves to be respected as a “mother” in all other ways.

If the goal is to be kind to everyone, then it is essential to use language that anyone can readily understand.

Laramie Seven is a mother, grandmother, mother-in-law, wife, sister, and daughter.

Source : American Thinker

Big Tech’s ‘Cancel Culture’ Love Affair

Pepe Escobar wrote . . . . . . . . .

This month, several of us – Scott Ritter, myself, ASB Military News, among others – were canceled from Twitter. The – unstated – reason: we were debunking the officially approved narrative of the Russia/NATO/Ukraine war.

As with all things Big Tech, that was predictable. I lasted only seven months on Twitter. And that was long enough. Contacts in California had told me I was on their radar because the account grew too fast, and had enormous reach, especially after the start of Operation Z.

I celebrated the cancelation by experiencing an aesthetic illumination in front of the Aegean Sea, at the home of Herodotus, the Father of History. Additionally, it was heart-warming to be recognized by the great George Galloway in his moving tribute to targets of the new McCarthyism.

In parallel, comic relief of the “Mars Attacks” variety was provided by expectations of free speech on Twitter being saved by the benign intervention of Elon Musk.

Techno-feudalism is one of the overarching themes of my latest book, Raging Twenties – published in early 2021 and reviewed here in a very thoughtful and meticulous manner.

Cancel culture is inbuilt in the techno-feudalist project: conform to the hegemonic narrative, or else. In my own case regarding Twitter and Facebook – two of the guardians of the internet, alongside Google — I knew a day of reckoning was inevitable, because like other countless users I had previously been dispatched to those notorious “jails”.

On one Facebook occasion, I sent a sharp message highlighting that I was a columnist/analyst for an established Hong Kong-based media company. Some human, not an algorithm, must have read it, because the account was restored in less than 24 hours.

But then the account was simply disabled – with no warning. I requested the proverbial “review”. The response was a demand for proof of ID. Less than 24 hours later, came the verdict: “Your account has been disabled” because it had not followed those notoriously hazy “community standards.” The decision was “reviewed” and “it can’t be reversed”.

I celebrated with a Buddhist mini-requiem on Instagram.

My hit-by-a-Hellfire missile Facebook page clearly identified for the general public who I was, at the time: “Geopolitical analyst at Asia Times”. The fact of the matter is Facebook algorithms canceled a top columnist from Asia Times – with a proven record and a global profile. The algos would never have had the – digital – guts to do the same with a top columnist from The New York Times or the Financial Times.

Asia Times lawyers in Hong Kong sent a letter to Facebook management. Predictably, there was no response.

Of course becoming a target of cancel culture – twice – does not even remotely compare to the fate of Julian Assange, imprisoned for over three years in Belmarsh under the most appalling circumstances, and about to be dispatched for “judgment” in the American gulag for the crime of committing journalism. Yet the same “logic” applies: journalism that does not conform to the hegemonic narrative must be taken down.

Conform, or Else

At the time, I discussed the matter with several Western analysts. As one of them succinctly put it, “You were ridiculing the U.S. president while pointing out the positives of Russia, China and Iran. That’s a deadly combination”.

Others were simply stunned: “I wonder why you were restricted as you work for a reputable publication.” Or made the obvious connections: “Facebook is a censorship machine. I did not know that they do not give reasons for what they do but then they are part of the Deep State.”

A banking source that usually places my columns on the desks of selected Masters of the Universe put it New York-style: “You severely p****d the Atlantic Council”. No question: the specimen who oversaw the canceling of my account was a former Atlantic Council hack.

Ron Unz in California had the account of his extremely popular website Unz Review purged by Facebook on April 2020. Subsequently, readers who tried to post their articles met with an “error” message describing the content as “abusive”.

When Unz mentioned my case to renowned economist James Galbraith, “he really was quite shocked, and thought it might signal a very negative censorship trend on the Internet.”

The “censorship trend” is a fact – for quite a while now. Take this U.S. State Department 2020 report identifying “pillars of Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem.”

State Dept. Directive

The late Pompeo-era report demonizes “fringe or conspiracy-minded” websites who happen to be extremely critical of U.S. foreign policy. They include Moscow-based Strategic Culture Foundation – where I’m a columnist – and Canada-based Global Research, which republishes most of my columns (but so does Consortium News, ZeroHedge and many other U.S. websites). I’m cited in the report by name, along with quite a few top columnists.

The report’s “research” states that Strategic Culture – which is blocked by Facebook and Twitter – is directed by the SVR, Russian foreign intel. This is ridiculous. I met the previous editors in Moscow – young, energetic, with enquiring minds. They had to quit their jobs because after the report they started to be severely threatened online.

