”In this critical piece syndicated by Global Research and Big Think, Dr. Thorsten J. Pattberg looks at how the German elites conduct themselves in China. Knowing little or nothing about cultural China, letting alone the language, many German expats, patronizing and full of themselves, behave like colonial masters reenacting the early 20th Century civilizing missions under William II. The story follows the embarrassing 2012 Shanghai trip of Annette Schavan, then-Minister of Education. Having lectured the Chinese on the rule of law and universal ethics, she was forced to resign from her political posts a year later when her doctorate was revoked due to plagiarism.”
Produced by WeToldYouSo1
Not a day passes at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China in Beijing without some Washington bureaucrat ringing: “Is he back?” For, as long as China watchers report nothing new from the ideological front, the West will talk money and economy. The day Confucius returns might change all that.
Read about the latest developments in the resurrection of Confucius, feat. Xi Jinping’s visit to the ‘International seminar to mark the 2,565th anniversary of the birth of Confucius’ in the Great Hall of the People. /Via China Daily.
Benjamin A. Elman
“Philology and Exegesis in East Asia: Yan Ruoju’s 閻若璩 (1636-1704)
尚書古文疏證Vs. Zhu Xi’s 朱熹 (1130-1200) 中庸章句序”
Tokyo, September 28, 2014; 15:00 – 18:00
My research colleagues and I have attempted in recent years to present new views of the classical versus vernacular dichotomy that are especially central to the new historiography of India. Based on recent Indian/South Asian findings, we examined alternative frameworks for understanding East Asian languages between 1000 and 1919. Using new sources, making new connections, and reexamining old assumptions, we have asked whether and why East Asian languages should be analyzed in light of a Eurocentric dichotomy. This discussion encouraged us to explore whether European modernity is an appropriate standard at all for East Asia. Individually and collectively, we have sought to establish linkages between societies without making a priori assumptions about the countries’ internal structures or the genealogy of their connections.
Recent scholarship has presented a strong challenge to earlier models for understanding early modern languages in East Asia. Following the lead of Sheldon Pollock, who described the spread of Sanskrit in ways often diametrically opposed to the history of Latin, Peter Kornicki, Wang Sixiang, John Phan, Haruo Shirane, Daniel Trambaiolo, Atsuko Ueda, Shang Wei, and myself present essays in this volume that in aggregate challenge accepted distinctions between classical and vernacular languages in East Asia. I shall attempt to present in this lecture the elements of a new conceptual framework that recognizes that in East Asia the literary and vernacular registers historically interacted and influenced each other as part of a unified, if hybrid, language system that was mastered by Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese according to their own unique linguistic resources.
Time and venue: See at The Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia; ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp.
Professor Elman is Professor of East Asian Studies and History at Princeton University (see profile at Princeton.edu).
In case you miss his lecture at Tokyo University on Sept 28, 2014, he will give another lecture at Todai on Oct 9, 2014. If you are into East Asia Studies and if you are in Tokyo, don’t miss this great opportunity to meet one of the world’s leading scholars on East Asian philology and historiography.
Selected work: On Their Own Terms (Harvard University Press), in which Prof. Elman explains how the Chinese collaborated with the Jesuits and, later, with the Protestants, over four centuries, yet ultimately discovered their own paths of producing modern science.
Watch a popular lecture by Benjamin on Youtube:
BEIJING – This year has seen two primates leading at the box office: Sun Wukong, the ‘Monkey King’; and Caesar, boss character in ‘The Planet of the Apes’ franchise. The chest-thumping action aside, let us discuss their very different leadership styles and cultural backgrounds:
Caesar is the irascible alpha-ape on steroids (literally, his high IQ is the result of biotechnological engineering). He is strong and fierce, and although he is shown militarized (on horse, wielding a machine-gun) on the misleading film-posters and –trailers, throughout the movie he acts wise and considerate –until the third act when he is forced to retaliate.
Wukong is not a leader but a principle: a force of nature. He is a Taoist immortal, a Buddhist deity born of a celestial rock, carrying a magical golden hooped rod that allegedly weighs 8 tons. A bit inane, he is rebellious and impatient. He fell off the 33rd floor of heaven -unharmed, because he is the product of 2000 years of advanced Chinese mythology. [...]
Image credits: Caesar/Planetoftheapes.wikia.com; Sun Wukong/Colourlessopinions.com
- В АПРЕЛЕ ПРОШЛОГО ГОДА ПЕКИНСКИЙ УНИВЕРСИТЕТ НАПРАВИЛ МЕНЯ НА ВСТРЕЧУ С ДОЛЖНОСТНЫМИ ЛИЦАМИ ОТ ИНСТИТУТА КОНФУЦИЯ, ГОСПОДИНОМ МА ЦЗЯНЬФЭЕМ – ЗАМЕСТИТЕЛЕМ ДИРЕКТОРА ХАНЬБАНЬ, И ЯН ЦЗИНЬЧЭНОМ, ДИРЕКТОРОМ ПРЕПОДАВАТЕЛЬСКОГО ОТДЕЛА В ШТАБ-КВАРТИРЕ ИНСТИТУТА КОНФУЦИЯ.
ХАНЬБАНЬ НАХОДИТСЯ В ДВАДЦАТИ МИНУТАХ НА ТАКСИ ОТ ПЕКИНСКОГО УНИВЕРСИТЕТА, НА УЛИЦЕ ДЭШЭНМЭН. МЫ ВСТРЕТИЛИСЬ В КАФЕ И ЗАКАЗАЛИ ЧАЙ ПУЭР. ОБА ДЖЕНТЕЛЬМЕНА БЫЛИ ЗНАКОМЫ С МОИМ ЭССЕ «КОНЕЦ ПЕРЕВОДАМ», ГДЕ Я ПЫТАЮСЬ АДАПТИРОВАТЬ ДЛЯ ПОНИМАНИЯ ИНОСТРАНЦЕВ «НЕПЕРЕВОДИМЫЕ» СЛОВА-КОНЦЕПЦИИ КИТАЙСКОГО ЯЗЫКА, КАК «ШЭНЖЕНЬ» И «ЦЗЮНЬЦЗЫ».
ХАНЬБАНЬ – ПОДКОНТРОЛЬНОЕ ВЕДОМСТВО МИНИСТЕРСТВА ОБРАЗОВАНИЯ. ГОСПОДИН МА СООБЩИЛ, ЧТО МИНИСТЕРСТВО ПРЕДЛАГАЕТ ОПУБЛИКОВАТЬ МОИ РАБОТЫ, А ИЗДАТЕЛЬСТВО Я ВЫБИРАЮ САМ. Я ВЫБРАЛ CHINA’S FOREIGN LANGUAGE PRESS. ГОСПОДИН ЯН СТАНОВИЛСЯ «СУПЕРВАЙЗЕРОМ» ПРОЕКТА.
SOURCE: EXPARTISTA.COM: ЧТО СОБОЙ ПРЕДСТАВЛЯЕТ КИТАЙСКАЯ «ПРОПАГАНДА» НА ЗАПАДЕ, КОТОРОЙ ПУГАЮТ ИНОСТРАНЦЕВ ВО ВСЕМ МИРЕ, И В ЧЕМ ПРИЧИНА НЕУДАЧ ИНСТИТУТА КОНФУЦИЯ
BERLIN – After the Great Wars, the USA “colonized” the German lands. The Reich (Empire) was de-Nazified, but also de-Germanized, with the result that German culture, German philosophy, and the German sciences all came to an end. Germany became a Western nation. That this is so, few politicians have any illusions, except this mid summer in 2014, when Berlin suddenly protested against the massive CIA/NSA surveillance of the entire German population. And just when Washington feared Germany could make impossible demands for more sovereignty and cultural autonomy, it soon became clear that Berlin, quite to the contrary, wants to JOIN the planetary surveillance apparatus, and as America’s associate and best buddy of the Anglo-Saxon world order at that. The following text is an excerpt from an analysis published with Dissident Voice;
To anyone who lived in Germany during the last thirty years, it became apparent that this nation has turned into a satellite state with tinsel culture. German philosophy, German science, and German literature are all dead. Its archaic Humboldt’sche education system and those Magisters, Diplomas, and Doktorats went broke; now German universities imitate Anglo-Saxon-style credits and Bachelor (BA), Master (MA), and PhD degrees. Cinemas exclusively run Hollywood movies. The Germans are slaves to US propaganda: their news services copy/translate about 90% from Anglophone sources; the younger generations watch Lost, Game of Thrones, Homeland, or Breaking Bad –US television series. Teenagers play X-Box, adore US celebrities, and buy Apple computers or iphones. Office workers sip Starbucks coffee, type on Dell computers, use Microsoft Office software, and in their breaks eat at McDonalds, Pizza Hut, or Kentucky Fried Chicken. Germans are completely dependent of the internet –which (let’s be honest) basically consists of US companies dressed as public services such as Google, Yahoo, Youtube, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Wikipedia, Huffington Post, Ebay, Amazon and hundreds more.
German companies, if they are smart, don’t want to have anything to do with the provincial German ways; they’d rather present themselves as “international,” meaning American -because that’s where all the theories come from, including the rules of global business, financial structures, and monetary regulations, letting alone ethics, language, and corporate culture.
From an historical point of view, Germans are well known to assimilate happily into American culture and apply for US citizenship; yet no American, if he or she understands their country’s status in the world, would readily volunteer to become German.
The English language, meanwhile, has become so dominant in business, politics, entertainment, culture, arts, education, sciences, and the internet, that growing up as a German, in a pure German-language environment, wasting years on mastering the difficult grammar that leads to nowhere.
