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Rana Mitter: my first trip to China

 

Rana Mitter is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at Oxford University and author of some really excellent books, including A Bitter Revolution. Sweeping behind the digital sofa of my old blog, I found this video interview I did with him in Oxford in 2008. He talks about his first visit to China, to Guangzhou in the late 80s, back when foreigners were still a rarity. Here it is, with Mandarin subtitles to boot (but hosted on Youtube, so 要翻墙).

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The Miao and the moviestar

Hanging with the minorities – by Sasha Draggeim

 

After my performance on the glittery and crowded stage of Hunan TV, I decided to go to an area untouched by maddening economic growth, heavy pollution and large-scale performances (or so I thought). Guizhou province in China’s relatively undeveloped southwest seemed perfect, and the work was meaningful – visiting the countryside to help set up programs to improve living conditions for villagers, many of whom belong to ethnic minority groups.

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Chinese Tuesdays: 观海听涛

 

观海听涛 (guān hǎi tīng tāo) means “Watch the sea and listen to the waves”. A scroll like the one above was given as a gift to President Obama a few years ago by a Chinese general. The interesting part is that because the last character 涛 is the same as the tāo in [former leader] Hu Jintao, Chinese netizens have interpreted the gift to mean that Obama should listen to Hu, and watch China from across the sea, suggesting that the US is a vassal state of China. As a result, some have taken to calling Obama 观海 (guān hǎi) – “Sea Watcher”.

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Dung sweeping festival

Forced labour on the Inner Mongolian grasslands – by Alec Ash

 

The blades of a hundred wind turbines chugged languidly, stirring the dry morning air over an expanse of cracked grasslands pock-marked with horse droppings. A klick away, inside our ger, we reluctantly pushed off our blankets to meet the morning and rubbed the sleep from our eyes. It was a grudging start to the day, but missing breakfast would be worse.

We were in the Huitengxile grasslands, Inner Mongolia – an Englishman, a French woman and a Russian, like the start of a bad joke. It was 2010, it was Qingmingjie – tomb sweeping festival – and we had the long weekend off from our language school in Beijing. None of us had been to Inner Mongolia. It sounded exotic. Horses and horizons, that kind of thing.

Our host, who had rented us the ger, gave us each a plate of flat noodles with chopped veg and a mischievous smile. I may have imagined the mischievous smile.

“Would you like to participate in a traditional Mongolian activity today?” he asked, stoking the dung-fueled samovar.

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A New Nursery Rhyme for Beijing

A poem by Canaan Morse

 

Rain, rain start to fall,

wash the window-studded walls.

Through the sewers thread your way,

flush the oil out to sea.

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