So the directive comes straight from the State Department – and that has not changed under Biden-Harris: any analysis of U.S. foreign policy that deviates from the norm is a “conspiracy theory” – a terminology that was invented and perfected by the C.I.A.

Couple it with the partnership between Facebook and the Atlantic Council – which is a de facto NATO think tank – and now we have a real powerful ecosystem.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Every silicon fragment in the valley connects Facebook as a direct extension of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s LifeLog project, a Pentagon attempt to “build a database tracking a person’s entire existence.” Facebook launched its website exactly on the same day – Feb. 4, 2004 – that DARPA and the Pentagon shuttered LifeLog.

No explanation by DARPA was ever provided. The MIT’s David Karger, at the time, remarked, “I am sure that such research will continue to be funded under some other title. I can’t imagine DARPA ‘dropping out’ of such a key research area.”

Of course a smokin’ gun directly connecting Facebook to DARPA will never be allowed to surface. But occasionally some key players speak out, such as Douglas Gage, none other than LifeLog’s conceptualizer: “Facebook is the real face of pseudo-LifeLog at this point (…) We have ended up providing the same kind of detailed personal information to advertisers and data brokers and without arousing the kind of opposition that LifeLog provoked.”

So Facebook has absolutely nothing to do with journalism. Not to mention pontificating over a journalist’s work, or assuming it’s entitled to cancel him or her. Facebook is an “ecosystem” built to sell private data at a huge profit, offering a public service as a private enterprise, but most of all sharing the accumulated data of its billions of users with the U.S. national security state.

The resulting algorithmic stupidity, also shared by Twitter – incapable of recognizing nuance, metaphor, irony, critical thinking – is perfectly integrated into what former C.I.A. analyst Ray McGovern brilliantly coined as the MICIMATT (military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think tank complex).

In the U.S., at least the odd expert on monopoly power identified this neo-Orwellian push as accelerating “the collapse of journalism and democracy.”

Facebook “fact-checking professional journalists” does not even qualify as pathetic. Otherwise Facebook – and not analysts like McGovern – would have debunked Russiagate. It would not routinely cancel Palestinian journalists and analysts. It would not disable the account of University of Tehran professor Mohammad Marandi – who was actually born in the U.S.

I received quite a few messages stating that being canceled by Facebook – and now by Twitter – is a badge of honor. Well, everything is impermanent (Buddhism) and everything flows (Daoism). So being deleted – twice – by an algorithm qualifies at best as a cosmic joke.


Source : Consortium News

Video: The Rise and Fall of Shanghai’s Cabaret Culture

In the 1920s and ’30s, Shanghai was known as a city of sin: a “Paris of the East” famous for its rich nightlife.

The city had hundreds of cabaret clubs, where gang leaders clinked glasses with high-level politicians. From here, cabaret culture spread across China and beyond.

Today, Shanghai’s cabaret scene is remembered as a colonial import, but the story is more complicated than that. The art form was also embraced by China’s “May Fourth Generation” — a revolutionary youth movement for whom nationalism and sexual liberation went hand in hand.

Over time, cabaret became a part of Shanghai’s local identity, and the city’s scene gained global recognition. “Rose, Rose, I Love You” — one of the best-known cabaret songs of the era, by Shanghai pop star Yao Lee — even made it onto the U.S.’s Billboard music charts in 1951, when it was re-recorded by the American singer Frankie Laine.

Watch video at Sixth Tone (8:54 minutes) . . . .

From Soundbites to Deep Dives: The Rise of Chinese Nonfiction

Xue Yongle, Fu Beimeng, and Xie Anran wrote . . . . . . . . .

In 2017, the Dutch journalist Tabitha Speelman, then based in Beijing, started the Changpian newsletter. Her goal? To introduce China’s burgeoning nonfiction writing scene to readers around the world. An avid reader of Chinese media, she selected stories from a mix of traditional outlets and emerging WeMedia platforms. The idea was to reach beyond the soundbites that dominated international coverage of China and instead immerse China-watchers in longer narratives about human-interest topics and day-to-day life in the country.

Unlike English-language nonfiction, which is a far broader genre, Chinese nonfiction is a descendant of the country’s decades-old tradition of literary reporting. Speelman started Changpian at a time when this longform reporting tradition was being revived and repurposed for the social media era. Readers devoured real and dramatic stories from around China on platforms like microblogging site Weibo and messaging app WeChat, and major outlets soon started launching new sections dedicated to longform nonfiction writing.

Over the ensuing five years, Speelman’s newsletter has traced the evolution of China’s nonfiction scene. In her view, one of the most interesting elements of the genre has been the way it has elevated the voices of amateur writers and others from outside the traditional media industry. From housekeepers to white-collar workers, miners to retirees, Chinese of all backgrounds are eager to share their stories, and nonfiction is giving them a platform to do so.