In fact, the German language has become a serious handicap –hence the German elites sending their offspring abroad: to schools and universities in the US or UK. And if they don’t, they have to master English anyway –only later, harder, and more costly. To prevent the exodus of German education, universities are forced to do two things: a) they must offer degrees for free (no study fees), and b) they must offer English as the language of academic instruction (and if it was only to attract foreign students, who would otherwise pass on Germany and migrate into the Anglophone world). When Germans venture abroad, walking the streets of Shanghai, Bangkok, or New Delhi, they will always first be addressed as Americans. And in a way, they are; they are “Western people,” which, really, is just a polite way of saying they are Accessory Americans.
How Could It Come to This?
If nations have a metaphorical ‘life’, there are some which ruined their youth and adulthood; they can’t be leaders anymore (while others did just fine). Modern Germany, founded in 1871, is such a troubled nation. It came late to the Industrialization; late to the Enlightenment (it has its own, limited version: Aufklärung); to Democracy; too late to Feminism; it was –frankly speaking- a terrible colonial power; it never got the hang of multiculturalism; and it notoriously started both World Wars. When Anglophone intellectuals think of the Germans, they are probably envisioning Dr. Faustus (who sold his soul to the Devil), Dr. Frankenstein (crazy scientists), the Jews and the Nazis, Panzer, Blitzkrieg, and Storm troopers eating bratwurst. Many German loanwords in English have negative connotations, such as dreck, kaput, Anschluss, Gestapo, flak, and Führer.
Consequently, whenever the Germans flex their muscles in this 21st Century, their criminal past catches up with them: all those war-crimes, atrocities, the final solution, the holocaust. Without supervision, and letting them known that they are supervised (!), the Germans would immediately fall back to racist antics, nationalism, and cultural intolerance.
During the period of de-Nazification, German history books were revised and approved by US administrators. Tens of thousands of violent newspeak had to be removed and eradicated from the German language, terms like Aryan, Lebensraum, Mischlinge, and judenrein. Patriotism was stomped. At least three generations of Germans, all deemed Nazi, had to be shamed and dishonored –unprecedented in the history of the world. Despite horrible massacres and crimes against humanity of their own, neither the Americans, nor the British, the Turks, the Slavs, the Arabs, the Persians, not even the Japanese have ever cut off their ancestors or shown similar disloyalty to their fathers and grandfathers. The Germans broke with their criminal family (civilization), abdicated the Germanic tradition (culture), and, naturally, finished and now soulless, readily volunteered for adoption. Germany thus became a “Western nation.”
The occupying forces (USA, United Kingdom, France) supervised the German Basic Law, the ‘Grundgesetz’, in order to ensure liberal democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. In academia, the process of total Westernization was most severe: The Germans witnessed the collapse of all Deutsche Wissenschaften: not only did over one million intellectuals migrate to the United States (taking their disciplines with them), but orphaned German technologies and theories were quickly picked up by more resourceful Anglo-Saxon scholars and translated into English. German literature today is only as good as some Anglophone critic endorsed it. The remains… the unprocessed German knowledge… a useless crapulence. The Germans lost their ‘Deutungshoheit’ –the sovereignty over the definition of (their own) thought. Only if the US discovers it does German knowledge exist.
In contrast, the history of the USA was a single coherent success story. Every German kid wanted to be American, because –as school indoctrination ensued- German past was shameful until, luckily, the Americans came to liberate Europe. That said, Germans are all still trapped in “being Germans,” are they not, with the consequence that when they grew up, their cognitive predicament develop into a cultural psychosis: nasty emotional swings between two extremes: a massive inferiority complex towards everything American, and an ugly demeanor of superiority toward other cultures.
A Conquered Spirit
Under US global leadership the Germans were allowed to rebuild their Länder (with generous US loans) but forbidden to centralize its power (Germany is a Republic and Federation of 16 states, with 16 governments; Berlin one of its poorest in GDP per capita); and just like the Soviet Union created East Germany in its own image, so did the United States a fantastic job in transforming West Germany into a backyard for US capitalists, military deployments, and outlet for the American Dream. The proud Germans, who once defeated the Romans, and who repelled the Napoleonic forces, and who once even build a German Empire of their own, were now officially “relieved” from the heavy burden of continuing History (with a capital ‘H’). To carve out for them a meaningful existence they were encouraged to (or driven into) craftsmanship: assembling automobiles, washing-machines, and words like Elementarfunktionszusammenhänge.
Germany didn’t seriously crash with US interest (not even during the Iraq war) after its occupation in 1948 because it profited from comet-trailing US imperialism into all corners of the world (mostly via UN and NATO) –but terms and conditions applied: Berlin had to prostitute itself to Empire.
Image credits: Reichstag in Berlin/East-West-Dichotomy.com
THE Gretchenfrage is this: Should honest, intelligent parents from a not so-privileged background send their inexperienced offspring to the Ivy League when they know (and have been warned by the likes of Prof. Deresiewicz) that over there their morals and values could be severely compromised? They will see a world so privileged, so spoilt, arrogant, so well-connected, and so over-the-top conceited, that this could seriously affect their mental well-being.
Oh, sure, the kids of the working class may compete on a grade-level with the sons and daughters of the US ruling class, academic dynasties, congressmen, the global plutocracy, Chinese top officials, the Jewish connection, Eastern princes and Arab sheiks; but they may forever feel as social climbers, freaks, outcasts, and they will almost certainly practice self-segregation, not being morally prepared (letting alone equally resourceful) to mingle with the high class and well-bred.
Let me illustrate this culture shock: Imagine you go to high security prison for the extremely “talented” gangsters but refuse to accept the reality of their place being perverted by a certain ethical code that is patriarchy, violence, revenge, and, well, the law of the jungle. You cannot resist the rules of the turf, it’s impossible. It gets to you. So, if you are weak on that ethical code, don’t go to prison. And don’t hang out with people that are affiliated with crime culture.
The Ivy League is also an extreme place, much more difficult to get into than a state prison, granted, but no less perverted by a certain ethical code that is corruption, nepotism, cronyism, and elitism. In a nutshell: a certain kind of people is drawn to this elitist culture to improve their precious skills. You will see and witness things at Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, etc. that, if you come from a descent and humble background, may be impossible to comprehend -the arrogance, the abundance, the dining, wining, and doing favors. This culture of entitlement is clearly not for everyone.
There are many other excellent universities (and even other countries, imagine that!) that have smart teachers and great libraries and are much more down to earth, more diverse, and better for the soul. In fact, Ivy League, this notion and concept, is quite an American invention. It doesn’t exist anywhere in the world in such an obscene, institutionalized form.
That the Americans indulge in this extreme segregation of their society into the privileged 1% and the 99% human soup is painful to watch, but a deep-seated problem in all Anglo-Saxon cultures, I’m afraid. That’s why they were so successful at imperialism and colonialism, they still are: They grant much more freedom to their subjects (than the Germans, French, or Japanese imperialists of old were ever willing to grant), as long as the 1% stay in power and benefit.
RELATED Beware of ‘Universal Ethics’
After all, the Anglo-British still have their monarchs, royalties, the House of Lords, posh grammar schools like Eton, and their snobbish Oxbridge. In such a pathological, rapacious, and impenetrable class society, education isn’t about knowledge (if it ever was) at all, it is solely about privilege. The books on the shelves are all the same. What is studied doesn’t matter as much as where it is studied. And so, many American families -and more so the rich and powerful clans in all corners of the world- would give their life, pay a fortune, and sell their soul to send someone of their own to Harvard. Just for the name of it. And f*** that education!
Image credit: Harvard University/East-West-Dichotomy.com
Shared on Big Think – Dragons and Pandas.
SERIOUSLY, though, many Ivy League students have no soul. That said, what’s the big deal of having no soul when it got you into Harvard or Yale? You can’t have petty moral issues in high society; elites simply see the greater picture anyway; that suffering, inequality, and injustices among the 99% are absolutely necessarily to keep the 1% elite at the top.
And if the elite fail to guard themselves from the climbing masses, they will be replaced by revolutionary elites who then precisely do what all the elites in world history have done before them: guarding and defending their privileges. In that respect, the metaphor of trading one’s soul –as Dr. Faustus did- for supreme privilege in human society is quite accurate.
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It is, therefore, perfectly conceivable, as Prof. William Deresiewicz explained in his essay, that some highly gifted people should evade the devil and put the one life they got to better use, and shun the nasty, snobbish, and ruthlessly privileged high society. Bravo for having the guts to say what an ugly business the Ivy League has become.
I love it when people mistake talent and skill for privilege. It’s like a poor man walking into London’s Buckingham Palace and telling Prince William: I am as capable as you are, I want to be the future king. We would say that that man was deluded, believing in meritocracy where there never was one. Likewise, this silly idea of a educational meritocracy in America:
RELATED Beware of ‘Universal Ethics’
As if the daughter of the local office clerk had anything in common, say, with the daughter of the president of China whose family owns billions of dollars and assets. On the contrary, I would argue that the former doesn’t belong into Harvard, and could be harmed, psychologically speaking, by experiencing the incredible injustice, corruption, nepotism, and the insurmountable gab in human society, by hanging out with the wrong class of people.
If people from ordinary background went to Harvard or any other elite school, this could leave them broken in spirit, disillusioned with humanity, departed from their family values and integrity, and, if they still desperately tried to belong … lose their precious soul in the process.
This was a public comment on Yishai Schwartz‘s New Republic’s ‘An Attack on the Ivy League Is an Attack on Meritocracy Itself‘.
BEIJING – I am as excited as you are that the new Yenching Academy of Peking University (PKU) [北京大学燕京学堂] has been successful established and is now recruiting its first 100 graduate students. This will be the opportunity of a life-time for you, and I strongly encourage any up-and-coming China scholar to apply for this program. You will only regret if you didn’t send your application form:
“The Yenching Academy offers a 1-year Master of Chinese Studies program (in English) designed to prepare an elite class of future leaders to meet the challenges of the 21st century global landscape.” –PKU
Your author had been a visiting student at PKU from 2004 to 2006, and returned for his doctoral studies from 2007 to 2012. Back then, there was nothing like the Yenching scholarship; academic poverty was a big issue (it still is for many Chinese students), letting alone PKU’s guerrilla bureaucracy (graduation procedures required eight signatures and seals). There was also the existential threat of sky-rocketing rents outside campus (now exceeding $1,200/month for a one-bedroom apartment). As to the interview process, we didn’t even use Skype back in 2006, so there was a lot of traveling back-and-forth (obtaining visa was much easier then, though). Luckily (for the new generation of students), Peking University has addressed the issues of funding, housing, and guidance by creating this first-class residential scholarship program.
So, here are my personal 10 Reasons Why You Should Apply For Yenching Academy of Peking University:
1. Peking University is the leading institution of higher education in China.
2. Yenching Academy awards the prestigious ‘Yenching Scholar’ title on top of the usual Peking University Alumnus status (both are life-long privileges). Tip: Do a research on name and origin of “Yenching” to understand its historical significance.
3. Beijing is China’s political, cultural, and financial capital. It has 21 million citizens, more than Australia’s entire population. The student district in the north-west, Haidian, hosts 168 universities. The intellectual atmosphere and sheer concentration of talents will blow your mind.
4. Full scholarship is offered, which is rare. Also, expect “quality” accommodation and teaching facilities, at least relative compared to the majority of the other 20 million or so students enrolled at Chinese universities. This program is so selective; you will feel like a Chosen one, an X-Men, a Confucian ‘Junzi’…
5. Meet some of China’s most renowned scholars, cultural masters, and famous intellectuals from around the world, letting alone world leaders, businessmen, and top politicians. (PKU recently asked visitors Michelle Obama, the America’s First Lady, and Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, to write endorsements for Yenching Academy, which they did!)
6. A degree from Peking University is a door opener in China and the world, comparable to a degree from Harvard, only better.
7. The PKU campus is one of the most beautiful in China –lots of gardens (incl. the old Yan Yuan, Minghe Yuan, Jingchun Yuan, and Langrun Yuan, lakes (incl. the Unnamed Lake), plenty of historical spots, histories, and traditional architectures. The Academy is located at the very center of the university, with newly renovated facilities. PKU has over 30 restaurants/canteens, several hotels (including the 5-star Lake View Guesthouse), a theater, several supermarkets, bookstores, a post-office, banks and ATMs, print services, sport facilities, a hospital. Wudaokou, where PKU is located, is brimming with thousands of cafes, fitness clubs, and book shops. Yes, it also has a vibrant night life. What is more, Zhongguancun, the Silicon valley of China, lies just 1 km to the south, boasting New China: electronics, lavish boutiques, shopping malls, 3D cinemas, and hundreds of towering apartment blocks stuffed with start-up companies.
8. Eat Chinese food every day; or try a new restaurant every day. Your scholarship allowance will make this easily affordable. Also, travel during the semester breaks. There is great food everywhere, and of fantastic regional variety. Try Tibetan and Muslim food!
9. Make valuable connections or “guanxi” that will last forever. Your classmates will be “future world leaders” by definition (and program requirement). Register for think tanks in town such as ThinkInChina –a EU-China initiative. Also, don’t forget you are studying among the Chinese elites at PKU. Have you ever felt intimidated by the academic aptitude of East-Asians in general? Well, PKU is their mother-lode! Getting into the Yenching Academy program is like winning the social lottery. [harrumph…].
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10. The time is right for China; and so it is for you: China has already surpassed the United States in terms of GDP adjusted to inland prices. It is determined to create a super-elitist education that puts China in the center of global academic excellence. Being the spearhead of a new era in world history, international relations, global culture, and economics, China is the best place to be right now.
Here are some survival tips that you may want to consider before embarking on this program at Peking University:
- The program is taught in English, so you will have less opportunity to master your Chinese. Also, your classmates (and the expat community) may be more “interesting” people (from the point of view of your “international” career), BUT, remember, they won’t help your Chinese skills much. Also, mingling too much with the expat community in Beijing may be fun (the parties, the activism, the hubris, the snobbism, the arrogance), it can easily become a Faustian pact of Anglophone complacency –in particular for those among you who would rather like to emerge completely in the Chinese culture for that year (Remember, the program is essentially humanities-centered). It may help to arrive in Beijing weeks before the program starts and/or plan for a longer stay after it ends.
- China censors a lot of information. Sign up for a VPN (Virtual Private Network) before you leave for China, so that you can access US internet monopolies such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. which are blocked in China. On the other hand, well, try the Chinese services like Baidu, Sina Weibo, Tencent WeChat, Tudou, QQ, Renren, Taobao, and many more. This is highly recommendable anyway, since it will improve your Chinese skill and knowledge incredible fast.
- Get your hands on a copy of The East-West Dichotomy –available in book shop and internet stores in China everywhere. Just saying.
- Plan ahead. A one-year fast-track master program, even at Yenching Academy, is too-short (your peers at PKU normally spend 3 years in a Master program, just so that you know) – so you will have to apply for job opportunities or a doctoral program during that year. (If you want to get your “boshi” (PhD) degree in China, this is the perfect opportunity for you to approach the professors.) In addition, visit the PKU Stanford Center, the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, and the brand-new Worldethics Institute Beijing, and mark global events such as the Beijing Forum in your calendar. Once on campus, find out about important public lectures at lectures.pku.edu.cn (works only with a PKU-account).
- Beware of the bombast. That is easier said than done. Even Harvard University at times looks whimsical and provincial compared to Peking University. Europe, meanwhile, with the exception of Oxbridge in the UK, has no answer to Chinese elite universities. Moreover, China is an autocratic society where its top leaders are accountable to no one, meaning they can and will throw splendid ceremonies and conferences which you probably never experienced before (and will always want to come back for). To the savage critics, phrases like “nationalism” and “ethnic chauvinism” easily come to mind. To be true, the cultural engineers and faculty of Yenching Academy are first and foremost celebrating and congratulating themselves: “internationally reputed academic luminaries,” “most renowned and influential,” and “fellows with worldwide recognition.” Effectuating Xi Jinping’s notion of ‘conference diplomacy’, PKU’s president Wang Enge and his sages are obsessed with inviting foreign celebrities and super-scholars (only world leading universities qualify) to witness the spectacle of China’s cultural rejuvenation -anxious and aghast. “Why don’t we have 5 star hotels at our university?” or “Why can’t we build world-class programs like this overnight?” –those are common reactions from German, Japanese, and Australian professors your author gathered. [Read this critical account by Professor Shigeto Sonoda] It is the Who-is-who of China scholarship that attended several precluding international symposiums, donation ceremonies, and conferences leading up the inaugural ceremony on May 5, 2014. Already, the academic world –especially in the Pacific region- is enviously comet-trailing Peking University, trying to book seats in the front row. Will the expectation match the pomp? Who knows. One thing is for sure, once you are accepted here, there will be a lot of prestige, name-dropping, status-anxiety, and valuable insights into China’s psyche that will put you out of your humble orbit permanently.
- Ah, and yeah, if you feel lost and overwhelmed in this country-sized city, read some Beijing Survival Tips from Kaiser Kuo and Ryan McLaughlin. (Works even better in hindsight.)
Image credits: east-west-dichotomy.com
Dr. Thorsten J. Pattberg (裴德思 Pei Desi) is a German writer, linguist, and cultural critic. He graduated from The Institute of World Literature, Peking University, and is the author of The East-West Dichotomy (2013), Shengren (2011), Inside Peking University (2012), and the forthcoming Knowledge is a Polyglot (2014). He is currently a Visiting Fellow at The Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo.
LOVERS of the Big Think will rejoice at hearing about the world’s largest migration of brain:
BEIJING – Thousands of philosophers are expected to descend upon China’s capital in 2018 in order to fete the queen of all disciplines (the king is science). Here are some thoughts about the next 24th World Congress of Philosophy, to be hosted byPeking University.
With no other application to consider –this is not a joke, no other country or city wanted to host a mass think-tank like this (the logistics, the security, and the non-profit!)- the symbolism couldn’t be any more… symbolic –the previous Congress was held in Greece -Athens, the cradle of occidental philosophy (in 2008, it was held in Korea):
Seeing things in this way we can appreciate the significance of a Parthian — Sassanian — Arabian — Turkman saying: “The Greeks have only one eye and only the Chinese have two eyes.” Josafa Barbaro had learned such a saying earlier in Persia, in 1471 and 1474. Around that time he also heard the same idea expressed in an abstruse manner: “The Greeks only understand theories, but the Chinese are the people who own the technologies.” –Ji Xianlin
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While modern Greece remains but a tinsel culture, China, the only ancient civilization still standing, in many ways has turned into the world’s greatest phenomenon. And while ‘philosophy’ –this idea and concept- may have originated in the Polis, it really prospered under Christianity in Northern Europe, and arrived in China (where it is called zhexue) proper in the late 18th century (via Japan, which was eager to catch up with the West first). China, to this day, has its own jia, jiao, and xue (schools, teachings, and disciplines) –many of whom are virtually unknown in the West.