In an interview with Sixth Tone conducted over Zoom, Speelman, who is currently pursuing a PhD in Chinese Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, shared her thoughts and observations on the nonfiction boom and China’s new generation of literary reporting. When Chinese voices successfully break through into international media, she says, it is usually through immersive narratives, rather than straight news, in pieces that “emphasize universal feelings … combined with very unique Chinese stories.”

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Sixth Tone: When you look at the theme of “generations” in the Chinese context, what immediately comes to mind?

Tabitha Speelman: For me, it is the Chinese categorization of generations by decades — for instance, I myself could be categorized as a ’80-hou, or person born in the 1980s — and how these generations are often linked to big societal changes. There are also clashes between these generations. Intergenerational communication across these lines and different generations’ pressures and expectations are a big theme in Chinese society. It’s a universal theme, but because of the speed of some of the changes in China and the big internal differences, it’s a theme that really stands out there.

Younger Chinese generations do differ in interesting ways from their predecessors, as well as their foreign counterparts. They grew up at a time when China is becoming increasingly powerful and important in the world, and that has changed their view of the world. But I’m actually surprised to see how similar they sometimes are to their peers elsewhere. I was talking to some young Chinese students in the Hague, some of whom had recently arrived from China, and the topics they cared about — social work, journalism, gender, and other identity issues — are also very relevant to my students at Leiden University. I’m quite interested in how that similarity comes about, despite the communication barriers and societal differences.

I myself also feel I share some lived experience with other ’80-hou. We remember life before the internet and came of age on an overlapping — often U.S.-dominated — media diet. Without losing sight of the significant differences across and within national borders, it seems that for people of my generation, it has been easier to connect to their Chinese peers, and vice versa, than for previous generations.

Sixth Tone: What kind of stories do you hope to read in this year’s Sixth Tone China Writing Contest?

Tabitha Speelman: I’ve been wanting to read some intergenerational stories, and I just hope that someone can do a story for this contest about people of different generations living under the same roof. China has a long tradition of that. Now, many of my friends born in the 1980s have their parents live with them for several years to help with childcare. And I’m really curious about how they experience that. It would be great to hear narratives from both sides of the generational divide — the young parents and the old grandparents — about how they manage the household and how they learn about each other in new ways. In general, more stories about or by members of older generations would be great.

People are writing in English for this contest. Writing in your second or third language can be a really interesting creative exercise. The added difficulty can be frustrating but also make you think harder about the essence of the story you want to tell.

Sixth Tone: What kind of generation-themed China stories do you hope to see less of?

Tabitha Speelman: I hope to see less of the sort of ready-made stories that claim to explain a generation, like “Who are the post-1990 generation?” or “Who are the post-1995 generation?” Often, these stories have a tendency to stigmatize, to say things like, “These youngsters, they’re always getting worse these days, more selfish, less filial, too online.” I don’t think that’s a particularly useful way to understand what drives people. It’s more interesting to look individually at these groups.

Sixth Tone: What are some clichés you’ve identified in coverage of China?

Tabitha Speelman: Any story that sees China as a monolith, portrays China as a country that’s somehow separate from the rest of the world, or sees China as a very special, exceptional place that deserves its own category. These narratives are prominent abroad, but you also hear them in China. They’re often linked to politics, a way of boxing China in. But China is quite a large and complex part of the world. You have to open that box and look at the internal debates and everything else that’s in there.

Sixth Tone: Why do you think nonfiction writing took off in China in the past few years?

Tabitha Speelman: In my observation, it really took off around 2014-2015. There was an interesting combination of some money coming in; a growing interest in IP development, such as TV and film adaptations; and a shift away from other types of journalism like investigative journalism. Some very talented journalists moved from traditional media into fiction — Li Jingrui, for instance — but others moved into nonfiction, like the NoonStory team.

Meanwhile, it turned out there was also just quite a big interest from the audience to read more about Chinese societal developments and the kind of ordinary changes that don’t often get covered by traditional media.

Sixth Tone: Your newsletter Changpian does a wonderful job of introducing foreign readers to longform Chinese writing. What initially led you to become interested in this field, and how did you go about compiling the newsletter?

Tabitha Speelman: First of all, I love reading as a way to understand the world, so it made sense to try to do that in China too. The more interesting reason is that there was more and more attention being paid to China by international news organizations, and I thought it would be a very good thing if people tried to understand Chinese society in more of its diversity and pay more attention to its culture and social media. Chinese voices were emerging in foreign media, but these reports were usually very short, focused on news themes, and largely limited to soundbites from social media. But I loved to read Chinese nonfiction and liked the feeling of staying with a piece for longer and being immersed in someone’s narrative. That kind of immersion often emphasizes universal feelings, but in this case, these feelings are combined with very uniquely Chinese stories. Since I really enjoyed reading those stories, I thought others might as well.