The question is, can China -with its largely untapped resources, ideas, and innovations- revive the once exceedingly gorgeous but now sadly torpid and dour discipline? Especially academic philosophy has estranged itself from the public, and alienated many academics. Moreover, its tedious methodologies and terminologiesare profoundly European, thus utterly biased. What can China do about it?
Indeed, at that time in the world, only China and Greece enjoyed a most prominent and magnificent culture. And it is high time that those handfuls of scholars or learners or whatever “-ers” in China who inevitably talk about nothing else but the Greek tradition come to an awakening. –Ji Xianlin
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The time for China is right…
True, the World Congress of Philosophy, to be held every 5 years under the auspices of FISP (International Federation of Philosophical Societies), doesn’t pull the masses like the Olympic Games. It’s not even a competition –although it’s rewarding to think of THE fastest, THE strongest, and THE ONE with the biggest feet… One thing is for sure: there will be more disciplines and panels than ever before, largely because hundreds of Chinese, but also Indian, Persian, American… and other Asian thinkers, who will outnumber their European peers by far, need to be given adequate space.
There were times when the Chinese felt big about themselves, such as the Qing Empire at its heyday, an empire which, succumbing itself later to the prowess of the fleets and the cannons of the West, fell invariably prostrate at the feet of the West. But, today the Chinese nation, having been jolted awake, is striving to reassert itself among the nations of the world. –Ji Xianlin
The time for Beijing has come…
By fair estimates, given that EVERYONE wants to visit China these days, there may be up to 2,500 “philosophers” filing in their visa forms. Many universities (especially within China) will send entourages, complete with translators, secretaries, media, and their students.
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Where will they all sleep and dine? How do philosophers party? What should we print on the pillows and promotional cups? Do we really have to pay thousands of student volunteers –lest some Western philodox raises questions about exploitation and human rights? Can critics practice free speech? (Sure they can, PKU is surprisingly liberal).
The cost? A secret, but it is rumored that PKU guaranteed a basket of one million dollars. It may be not enough, however, the (preliminary) list of sponsors is arleady impressive, including the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), Tsinghua University, Fudan University, and two dozen other top schools and associations.
The historical significance of this event aside, the organizers in China, in line with Beijing’s ‘host diplomacy’, are poised to blow this out of proportion –in a good way: “Our invitation will be extended to Axial-Age civilizations (Greek, Judaic, Hindu, and Chinese), historical traditions (notably Christian, Islamic, Jain, Sikh, Baha’i), forms of spirituality in Africa and indigenous religions, and other newly emerging modes of philosophical inquiries as well as well-established disciplines.” [Read the entire proposal HERE]
I am inclined to say that the one eye of the Greeks and their descendants later on gradually turned into two eyes; however, these two eyes, as extremity always results in antithesis, are now about to close. The Chinese eyes, after closing for a while, are now about to open up. –Ji Xianlin
You can’t get more Big Think than that, can you? Let’s earmark Beijing in 2018; and hope to see some of you in China in the future!
BEIJING – In overpopulated, extremely competitive, and edu-obsessional society like China, it is ridiculously difficult to find yourself an unoccupied space, carving out a niche, or pursuing a profession that isn’t fiercely contested, letting alone staying in there alone for too long.
China’s universities are no different, having geared up for mass-producing scholars of all kinds, the more the better… almost. Even Peking University, by the way, agrees with mass-education, having standardized its graduation proceedings as ‘group’ activities -fat chance you will be sitting courses alone, ever.
The idea that there could be just one student on the official ‘group photo’ didn’t occur to administrators. So, when Xue Yifan (薛逸凡), of the Yuanpei Institute for Paleontology at Peking University, who was latter called “the loneliest graduate” by Global Times, posted her graduation ‘group photo’ online, she attracted A LOT of attention from micro-bloggers and even state media, many who see her as model student, a heroine of scientific knowledge in a rare field that is apparently little understood by most students and their parents when selecting a university major.
Ms Xue didn’t expect the media attention at all; she appeared humble but professional in interviews, looking for the next challenges ahead of her, possibly aiming at a career in academia.
That said, whatever road she takes in life, being among the few chosen ones is undoubtedly beneficial, especially in China. Being the only one, however… priceless!
READ FULL ARTICLE How A Graduation Photo Can Make You Famous In China (Big Think)
BEIJING/TOKYO – When Chinese Uyghur Muslim activists accuse China’s central government of “cultural genocide” against its minority cultures, they usually gets applauded (letting alone financial supported and celebrated as ‘human rights’ heroes) by the entire Western press. After all, any support of China’s dissidents is helpful to undermine Chinese politics and the country’s social stability. But, careful what’s locked up in the dark attic of Western history… the Anglophone world -on all accounts of Imperialism, Colonialism, and Globalization- is by far the worst offender of cultural genocide everywhere on the planet, at least from a prospective of the lovers of cultural pluralism and linguistic diversity; to such an obvious extend, to be true, that several national governments including China, India, Iran, and Japan (but also Germany and France) have recently expressed deep regrets over their vanishing (cultural) significance in the world -naturally to the supreme benefit the vast US-Anglo-Saxon empire stretching from the arts and entertainment, over politics and media, to the sciences and the humanities.
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Most ‘knowledge’ is English now; or else foreign ideas must be expressed in the English language: What is not known in the West, is no knowledge at all. Most linguists such as Wade Davis, the Canadian anthropologist, lament the general decline of cultural diversity and in particular linguistic diversity; although they have a hard time to explain or define what it is exactly what is lost when translation occurs (from the foreign tongue into the English imperial parlance, say). While the Uyghurs in China have ethical reasons to complain against “cultural genocide” by Mandarin speakers, Western English media largely have little to no moral currency against Mandarin speakers whatsoever, it seems, because the West itself precisely is best at destroying minority cultures -one by one in fact, until nothing is left, and all world history is owned by Western writers -all other cultures: forgone and forgotten.
The only way, as I see it, is to allow those cultures and their languages left in the world to freely participate in world history. (So far, national dictionaries and Western editorial language policies are universally discriminating against foreign terms.) But to do that, to free the languages, they need the universal right to express their ideas in their own words -I am referring of course to the most important key words unique to their cultural inventiveness. Until the benign but ultimately culturally ignorant West, because it is the supreme imperialist and colonial master of humanity, allows the world’s vocabularies to freely flow and mix with the English lexicon, no man and woman is truly free from cruel cultural imperialism.
To be precise, it is not enough to liberate the races, the genders, the people from foreign oppression if their words are shunned, censored, and omitted from world history. The liberation of the world’s vocabularies is going to be next revolutionary step toward freedom of expression. And we will not rest nor sleep but an hour too long until we are getting there…
Dr. Pattberg has written and published extensively about Global language,Competition for terminologies, and the End of translation. He is also active in promoting Confucianism, in particular Chinese terminologies, on a global scale. Please also follow him on Big Think, Dragons and Pandas.
Торстен, как вам удалось получить место в Институте Конфуция? Ведь, как известно, организация представляет собой в некоторой степени закрытый бастион для иностранцев.
В апреле прошлого года Пекинский университет направил меня на встречу с должностными лицами от Института Конфуция: господином Ма Цзяньфэем, заместителем директора Ханьбаня, и Ян Цзиньчэном, директором преподавательского отдела в штаб-квартире Института Конфуция.
Ханьбань находится в двадцати минутах езды на такси от Пекинского университета, на улице Дэшэнмэн. Мы встретились в кафе и заказали чай пуэр. Оба джентльмена были знакомы с моим эссе «Конец переводам», где я пытаюсь адаптировать для понимания иностранцев «непереводимые» слова-концепции китайского языка, как, например, «шэнжэнь»1 и «цзюньцзы»2 .
Ханьбань – подконтрольное ведомство Министерства образования. Господин Ма сообщил, что министерство предлагает опубликовать мои работы, а издательство я выбираю сам. Я выбрал China’s Foreign Language Press. Господин Ян становился «супервайзером» проекта.
Что вы считаете главным достижением Института Конфуция за последние годы?
Институт Конфуция существует с 2004 года, это культурный ответ немецкому Институту Гете (основан в 1951 году), Британскому совету (существует с 1934 года) и «Альянс Франсез» (основан в 1883 году, но работает он по несколько другой модели). Успех ИК заключается в простых цифрах: уже сегодня открыто более 350 Институтов Конфуция по всему миру, на сотню больше, чем Британских советов или Институтов Гете.
В то время как мировой рынок уже перенасыщен британской и немецкой культурой, для Китая еще есть простор. Ханьбань стремится довести число Институтов Конфуция до 1000. Но эффективно ли работает Институт Конфуция? В этом я не уверен.
Какие же инструменты использует ИК для своей пропаганды? Щедрые гранты на обучение, бесплатные материалы и хорошо подготовленный преподавательский состав – ведь это еще не все.
ИК «завоевывает души» не простых студентов, а начинает с административных верхов иностранных вузов: деканов, профессоров, администраторов. Именно поэтому ИК ассоциируют с иностранными университетами. Это дает Китаю преимущества. Кроме того, любой ИК за рубежом имеет двух глав: декана-китайца и декана-иностранца.
Это великолепная стратегия. Я своими глазами наблюдал, как западные специалисты борются за престижные посты «директора Института Конфуция страны Х для Университета Y». Это неизбежно ведет к повышению по службе в самом Университете Y – от неизвестного преподавателя до декана. Потому что, когда речь идет о Китае, полумеры неприемлемы. Выгоды такого сотрудничества очевидны: связь с Министерством образования Китая, упрощенный визовый режим, авиабилеты, конференции, банкеты и дегустация вин. Естественно, новоявленный декан привлечет своих студентов в ИК. Это подход «верхи-низы» в авторитарном стиле.