As for compiling the newsletter, I have a broad interest and tend to hoard too many things. So I just saved all these different stories that were either shared by acquaintances who I think have good taste or published by the WeChat public accounts that I follow. Or, maybe the story doesn’t come from a particularly professional account but focuses on a very interesting topic. I tried to first make a big selection and then go through the tabs to decide which are the ones that are really worth reading in their entirety.

Sixth Tone: Who has caught your attention in the Chinese nonfiction landscape?

Tabitha Speelman: I read famous writers like Yuan Ling, Guo Yujie, and Du Qiang. But what’s been really cool about this wave of Chinese nonfiction is that many media platforms, such as TrumanStory, SandwiChina, and theLivings, are editing and helping ordinary people write their own stories. While there are storytelling nights and podcasts here in Europe as well, and first-person narratives seem popular worldwide, I can’t quite think of any equivalent to these online platforms. I’m not sure why that is, but when I reported a story on this trend, a lot of people would point out that there is so much happening in China right now that is worth recording, and that many people feel this is not being done enough. I’d agree that their stories are very much worth reading.


Source : Sixth Tone

Does China Think Long-term While America Thinks Short-term?

Noah Smith wrote . . . . . . . . .

As part of my China reading series, I’m now reading Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’ Trap?, which is about the possibility of the U.S. and China stumbling into war. Though the warning is timely and useful, Destined for War has a section about cultural differences that’s both atrocious and entirely out of place in the rest of the book. It relies on many of the same tics and stereotypes as Michael Pillsbury’s The Hundred-Year Marathon — for example, alleging that Chinese people still think in terms of metaphors from the Warring States period 2300 years ago.

One particularly silly example Allison repeats is the idea that Chinese people think about strategy in terms of the game Go (weiqi in Chinese), while Americans think in terms of chess. The metaphor, apparently, is that China thinks in terms of strategic encirclement while Americans try to checkmate the opponent. This analogy actually comes from Henry Kissinger, who helped establish a de facto alliance between the two countries during the Cold War, and wrote a whole book about China that people still quote lovingly to this day. Kissinger reiterated the metaphor in a 2011 interview on CNN.

But as some of you may have noticed, the game pictured is not Go. It’s xiangqi, also known as “Chinese chess”. Xiangqi is similar to chess (the goal is to checkmate your opponent), but it’s faster-paced and more tactical, with more open space on the board. Games tend to be faster than chess games. And in China, xiangqi is much more popular than Go. So even if the idea of analyzing country’s strategic cultures based on popular board games made any sense whatsoever (which it does not), if we looked at xiangqi we might conclude that Chinese strategic culture is like America’s, but faster-paced and more aggressive.

In other words, assuming Kissinger was not just a complete doofus, he chose this metaphor based not on how accurately it describes Chinese thinking, but on how he wanted Americans to think about responding to China. And in fact, U.S. policy to balance China has been based on encirclement, much to Chinese leaders’ annoyance. Kissinger successfully got the U.S. to “play Go”.

Anyway, of all of these cliches that books like Allison’s Destined for War rely on, the one that people seem to come back to the most — and the one that most annoys me — is the idea that Chinese leaders are more careful planners and long-term thinkers than American leaders.

Part of this stereotype is just the perennial rosy view of autocracies — the idea that because they don’t have to worry about the next election, autocrats are free to craft longer-term policies. In fact this is probably wrong and may even be the reverse, since as the great political scientist Bruce Bueno de Mesquita would tell you, autocratic leaders also have to think about the folks who have the ability to give them the boot (and, often, the bullet).

But part of the idea that “China thinks long-term” probably just comes from the fact that it’s so old. Allison argues this explicitly, contrasting America’s two and a half centuries with China’s millennia of existence. Maybe only if you can think of history on that time-scale can you think of the future on a similar time-scale.

Maybe? But isn’t it a little weird for an American author to make this argument in a book that’s explicitly based on the 2400-year-old history of ancient Greece? Americans don’t think the world was created by George Washington — like Graham Allison himself, they think quite often about stuff that happened in ancient times. In Americans’ minds, the U.S. is more analogous to a single Chinese dynasty, most of which lasted for a much shorter time than the U.S., and none of which has hit the 3-century mark for 1800 years.

In any case, though, it’s far from clear that Chinese leaders engage in more long-term thinking than American leaders do. There are plenty of examples to show this.

In the late 1700s, America’s founders were creating a constitutional system that endures to this day, and is broadly considered the longest-lived constitution in the world. Many of the legal and political concepts the framers pioneered are now the basis of almost all rich modern nation-states. Shortly after that, Alexander Hamilton was creating a long-term economic plan that involved big infrastructure projects, infant-industry policies, and a central bank, with an eye to dominating manufacturing industries. It’s important to realize how revolutionary this was, as this was the very early days of the industrial revolution and no one even know how important manufacturing would eventually be! Hamilton saw it before almost anyone else did, and the policies he pioneered are in some ways the basis of China’s current industrial policy.

What was China doing at that time? The Qing Dynasty was at its height of wealth and power in the 1700s. But although it built plenty of palaces and stuff, it didn’t really modernize the canal system, whose decline ended up hurting the Chinese economy. Its failure to collect taxes effectively weakened the government considerably. The empire turned inward, ignoring most opportunities for international trade and commerce. And most damningly, the Qing failed to see the potential of industrialization and modern technology. In a fateful encounter with a British embassy in 1793, when presented with clocks, telescopes, modern weaponry, and a number of other pieces of proto-industrial Western technology, the Qianlong emperor sniffed that he had no need of Britain’s manufactures. From that time until the 21st century, China was playing technological catch-up.

Fast forward to the 20th century, when Mao reunited and stabilized China under Communist Party rule. In the 1950s and 60s, when the U.S. was building the interstate highway system and the modern university system, China was engaging in the Great Leap Forward, a bizarre experiment in hyper-distributed industrial production that failed so catastrophically that tens of millions of people ended up starving to death. Shortly afterward, China switched directions and decided to engage instead in the Cultural Revolution, whose strategy was apparently something along the lines of:

  1. Get everyone in China to vilify and beat up on each other for a decade
  2. ???
  3. National greatness!

If the Cultural Revolution contributed to Chinese national greatness in any way, it was only by traumatizing Chinese people so much that they sought out stability at any cost in the decades that followed.

OK, but perhaps China’s lurch from ill-conceived disaster to ill-conceived disaster during the Mao years was the function of rule by a single mentally unstable individual. Since then, China has had a lot more policy continuity, and a lot more success — a period of sustained rapid growth such as the world has never seen. Does this represent a shift toward (or back toward) long-term thinking?

Perhaps. The economic modernizations under Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin were truly some of the most impressive in the world, especially the well-handled privatization of state-owned enterprises, the quasi-privatization of land ownership, and the farming out of industrial policy to local and regional governments who were free to experiment and imitate each other’s successes. I’m not sure whether this policy package required long-term thinking, but it was certainly brilliantly executed and wildly successful. For three decades, China enjoyed the rapid growth that this policy package produced. Hu Jintao’s efforts to boost economic activity in rural areas were also well-executed and probably quieted persistent rural unrest.

But during China’s spectacular rise, there were many long-term issues that the leadership simply didn’t deal with, even though it surely saw them coming a mile away.

For example, the one-child policy — which was probably unnecessary to bring fertility rates down to replacement level in the first place — went overboard and was kept for far too long. Now China’s fertility is below 1.3, lower than Japan’s. Its workforce is shrinking by millions a year, and even bigger decreases are now fully baked into the demographic cake. Seeing the fruits of its short-sightedness, the Chinese government is frantically trying to reverse course, switching to a three-child policy and clumsily trying to crack down on vasectomies and abortions.

Meanwhile, when the United States faced falling fertility in the 70s and 80s, it simply let in more immigrants. This was a highly successful strategy. Ronald Reagan, the biggest booster of immigration, even foresaw that the mostly-Democratic-voting Latinos he encouraged to enter the country might one day vote Republican.

Another example is the environment. China’s breakneck growth paid little heed to air quality, water quality, or global warming. Air quality in the capital had to reach apocalyptic levels before the government took action. Now the country is facing water shortages, and its schemes to redistribute water availability are just exacerbating the problem. Desertification from decades of land mismanagement continues to be a major challenge. Meanwhile, the U.S. has steadily improved its air and water quality since the Nixon Administration. Both countries are way too reluctant to cut carbon emissions, but at least in the U.S. emissions have been generally headed in the right direction — unlike China.

Or take science and technology. The U.S. natural gas boom, which allowed it to unlock shale gas deposits and rapidly decrease reliance on coal, was enabled by government research into hydraulic fracturing technology in the 1970s. MRNA vaccines, which are now saving hundreds of thousands of American lives even as China races to reinvent the technology, were also based on decades of patient, forward-looking government science funding. The U.S. government didn’t know these technologies would be as impactful as they were — it simply recognized the distinct possibility, and invested accordingly. China, in contrast, has pioneered some new kinds of weaponry, but in general has focused on either appropriating foreign technology or playing aggressive catch-up in known areas like semiconductors.