В чем причины неудач ИК на Западе?
Честно говоря, не думаю, что Институт Конфуция имеет большой успех в плане создания привлекательного имиджа китайской культуры. Запад принес свои ценности в Китай, в их числе такие концепции, как демократия, права человека, управление по закону, философия, наука, капитализм и коммунизм. В этом и заключалась настоящая «мягкая сила». Китаю, с другой стороны, нечего дать взамен. В Институте Конфуция преподают китайский язык, то есть в понимании Запада студенты учат китайские слова. Они переводят на китайский слово «демократия» – «миньчжу чжуи». Если бы Институт Конфуция был Британским советом или Институтом Гете, он бы занимался продвижением уникальных китайских концепций, как Вэнмин, Датун и Чжуцзя (концепции, объясняющие «сущность цивилизованного общества», «спокойствие в обществе», «практичное управление/благожелательность народа»).
Но нет, в учебниках ИК дается «перевод» на западный манер – «цивилизация, гармония и конфуцианство». Это копия «один в один» западных концепций!
До тех пор, пока китайские «пропагандисты» не решили для самих себя, в чем должна состоять суть Китая, Институт Конфуция сам будет вестернизироваться и терпеть поражение. Они могут открыть еще десять тысяч ИК, это будет просто замечательно воспринято на Западе.
Институт Конфуция стал мишенью для критики западных СМИ и академического сообщества. К примеру, ему ставят в вину пропаганду ценностей компартии Китая, а не распространение ценностей конфуцианства, между которыми, кстати говоря, лежит пропасть. Что вы сможете сказать о критике ИК на Западе?
Пока Китай будет выбрасывать на ветер миллиарды юаней на финансирование Институтов Конфуция, все будет спокойно. Какой смысл критиковать спонсора? Кроме того, как я говорил ранее, на сегодняшний день спрос на ИК из зарубежных университетов не уменьшается, поскольку академики и политики явно стремятся усилить свой вес за счет связей с госструктурой Китая.
Обвинения строятся на том, что Институт Конфуция напрямую связан с управленческим аппаратом. Сама цель концепции «мягкой силы», способствующей улучшению имиджа нации, теряет всякий смысл, так как в глазах общественности это проправительственная пропаганда. Что вы на это скажете?
Разумеется, Институты Конфуция финансируются китайским правительством, так же как Институт Гете финансируется правительством Германии, а Британский совет – правительством Великобритании. Только на бумаге они выглядят как неправительственные организации (NGO). То же самое происходит со многими западными «неправительственными организациями» в Китае, например DAAD (крупнейшая в мире организация академического обмена – принадлежит правительству Германии. – Прим. ред.).
Я всегда говорю своим студентам: «Почему у европейских стран такое мощное влияние во всем мире? Все просто: ими была придумана система современного общества, и они знают рычаги управления».
ИК будет оставаться проправительственной организацией, получать инструкции от Ханьбаня и министерств, точно так же будут работать и их западные «коллеги» в Китае, пропагандируя вестернизацию. Нет ничего плохого в том, чтобы придерживаться своих принципов. При этом мирное сосуществование возможно. Чтобы избежать дальнейшей политизированности, нужен диалог, взаимодоверие и больше прозрачности. Сам Конфуций учил в своей политической теории: «Реши одну задачу – и ты избежишь сотен проблем».
1 «Шэнжэнь» – одна из важнейших концепций китайской цивилизации, условно термин можно перевести как «мудрость», «благость». Соответственно, речь идет о мудрости китайской цивилизации в противовес иноземным «варварам».
2 «Цзюньцзы» – «благородный муж», концепция благочестивого поведения в конфуцианстве.
Торстен Паттберг – Автор книги «Шэнжэнь» и «Дихотомия Восток-Запад»
“If you think about Chinese company names and brands such as 微波 Weibo, 百度 Baidu, 海尔 Hai’er, the 以崚药业 Yiling Group, the 大商集团 Dashang Group, 华联集团 Hualian Group (it’s a supermarket chain), and 上海滩 Shanghai Tang, etc., these are all Chinese brand names. What they do is they opt for a ‘second’ -a [transliterated] English name…”
Beida vs Tsinghua – China’s world class universities and global players
BEIJING– Beida and Tsinghua are the two most prominent universities in China, a country of 1.35 billion people. (There are many other famous ones like Nanjing University, Renmin, or Fudan University, but for the scope of this article let us focus on these two.) Let’s make no mistake, although Beida and Tsinghua are (just) ranked no 46 and 52 in the world according the THE rankings 2013 (Hong Kong University ranks no 35, but is listed separately [it’s a British ranking, and HK was a former colony]), nevertheless these two are powerful global players.
The “Harvard of China”
Peking University(short: Beida, from “Beijing Daxue”) is the center of China’s humanities and often called “the Harvard of China” (or, from a Chinese point of view, Harvard is called “the Beida of America”), while Tsinghua is strongest in engineering and the sciences, and known as “the MIT of China.”
Tsinghua is wealthier and looks typical American, at least the main campus. Beida has its beautiful lake and is home to China’s greatest modern thinkers and philosophers like Gu Hongming, Lu Xun, Mao Zedong, Ji Xianlin, and Hu Shi. The list goes on.
Increasingly, the two are testing their prerogatives and are competing for China’s top spot and for attracting best and brightest students in all the fields. They established their own business schools, language schools for foreigners, etc.
Tsinghua’s new leadership programme
Stephen A. Schwarzman, the US billionaire and chairman of Blackstone Group, believes that Tsinghua will take the lead in the future. He may be right. China’s new president, Xi Jinping , is a Tsinghua graduate (the Premier, Li Keqiang, is from Beida), so are many of the technocrats in the Communist Party that rules China.
Tsinghua has an edge in research and technology, and Schwarzman donates $300m into a new leadership programme that wants future global leaders from the US and elsewhere to come to Wu Daokou in Haidian district of Beijing in order to experience Chinese elite education and the ‘guanxi’ or “connections” it brings along. After all, this century is deemed by many as the Chinese one.
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Haidian – Beijing’s university district
Beida will watch this new US investment carefully. Both universities float on cash and invite famous people from abroad. Political leaders like Tony Blair have a tough time choosing which one to visit and deliver their keynote speeches. (David Beckham recently visited Beida). Gigantic conference centers like Beida’s ‘New Global Village’ with dozens of apartment blocks were built; even a museum restaurant, and Beida’s new Lake View Hotel (which charges up to $500 a night).
Tsinghua parades its mighty TUS Park facing Chengfu Road, the High Street of Wu Daokou, a couple of glassy skyscrapers that house Google, Baidu, and Deutsche Bank, among others. Beida has its own metro station named after it. Each campus is as huge as entire districts in some European capitals.
Tsinghua lies just across the street from Beida, and towers prominently among 168 (!) other institutes of higher education in Haidian. Chinese universities are campus university (unlike, say, European universities) and are closed communities with their own hospitals, supermarkets, and village-sized dormitories. They are massively subsidized by the central government to keep the food and housing prices on-campus in check. It’s a cheap world as long as one does not leave the campuses.
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China’s universities aim to become world class universities
But the massive increase of students over the past 20 years, including hundreds of thousands of foreign students (there are 60.000 Koreans living in Wu Daokou), are pushing the people into the local surrounding communities like Zhongguancun, the Silicon Valley of China.
For many observes it does not really matters which university comes ahead in 2014. All competition is good for China, and for all those students who come here.
Cross-posted at Dragons and Pandas, Big Think.
Image credit: Beida vs Tsinghua/east-west-dichotomy.com
TAIPEI/TOKYO – What is this East-Asian obsession with blades and stabbings that has perverted these otherwise harmonious quarters of Confucian legacy?
The knife seems to be the preferred device of killing frenzies in those countries that restrict or ban firearms. Shooting fall-outs are rare from Beijing to Hong Kong, from Shanghai to Seoul, from Hong Kong to Tokyo. So, the hoodlums go out instead with kitchen blades, cleavers, and jackknives.
The latest killings happened just today at around 4 pm in a Taipei subway station. A 21-years old man allegedly boarded a crowded section of the train and knifed down at least 25 passengers, four of whom died in their blood. A relative in law of your author was struck three times –in her defense arm, her back, and, when she escaped, her fleeting ankle. She is in hospital, in stable condition, but still under shock. So is the entire island of Taiwan. Such random eruptions of violence are relatively rare in orderly Taipei, they say. Now they know it can happen any time.
ALSO ON DRAGONS AND PANDAS Beware of ‘Universal Ethics’
Stabbings are far more common in mainland China, although not always as widely reported as the Henan school knife attack in 2012 that witnessed 23 (barely out of kindergarten) kids with severe stab wounds. You can watch the video here (warning: it’s gruesome!). The perpetrator was clinical insane, or so he confessed. Henan authorities promptly advised all schools to hire security guards, which is –as everyone familiar with China knows –a gargantuan task of impossible dimensions –Henan alone administers 100 million citizens.
There are many more stabbings to speak of, in fact, just toady there occurred another knife massacre in the city of Lushan of Henan province. Seven neighbors lost their lives to a lunatic. Small villages are in particular vulnerable. Cutlery is sold left and right in the streets.
And then there was the Kunming Mass Stabbing in March 2014. It was so brutal and violent in scope and execution –the state denounced it as terrorist attack. Over 130 people were slashed, hacked, and ended, leaving 29 dead. The stabbers, four of them shot on the scene, came from Xinjiang, a region where –because of ethnical and political tensions- stabbings occur frequently.