Industrial policy provides a fourth example. The U.S. was certainly short-sighted in allowing its industrial commons to be outsourced en masse to its main geopolitcal rival. But China allowed its economy to become dominated by real estate, reducing long-term productivity growth as it dealt with every economic shock by hurling more money at the property sector. Now Xi Jinping’s sudden course-reversal and attempts to deal with this problem by crushing real estate are causing chaos in the country’s economy. Local government finances are especially exposed; for many years China had talked about implementing a property tax to wean local governments off of land sales, but it somehow just never happened.

And though it’s hard to peer into China’s government’s opaque decision-making process (which probably helps to convince credulous Americans that wise long-term planning is going on behind the scenes), it sure looks like a place where the leadership doesn’t listen to people who don’t tell it what it wants to hear. Xi is rumored to be a micromanager who demands to be surrounded by fawning yes-men (some accounts are even more negative). And when academics or other independent voices warn about troubles brewing, the leadership seems to shut them down pretty quickly.

A Beijing think tank offered a frank review of China’s technological weaknesses. Then the report disappeared.

The study, removed from an institutional website, says scientific “decoupling” would harm China more than the U.S.

Thus perhaps it’s no surprise that quite often we see cases where China’s government takes aggressive, dramatic action, ignores the long-term consequences, and then rapidly reversing course once those consequences become clear. It looks less like 1000-year planning and more like 30-year oversteering. As for Xi, his industrial crackdowns and social crackdowns might ultimately come to be seen as far-sighted planning, but my guess is that instead they’ll be more of the same. Ultimately China may also come to regret the fruits of the Uyghur repression, the crushing of Hong Kong society and culture, and bellicose “wolf warrior” diplomacy.

All this doesn’t mean Chinese policymaking is bad; sometimes, as under Mao, it leads to catastrophe, and sometimes, as under Deng, Jiang, and Hu, it yields spectacular success. It simply means that this does not look like a country that is following a 1000-year plan, or even a hundred-year plan. It looks like a country that is lurching awkwardly into modernity, constrained by the political imperatives of an autocratic, unstable political system and by the haunting specters of past mistakes.

But maybe, when writers like Graham Allison and Michael Pillsbury tell us that China is this wise long-term planner, they’re not describing China so much as telling us what they want America to be more like. In recent years we’ve underinvested in infrastructure and housing and export industries, squandered much of our global leadership, prepared poorly for pandemics, stuck our heads in the sand on climate change, and in general have failed to act like the far-sighted country we were in the mid 20th century or the late 18th century. The stories we tell about other countries are often the stories we want to tell about ourselves. Just as Kissinger tricked us into playing Go, maybe Allison and Pillsbury can trick us into thinking a little more carefully about where we’d like to be in 100 years.


Source : Noahpinion

What My Chinese Grandparents Taught Me About Sustainability

Marina Zheng wrote . . . . . . . . .

It has been more than two years since I last saw my grandparents. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I always tried to make the long journey back to China at least once a year. But now, with the country’s borders shut to non-citizens like me for 19 months and counting, “seeing” them has taken the form of video calls. Our talks are usually short, but as time goes by and the physical distance between me and them remains excruciatingly far, I’ve come to cherish these moments of connection.

I still look forward to the day when I can see them in person again, to the feeling of my grandfather’s hand on mine as he guides me through calligraphy strokes or the taste of my grandmother’s famous “leftover noodles.” But for now, these sessions must suffice. They’re even teaching me things about my grandparents that I didn’t know before.

On our most recent call, for instance, I recounted news stories from COP26 that I’d read online. As is the case for so many young people around the world, climate change weighs heavily on my conscience. I do what I can to try to reduce my carbon footprint — recycling, eating less meat, taking public transportation, opting for sustainable brands — but it feels like there’s always more that I can and should be doing.

Yet, as I explained the concept of COP26 and the importance of sustainable living to my 80-something grandparents, I was surprised to only get an unimpressed shrug from the other end of my screen.

“All they have to do is to live the way we did back in the day. It’s as simple as that.”

And then it struck me, maybe it really can be simple as that.

The way we think about addressing climate change is typically synonymous with looking ahead. It’s a future of renewable energy, carbon neutrality, sustainable sourcing — “new” ways to live, work, and be. And as a result of this mindset, we’ve made a lot of progress in recent decades. It’s incredible to think about the social, economic, and technological advancements we’ve already achieved in our collective efforts to save the planet. From corporations like Tesla that have upended fossil fuel-dependent industries to start-ups like Ecologi that are making it easier for anyone to get active in environmental causes, the level of unconventional thinking applied to this issue has been unparalleled. But what if looking ahead to the future isn’t the only way to think about tackling climate change? What if we can also learn from the past?

Some of the answers to our current problems may be found in traditional lifestyles still common in many parts of the world. Historically, developed countries have been some of the world’s biggest polluters. Growing up in the United States and now living in the United Kingdom, I’m all too familiar with the mindset of getting whatever you want, whenever you want it. But I also remember my early years growing up in Shanghai in the late 1990s, an age before high-speed internet and e-commerce sites touting cheap goods and next-day delivery. The majority of my time in those days was spent with my grandparents, and, thinking back on it, they taught me so much about what it means to live sustainably. I remember the way my grandmother would color my fingernails, not with nail polish but with pigment from the flowers in our garden. Or the way my grandfather used the same tea leaves over and over again, absolutely exhausting them before reaching for a new batch. Still, it wasn’t until I really thought about the stories they used to tell about life in the Chinese countryside that it dawned on me: Sustainability is not a new way of thinking. For much of human history, it was the only way of life.

Decades before Greta Thunberg took to the streets to march for climate change, before world leaders met in Paris to commit, however tenuously, to emissions reductions, before alternative meats and electric cars were invented, my grandparents and others in their generation were living in a way that would make any environmentalist proud. They did not grow up with access to supermarkets, online shopping, or central heating. They ate leftovers, reused everything, and wore layers of clothing to keep themselves warm in the winter. These are habits, rooted in traditional ways of life, that they still practice. In their minds, why would they — why should they — ever want more than what they need? Admittedly, these habits are born out of frugality and scarcity rather than a conscious effort at sustainability, but they nonetheless contain lessons for us about how to take less from our planet and make do with what we have.

I’d be lying if I said it would be easy for me to start living the way my grandparents do. My habits, like theirs, are difficult to break. Personally, air travel is not a privilege I find easy to forgo, no matter how environmentally damaging it may be. And the longer I go without seeing my family, the more eager I am for the borders between the U.K. and China to open so I can get on a plane and visit them.

But living sustainably doesn’t necessarily mean reaching perfection; it’s about making choices. Take composting, for example. I find it difficult to consume or use absolutely everything the way my grandparents did when they were my age, but I figured this was the next best thing. What composting really taught me, however, is just how much I consume. And that’s the catch: The more sustainable you are, the more conscious of your habits you become, and the more you realize how sustainable you can really be. There’s something to the concept of “less is more” that I find myself coming back to. Considering more and consuming less. Just ask your grandparents — they know all about it.


Source : Sixth Tone

Video: 中国十大国粹

中国是个古老而神奇的国度,悠久的历史,璀璨的文化,给我们留下丰富的文化遗产,那是我们先辈们智慧的结晶。让我们一起来了解一下中国十大国粹吧 . . . . . . .

1. 中国书法 (8:03 – 10:10)
2. 武术 (7:05 – 8:02)
3. 中医 (6:15 – 7:05)
4. 京剧 (5:19 – 6:14)
5. 瓷器 (4:35 – 5:20)
6. 茶道 (3:31 – 4:35)
7. 围棋 (2:24 – 3:30)
8. 刺绣 (1:44- 2:23)
9. 汉服 (0:50 – 1:43)
10. 剪纸 (0:15 – 0:50)

Watch video at You Tube (10:20 minutes) . . . .


Hat Tip to Norman Cheung

The New Snowbirds

Jason Diamond wrote . . . . . . . . .

Arielle Castillo has a vision for life after the pandemic. Specifically, the 30-something content producer for Manchester City (the soccer club) wants to figure out a way to live in two places: one in the winter and another in the summer. “I think between luck and some careful budgeting, I can manage it through keeping my main lease in Miami, and home-swapping or paying for a sublet for the time I want to be in New York,” she says. In case you’re wondering what time of year she’d like to live in each city, well, just ask the South Florida native: “Florida summers and even spring are not for the faint of heart.”

This migratory pattern—spending the warm months up north, and the cold ones down south—isn’t exactly new. The idea of the snowbird—somebody who leaves their colder, full-time residence to stay out the winter somewhere with higher temperatures—dates back to at least 1909 in Florida, when John A. P. Lane wrote an op-ed for The Miami News saying, “The country people who are here day in and day out are doing their part to build Miami up not to leave it down as you property owning snow birds who take out of it much more than they contribute.” Traditionally, snowbirds have always been older, usually retired. The stereotype tends to be Jewish or from the East Coast, but things vary depending on where you are. The Pacific Southwest, for instance, has long been a destination for Midwestern Social Security collectors, and anybody from South Florida can tell you that, come wintertime, you’ll likely run into a few older French Canadians escaping the harsh Quebec weather. Similarly, California’s Coachella Valley, various parts of Arizona, and even parts of the South along the coast have all been destinations for older folks who can just pick up and leave for a few months and return home when they feel like it.