Knives are often worn in public in Xinjiang and Tibetan, and are in fact among the most popular souvenirs. Yet, of course, stabbings are most media-effective if they occur in public places in the big cities. Just weeks after the Kunming massacre, for example, six people were gruesomely stabbed down at Guangzhou Railway Station in Guangdong.
Blades are typically the preferred fetish of death of serial killers, although the one or other shovel, hammer, or axe is frequently thrown in. Your author still recalls the time at Fudan University of Shanghai in summer 2003 when the killing spree of Yang Zhiya had kept the region in fear. He had early childhood dreams of murder and rape, his family concurred; and in 2000 the thug set out on his bike, smashing, chopping, and annihilating entire families on his trip. (He was executed in 2014, just three month after his arrest, a fast-track to ease the pain of the nation.)
Korea is constantly on knife-alert, too. True, stabbing rampages such as the 2008 Seoul incident are still uncommon. Yet, the country is under constant terror by frequent so-called rush-hour knifings (or crowd-stabbing, if you will).
ALSO ON DRAGONS AND PANDAS People with a death-wish
Tokyo, as well, had its unfair share of mayhem. The Japanese, stricken already by the highest suicide rate anywhere in this galaxy, and smitten by frequent earthquakes and tsunamis, are forever haunted by images of Tomohiro Kato, a 25-year-old ‘otaku’ (loosely translated as geek or nerd) drove a truck into a crowd at Tokyo’s busy Akihabara district (known as Electronic Town, popular with young people and tourists). After he steamrolled the pedestrians, he jumped out of the vehicle and stabbed some more. Seven people died. The list of knife crimes in Japan –even if the Yakuza is excluded- is wickedly long.
The imagery of knife-wielding “losers” –mostly young, male, underemployed, mentally ill- haunts East Asian citizens during their rush-hours, partly because there are potentially so many of them.
As one psychologist at Seoul National University once quipped it:
“Pent-up frustration and rage in a highly competitive society have caused the recent attacks against indiscriminate victims, and this was compounded by copy-cat behavior.”
If this is a correct observation, and we have reason to think it is, then governments have to address the causes of this spreading social sickness, and do so quickly.
It is very wise of East Asian authorities to categorically outlaw the possession of guns and rifles. But how do they prevent dangerous men from visiting a kitchen.
Image credit: Glad he came in peace/(c) RF Parsley/@sanverde
“This phenomenon, termed “zero translation”, has sparked a fierce debate – why is that so important for some people in China that everything has a Chinese word?” –Christina Boutrup, Globus Kina
A Notion In Favor Of Limiting Translation
First of all, it is a late spring early summer topic. We have similar discussions about ‘national languages’ –and the protection of thereof- in German and French media, too. Every year, in fact. The main concern is this: We have A LOT of English words coming in. What do we do about it?!
READ MORE The End of Translation (in Asia Times)
It is unfortunate that those Chinese intellectuals talks about ‘purity’ and ‘vitality’ of culture and language. That is so 20th-Century. Imagine they would also do the talking about race and ethnicity.
Here, the ideology is NOT multiculturalism –it is assimilation. And one way, the BEST WAY, is by translation; that’s because THEN our eyes and ears are met with the familiar and the convenient.
“The concept of “zero translation” is introduced both as a translation strategy for overcoming the unbridgeable differences between languages, and as a means of safeguarding the general validity of translatability as the theoretical cornerstone of translation.” –Qiu Maoru, 中国翻译》2001年1月第22卷第1期（P24-27）
Liberating the World’s Vocabularies
Critics are right, they should PROTECT their cultures and languages (at least to a certain degree), because that’s apparently what everyone is doing. We are competing for our sovereignty over thought and definitions. Remember George Orwell’s Six Rules for Good Writing: Rule No. 5: “Never use a foreign phrase, word, or a jargon if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”
ALL major Anglophone media apply those rules, be it The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or The Economist, and so on. They want to expand THEIR OWN culture, not surrender it. Nationalists in China have those worries, too.
Having said all this, however, most young people are not having any of it. They want to see all foreign words liberated. It’s a good thing.
“The current lack of Chinese translation for new English terms is due to an increasing interest in and respect for Western culture. More Chinese people can speak English now and they generally want to use English words where appropriate in normal conversation.” –Empowerlingua.com
Aesthetics of Multi-layered Scripts
The use of English words in Chinese writings looks strange at first. This is aggravated by the fact that Chinese uses pictographs, not letters. So, English words do really pop out and may irritate. That it works nevertheless is shown in Japan, where four scriptures form a highly sophisticated mish-mash: Hiragana for Japanese readings; Katakana for foreign loanwords; Kanji as pictographs introduced from China in the 5h century; and the Roman alphabet for adopted names.
I am in favor of ending or limiting translation.
Thorsten Pattberg (D.Litt.) is the author of The East-West Dichotomy (China’s Foreign Language Press, 2013) and the forthcoming Knowledge is a Polyglot – The Future of Global Language (Hanban/Foreign Language Press, 2014). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. @worldethics
Idiosyncreatures – How Many More Of China’s Critters Can The English Language Swallow?
via Big Think
Should Chinese creatures be incorporated into Anglo-Saxon parlance, and if so, where to draw the line in number and color? This goes beyond linguistic pedantry and serves as nucleus for life-and-death questions about global language and –if not properly addressed- a potential source of academic conflict (e. g. How about nextcensoring YOUR beloved critters out of world history? Leprechauns, pixies -anyone? )
It’s a simple but profoundly complex issue: How much pluralism and foreign knowledge should we permit to exist? China has greatly enriched the world of fairy tales and legends with fantastic concepts such as mogwai (you remember the film ‘Gremlins’?), but also less known characters such as the ao, the bixie, the longma, thepixiu, the fenghuang, and the qilin –to name but a few.
Translation often doesn’t do foreign ideas justice. How boring and unimaginative when a bixie becomes a chimera; an ao a turtle; a pixiu a winged lion; a fenghuang a phoenix, and a qilin just another unicorn? while in fact they are often very different, not only apparently but also historically. Imagine a world without Brother Grimm’s Fairy Tales (its richness of Germanic vocabularies and terms). That’s right, Chinese folkloric idiosyncreatures are as fascinating, and its family tree no less gorgeous and impressive, than European beasts of fur and claws.
The following is a list of invalid but surprisingly effective proof techniques that your author has encountered in Chinese texts. They are obviously not exclusive to China, but rampant:
1. Proof by sheer numbers: How could 1,393,649,829 Chinese be wrong?
2. Proof by induction: Heaven and all under heaven are one!
3. Proof by annexation: Take any already known theory from the West and add:“…with Chinese characteristics.”
4. Proof by subsidy: How could so many government agencies be wrong?
5. Proof by deferral: We’ll prove it once we have achieved socialism (technically in 100 years from the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which will be October 1, 2049.)
6. Proof by powerful imagery: “The United States and Britain are paper-tigers.” –Mao Zedong
7. Proof by persistence: You know this is true!
8. Proof by sentiment: You feel this is true!
9. Proof by wishful thinking: The West is in decline, what is there for us to prove anymore?
10. Proof by guanxi: The more people you know, the higher the probability someone is going to help with your proof.
11. Proof by hukou: You usually got it right if you are a first class citizen (from Beijing, the capital), second class citizen (Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc.), and wrong if you happened to come from the parasitic countryside.
12. Proof by repetition: “And so on, over and over again in an endless spiral, with the ideas becoming more correct, more vital and richer each time.” –Mao Zedong
13. Proof by backward/forward reference: Reference is usually to a past or forthcoming paper of the author.
14. Proof by compensation: The average Chinese skyscraper erected must be no less than 10 stories taller than the average European one.
15. Proof by eminent authority: When I met Hu Jintao at the Diaoyutai State House, he said: “It’s the ‘harmonious society’, stupid.”
16. Proof by pomp: Although China has 829 Million peasants living in poverty and only 1/11 of the GDP (per capita) that of Europe; nevertheless it held the world’s most costly and ostentatious Olympic Games -ever.
17. Proof by reference to inaccessible literature: The Chinese civilization is at least 6000 years old! (Written records go no further than 3000 years –Ouch!)
18. Proof by no-reference whatsoever: There is no reference list in this damn 526-pages textbook!
19. Proof by pre-eminence: The Germans may have invented the automobile, but the Chinese invented the paper for its blueprint.
20. Proof by patriotism: You’re seriously offending the feelings of 1,393,649,828 Chinese compatriots.
21. Proof by yin and yang: We tanked the humiliations during the Boxer Rebellion, the Opium Wars, the Nanjing Massacre, the unequal treaties; soon the imbalance will be restored in our favor!
22. Proof by piety: “I am not inventing something new; I just recite the sages of old.” –Confucius
23. Proof by cultural revolution: Is your culture hopeless? Just crush and shatter it; and write yourself a new one.
24. Proof by production: “The massive population of China is our greatest good. Even a further increase of several times the population is entirely possible, possible through productivity.” –Mao Zedong
25. Proof by walking: “As more people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears.” –Lu Xun
26. Proof by sufficient misery: The starvation of 30 million citizens and the total annihilation of opposition, critics and traditional culture during the Cultural Revolution have finally convinced the Chinese people that it was the necessary thing to do to revive this nation.
27. Proof by demonizing: “The Dalai-lama is a devil in sheep-clothes!” –CCTV
28. Proof by ethnicity: You ‘prove’ it by showing your opponent is not Chinese. A classic: “Mr. Smith does not understand China because he is not Chinese.”
29. Proof by exclusion: Before the defendant airs his dirty opinions in public, he will be censored/defamed/incarcerated/executed to prove his irrelevance.
30. Proof by meekness: Usually employed by showing three or more of the following virtues: kindness, courtesy, amiability, ingratiation, graciousness, hospitableness, sagacity, modesty. Hence Confucius: the true gentleman knows what is right.
31. Proof by saying No: Publish a book entitled China can say No.
32. Proof by corruption: You have to pay if you have to pay.
33. Proof by suspension: “China’s rise will be peaceful.” –Wen Jiabao
34. Proof by English translation: If the West can read it, you exist!
35. Proof by having-nothing-to-prove-at-all: Forget proof and all – Be RICH. Be TALL. Be EDUCATED. (The so-called “3G” [san gao] will get you anywhere in China!)
36. Proof by Confucius: Just say Confucius said it, e. g. “Girl who do back spring on bedspring have offspring next spring.” etc. –Unknown author
Note: This has been cross-posted at bigthink.com.
“We, The US And Our Allies…” –Wait A Minute, What Allies?
NEWS just spread through the international media that China may be overtaking the United States on GDP terms by the end of this year, making it the World’s Biggest Economy –much earlier than economists had expected.
IT IS a clever rhetorical device to employ the conniving “We” as in “We, the international community…” when it is supposed to feign global unity, say, against a “pariah” state like Russia, when it really is all about US geopolitical interests and how to maintain its global hegemony. It feels cozy and warm –“We.” Alas, we can’t be so sure that the US has any true allies; for all we know they might be looking out for their own interests from now on:
Living With America As #2
For starters, no one loves the American government, letting alone trust it -not even its own people. The US is highly corrupt (e. g. not much better than everyone else), a notorious aggressor (over 176 military operations on foreign lands in 200 years), a bully that threatens, sanctions, tortures, and terrorizes (says Noam Chomsky, the US philosopher and dissident) other states in a way that makes the British in their heydays look like fair and gentle men. The US sports over 700 military bases in more than 80 countries and regions. Deep down, are those nations really happy with this over-the-top form of cultural imperialism, letting alone this physical occupation?
World historians like Helmut Schmidt, the former German chancellor, or Kishore Mahbubani, the Singaporean diplomat and scholar, would have us to believe that the US Empire is likely to collapse or retreat back to its pre-20th Century’s significance, but not without a clash or two. It is constantly wagering the use of military strike capabilities against whatever steps into its light, since it assumes the world can’t be run without Washington policing it. That said, every conflict in Asia, or between Asia and Europe, may prolong America’s quick demise just a little bit longer. Alas, the law that empires must fall pulls this heavyweight down like gravity.
The Obama administration, and its successors, will likely do everything to destabilize or contain China, Russia, Japan, India, or the Middle East, to patronize the European states, or to belittle the lands of South America. Not a week passes without a new threat, a new demand, a new warning to some government that doesn’t play by US rules. Needless to say, the grace and easiness of America has gradually disappeared. People don’t respect it anymore unconditionally as they used to.
US analysts will have the unenviable task of searching someone to blame. It must be the Muslim world and its tens of thousands of terrorists. It must be the evil Russians. The Persians (Iran) are to blame –they hate us. Ah, and those torpid Europeans -they can’t put their stuff together. China is manipulating its currency. Japan is re-militarizing even if we told them not to do it. The whole word is conspiring toward America’s downfall.
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Whom to punish first? Sanctions against the Kremlin for stalling NATO expansionists’ dreams over Ukraine? Supporting separation movements in China’s Xinjiang and Xizang (Tibet)? More US troops to Okinawa just to agitate Tokyo? Instigating fear and terror in Pakistan, or across the Straits of Taiwan? Forcing regime change in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Russia, or even Japan? By the way, do the French behave? If not, reward the Germans!
The New World Order, American exceptionalism, God’s favorite nation, the Dictatorship of Western Universalism, Fox News, the American dream, the End of History –all our pomp and agitprop of yesterday –gone!
China as #1
Some commentators will be curious: “How on earth could that happen?” You made the rules, you exploited the system, you controlled the world’s currency and the financial system –you still do. You spied on the human race, you surveilled their leaders and their citizenry, you control space, time, and the internet, and you have all potential troublemakers and dissidents either incarcerated or on our payroll. “What else could you have done to prevent this “global conspiracy” against you?”
The answer is, you could have done everything better and twice over, but it would still be the total end of your supreme reign by mid century. All imperialism, no matter how well meant, must come to an end eventually, and there is no reason why the US should dominate the human race.
“No, wait a minute!” some will say: “We can fix this! It’s all but a misunderstanding. It was all Bush’s fault, that warmonger and his clique. And president Obama was an accident; a socialist, but wait for the next president! We will re-invent ourselves, grow again, we will innovate ourselves out of this defeat…”
To this we reply that world historians make quite good psychotherapists: “It’s all right,” they’ll tell you. The US isn’t going to slide into penury. It will still be #2 for many years. It will still shine, in 50 years, like Britain shines today. It will have a superb story to tell -like the Germans, the Japanese, the Han, the Mongols, the Persians before them. America had its glory days. Look at it like our division of labor. Finally, US culture will become wiser and more mature. You will always be a great country. Be content with what you have achieved.
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Meanwhile, humanity has got to go on. History must repeat itself –the eternal return. The US had a blast at our planet in the 20th Century when everyone else in Eurasia was looking down the gutter. Now, everyone has recovered, and a new champ has arrived who will bring all the new theories. The world spirit is now in Asia. And that’s a good thing.
Image credits: Sam the Eagle, The Muppet Show/Parody
If focused enough, the study of ethics soon reveals itself as the futile attempt to rationalize things we didn’t do (or couldn’t do). So we think others shouldn’t do them either. Only the weak, the ones that do little to nothing with their lives, have tinsel ethics that they then put on others. That’s why corruption is mostly exposed by resentful, hurt and ultimately less successful people –journalists, freelance investigators, dissidents, anarchist, or other non-notable elements of the public. No great man in history has ever called another great man corrupt; and no gentleman has made great noise about another gentleman’s transgressions. Only petty people seem to do that.
As to politicians: they must bend the ‘truth’; this is not a secret but the mendacity of their profession, which is not as irresponsible as it may sound because it reveals the complexity of political life that goes beyond the limited horizon of our school textbooks: morals change with number, aspect, and over time, and to make matters worse, ethics come in hierarchies. It’s a bit like Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’: Only after people climbed up the ranks to the top will they experience more complex layers of morality. In other words, the starving will steal, the insecure will cheat, and the rich will bribe, and if they don’t, they risk penalties such as existential demise, few or no offspring, and corporate failure respectively.
Ethics Come In Hierarchies
Since most human beings are in no position to ever reach their highest potential and feel what it is like to have a blast at life, to enjoy patriarchy, nepotism, and the benefits of the highest connections; we might as well tell them that it would be all bad for them anyway. Hence the breathtaking moral discrepancy between the masters of humanity and their sheepish followers; which Friedrich Nietzsche so accurately described as the “the master- and the slave morality.” Every religion on this planet dichotomizes human beings into two (spiritual) classes –the nobles and the rest- with clearly different ethical outlooks. In a nutshell, the nobles see good and evil as the two sides of the same coin and make good use of it; while the idiots of this world have moral calms, reservations, and sentiments.
As to more complex human interactions, no matter what the hapless man on the street considers ‘morally good’, it is impossible to him to even fathom the greater universe of relations in which even his annihilation may become a moral necessity (say, sacrificing him in a war), even an obligation to others, or just the termination of his employment, the ruin of his family, all for serving the greater good of society imagined by someone else. What we consider good or evil –let us make no mistake- can be interpreted to anyone’s liking, in anyone’s favor, tailored to anyone’s circumstances. That’s why any prescribed set of ethics is largely a fiction.
Corruptions Should Be Liberalized
Corruption should be liberalized in all its forms, and never be morally condemned. Let’s punish people for breaking the law, not for being bad people. If we had total transparency of society, most would be amazed at that our ideas of morality were mostly garbage talks. That’s because every action, big or small, has inevitably disruptive consequences for our fellow human beings and the environment, and, metaphorically speaking, the bigger footprints we leave, the more insects get squashed.
Certain forms of moral corruption that were once considered despicably evil are now acceptable behavior already; we don’t even think about them as moral failings at all. In the US, lobbying for congress is normal, which is essentially buying politicians, posts, and lucrative contracts. And while taking bribes is still punishable, giving bribes is mostly not. Homosexuality was long thought of as the breakdown of public morality; now it’s perfectly fine; so are promiscuity, divorces, abortions, and kids born out of wedlock. Pedophilia, polygamy, and sodomy are common aberrations of human behavior, with (possibly) biological components. We arbitrarily lock such people up, this may well continue, but who are we to call them “immoral?”
Law Should Be De-Moralized
The ‘law’, although based in the past on some archaic religious notions, clearly tries to distance itself from ethics in this century, as most lawyers would confirm. The accused, too, have relinquished the idea of fixed ethics, just like philosophers and physicists long relinquished the idea of ‘free will’ or ‘free agents’; instead the pilloried of today more than ever are perfectly satisfied with the simple fact that their having circumstantially broken the laws of the land may have caused their punishment. If only we spared them with our moral hypocrisy.
In world history, the most ruthless, rapacious, fearless and corrupt personalities were also the most successful –conquerors, emperors, dictators, and spiritual leaders, and, recently, the CEOs and bankers. Weak people suck the tittynope. The greatest works of literature are tales about unusually cruel things human beings did to each other, but (and that’s were great literature begins) without the moral judgment you would so commonly find in less prodigious works. Scholars, too, have adopted writing styles that eliminate moralization; first because “Who are we to tell?” and, second, any judgment about “good and evil” is necessarily non-objective, gratuitous, quite cheap, and utterly pointless.