But things have been changing. Especially in South Florida, where old pictures of Jewish bubbes walking the beach, and Richard Nixon decamping to Key Biscayne to his “Winter White House,” fixed the area as a destination for older people. Today, Miami Beach is a lot closer to Soho Beach, especially with one of Manhattan’s hardest reservations, Carbone, opening up shop in the 305. The big magazines with “New York” in the name have taken note of this. Adam Platt, writing for New York magazine, wrote that eating at the Carbone on South Beach and at Cote, the other NYC import to Miami, made him feel “hopeful” for the future of his own city’s restaurant scene making a post-COVID comeback. Meanwhile, Helen Rosner of The New Yorker tried to make a reservation at the South Beach Carbone and found “months and months of grayed-out calendar dates.” People are obsessed with Miami right now, and if you can make it work to be down there for some of the year, and then in another city, it doesn’t sound like a terrible idea. Hell, it sounds downright fun.

Castillo is the embodiment of the young snowbird: people in their 30s and 40s who are looking to live in two different places (one of which is probably in Florida) through home swaps or sublets. Although Castillo says she has been working toward this goal for several years (“I am very sensitive to not wanting to seem like I am treating a horribly mismanaged global tragedy as an opportunity for a lark”), the pandemic has radically altered where a certain kind of upwardly mobile, travel-fluent employee can work. After most knowledge-work industries shifted to Zoom meetings and Slack conversations, it’s still uncertain if or when many of us will ever have to go to an office five days a week again. Some companies, however, are making it easier for employees to make the choice themselves—and many of those employees are choosing to do what their grandparents might have done in retirement. If the traditional office is a thing of the past, some of us can now work from wherever, and living in different places throughout the year is feasible, why wouldn’t you trade snow and ice for sunshine and warmth for part of the year? While we might not get more time off or more money, at least some companies are realizing that letting their employees WFW (work from wherever) is a way to keep them happy.

“Since we operate a PR and marketing firm, we can now be more nomadic for a period of time,” says Eric Hendrikx, creative director at NKPR, “especially because of what we learned during the pandemic about people’s capability to zoom rather than meet in person.” Hendrikx and his wife, company founder, Natasha Koifman, have their own version of snowbirding in mind: they are looking to maintain their residence in Toronto (where Koifman is from), and to find a new place in California, Hendrikx’s home state, for when it gets too cold in Canada. While places all over Florida have always catered to part-time residents with timeshares, resorts, and lower taxes that made owning a second home there easier for some, today I went on Airbnb and found multiple places I could have to myself in Austin, New Orleans, Tucson, and a number of other spots for less than I pay in NYC. The average rent in Brooklyn is currently $2,785. Somebody paying that could charge a subletter just a little more, go somewhere warmer for a few months, and make a profit. If you can swing it, that really doesn’t sound like a horrible option.

But whether you’re freelance or full-time might not matter. Companies of all sizes are making it possible for employees to live in two places, and, in some cases, never go into an office. Google, for instance, recently announced that, as of September 1, 20 percent of its workforce will be able to continue working from home, while Spotify announced employees will be able to work anywhere and still get paid the same rates they would in New York City or San Francisco. So that means you could work for a company with an office in Manhattan, live in, say, New Jersey for a few months, then rent a place in Arizona for the winter, all while making NYC wages but not paying NYC rent.

While anybody with the means, a really good plan, or a sweet apartment hookup can essentially live the young snowbird lifestyle, most of the folks I spoke to have some connection to the tech world. With all the talk of “the future of the office” in the post-pandemic world, few industries are as suited to cut the need to have everybody working in the same place as tech. One employee at a startup I talked to pointed out that his company didn’t bother to renew the lease on a Manhattan office and is now 100 percent remote, and that he could just as easily take Zoom meetings from a rented place in Silver Lake as he could from his Brooklyn apartment when the temperature drops. “I mean, why not?”

There are plenty of places where people can work in shorts in December, but no city is planning for—and in some cases already embracing—this new crop of new residents quite like Miami. Mayor Francis Suarez has been actively trying to get tech and finance firms to open up shop in the city, while the crypto exchange FTX recently bought the naming rights to the Miami Heat’s arena. Some people will make the move full-time (Goldman Sachs is reportedly “considering moving a big chunk of employees from New York to Miami,” per Bloomberg), and others will be able to pull off a two-city tango.

Of course, Miami has always been a party town for locals and tourists alike, which is why it could conceivably sustain a portion of its population only being there half the year. It’s not as if trendy New York restaurants like Carbone cater exclusively to residents of the five boroughs. But as anybody that knows even a little bit of Magic City history can tell you, Miami has always been a boom town. Whether this most recent bubble nets more lifetime residents, or people that just want to use the place for its nice weather—and then get out of town—remains to be seen. Ultimately, Castillo says, the math makes the Young Snowbird life impossible to resist. “60 percent of the year is devoted to swamp ass,” she says. “But winters are pretty damn nice.”


Source : GQ