Hedonism, promiscuity, obscenity, egoism, and all money crimes are no longer immoral in America; on the contrary, the excesses of humanity are celebrated and hero-worshiped. Stars are expected to live in a style 99% of other human beings cannot afford. Abuse of officialdom, inequality, and dictatorship of the elites is openly encouraged in China for thousands of years –it’s in fact taught by Confucianism. Cronyism is a given in all nation-building, patriarchies, dictatorships, as well as is in all organizations that have fierce ‘competition’ written all over their banners. Society may want to limit their ways, but calling their actions “evil” or “amoral” seems prejudiced and outmoded. Of course, the abused and mistreated call for universal ‘human rights’ to protect their skin from the worst. What they need is more laws. Because as long as ‘universal rights’ drift in the spiritual realms they may appear very different to us than to our masters to whom such condition may serve splendidly as justification to invade other countries in the name of a universal ghost.
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Beware Of ‘Universal Ethics’
In fact, ‘human rights’ were invented by accident in Europe (and nowhere else in the world); they are man-made and culture-based: That’s why it’s so hard to force other civilizations to comply. Any dominant civilization needs imperialism, indoctrination, laws, institutions, and armies to beat its ‘universal ethics’ into others –another indication that moral norms are essentially arbitrary.
To be safe, if any group, cooperation, or self-proclaimed humanist approaches us with ‘universal laws’, bad things are about to happen to people and you may want to run for your life. There has yet to be found a single moral teacher who practiced what he preached. More often spiritual leaders are frauds, charlatans, and masters of their own cause.
Science is inherently non-ethical –there is neither good nor bad, or so they say. Nature certainly has no morality. Laws are human fabrications; let’s not pretend they are God-given. All ethical prescriptions are but pretensions, designed to create dependency among human beings, and in universally condemning things we didn’t do (or couldn’t do) as sure signs of the “corruption” of others we are but staging a self-righteous show portraying our limitations and parading our weaknesses.
This article was first published on Big Think/Dragon and Pandas on March 3, 2014
Capitalism compels us to compete for natural resources, for market share, and for human capital. We also compete on the level of language, points out Thorsten Pattberg, a German writer, linguist, and cultural critic who writes for Big Think.
WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
“Whoever owns the language, owns knowledge,” Pattberg says. “If you think back in history, when St. Jerome translated the Hebrew bible into Latin, he basically ended the Hebrew world order.” Similarly, Pattberg argues, Martin Luther’s translation of the Latin bible into German opened the way for the German Empire.
Today, think of the global power that is evinced by words such as ‘Coca-Cola’ or ‘Microsoft,’ which Pattberg says “enjoy greater legal protection that the entire output of, say, the Indian and Chinese civilizations.”
Sure, European languages have incorporated some Hindu words like dharma, karma, yoga and guru, Japanese words like tsunami, sushi and sashimi, and even a few Chinese words such as kung fu and yin and yang.And yet, Pattberg points out that Chinese words are largely underrepresented in the English language. There are a number of reasons for this, which Pattberg explores in the video below.
What Pattberg has us consider, first and foremost, is “how much more beautiful and authentic and sophisticated and accurate” our world would become if we could appreciate the key terminologies of all cultures.
So what does that mean?
Pattberg advocates for a global language, and by that he has something very specific in mind. We need to continue to translate, of course, in order to communicate. But when it comes to the key terminologies of a culture, “we should not translate them but rather we should adopt them,” Pattberg says. “The only way, as I see it, to create the global language is really to find a scientific way to adopt as many key terminologies as possible and to unite all the languages’ vocabularies into one.”
Dr. Pattberg explains on BIG THINK why certain Chinese words are mandatory for global citizenship: “A lot of people search endlessly for the secret key or a magic formula that would enable them to understand China. Naturally, at some point, they want to know how the Chinese are educated. There are many prestigious schools in China, but let us talk a little bit about Peking University, the mother lode of Chinese education. [...]“
ONE of my childhood buddies died unexpectedly at the age of eighteen. That was many years ago, in Hamm, Germany. While alive, he was a known brawler, a brutish drunk, and a pot-head. His parents divorced, he dropped out of high school, had a lady who supported him, collected music on vinyl, did shoplifting for a while, and he always had this excruciating wish to die gloriously: “I won’t turn 30!” he once bragged, and: “I enlist in the army, if I have to!” His boldness, his fearlessness, and the unbending commitment toward his own ruin left a deep impression on me.
Lots of young men I knew quit. A Chinese MA candidate, barely twenty-two years of age, at the University of Edinburgh, once had dinner with us, then, two weeks later on the second day of Christmas, we heard news that he jumped off his 8-story dormitory building. “Tade yunqi bu hao,” they would say –his luck left him. His fate was cut and sealed in China already, where his overbearing parents had him prepared for a career in law, a decision that evidently crushed his soul. He probably didn’t even comprehend how he, the only-child of Chinese farmers, a burned-out, hopelessly damaged adolescent, could end up lying on the cold pavement of Richmond Place, in the capital of Scotland. His life made little sense to him -it was kaput.
Another fellow, a sturdy Scotsman, frequently got so boozed up, we thought his self-destruction had a rather cunning plot to it. He was intelligent, yet cared little about his safety, letting alone his health of which he seemed to have stashed away plenty. During a trip to Australia, however, he got himself the worst for a drink. Canned and wasted, he fell into a comatose state and refused to wake up when the fire alarm begged him to do so. “And if this hadn’t happened,” rumors said, “he would still be doing dangerous things.”
The list goes on. At Peking University, a doctoral candidate in his decisive, final year panicked over his flawed thesis and committed zisha. His desk in his tiny dorm room was allegedly plastered with those yellow motivational self-stickers –with quotes fromsuccessful people like US rapper 50 Cents’ “Get Rich or Die Tryin.” People say the candidate spent eight years in solitary, had no hygiene, no friends, and no reason to go on living. Other graduates attain more posthumous fame – like Hai Zi. He destroyed himself at the age of twenty-five; only to become one of Beijing’s most celebrated dead poets.
Literature, to be sure, is full with people dominated by self-destructive behavior. And it is certainly true that we admire people who died for a cause like, say, Socrates, Jesus, or Hannibal; we even worship this class of artists who single-mindedly minister to their doom, either by way of overwork and exhaustion, or from carrying soul-devouring, shameful secrets –Vincent Van Gogh, Novalis, and Nietzsche come to mind. And, yes, we also delight in building legends around performers and musicians who were evidently haunted by mania, depression, and severe addiction – James Dean, Elvis Presley, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Leslie Cheung, Marilyn Monroe, Yukio Mishima, or the late Philip Seymour Hoffman- to name but a few.
Death can be seen as climax or as the final act; alas, it all boils down to this: Do we want, metaphorically speaking, to die in battle when we were strongest, or do we prefer to run and wait for the Reaper to drive by our nursing home when we are at our weakest? Both are legitimate ends to Man.
All those people above, famous or not, often entertained unrealistic goals, had low self-esteem, severe mental problems, or they simply got lost in life. Most others hang on to it, though, as long as they still see an iota of hope, another gig they could achieve, another moment of bliss that will extend their welcome; they keep going on with life which Buddhist know is mostly about suffering. Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher of existentialism, rather pessimistically interpreted all this as the unbound Will to Live; but the truth is, some people are just procrastinating a feverishly diabolical and incurable wish to die.
“And so is the type of great men that shaped European history a very particular figure: half warrior, half statesman…” –Richard Wilhelm, 1922.
MOST scholars believe themselves to be a benign force, one that is able to aim but cannot harm. Strictly speaking, there is no physical causation between their creativity and somebody else’s losses. That’s why in America we formally have strict arms control, but no such thing as thought control, with the foreseeable consequence that every kind of intellectual rubbish, extremity, or idiocy is produced and/or committed in our society.
The great achievements of any high culture should rest, of course, on the broad shoulders of academia. The so-called scholarly classes or “the PhDs,” literally doctors for the love of wisdom, are believed to be the gatekeepers of knowledge. Well, let me dwell a bit on what scholars are doing these days, and for whom, and what for.
The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning while those other subjects merely require scholarship. –Robert A. Heinlein
Scholars just like mercenaries or soldiers are constantly at war with competing groups, corporations, and guilds, opposition forces, cultural terrorists, and, yes, even foreign countries. There are personal agendas, of course, but mostly group interests, ideologies, and allegiances.
The idea of the unbiased neutral scholar is a fiction. In fact, the very opposite is the case; the most biased, partial, and corrupt scholars often make it to their nation’s top. Think of the works -all avidly studied in academia- of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong, Ayatollah Khomeini, Karl Marx, Martin Heidegger, Max Weber, and so on, because such thinkers produce precisely those ideologies and manifestos which every nation needs to justify nationalism, fascism, expansionism, imperialism, and colonialism –in that order.
Sadly, unlike in the realms of economics, sciences, politics, and the military, there are no checks and balances, letting alone [creative] boundaries, in scholarship –everything goes. Since there are no binding rules (the peer-review system is often but a roped scheme that confirms allegiances), nor any international body to prevent harm systematically done to others, the men-of-letters can do as they please.
Let me be precise. If an economist or a politicians engage in fraud or corruption, if they get caught they will be punished. If a scientist or an engineer commits forgery there are often no legal consequences. That’s because rigged scientific experiments fail the reproduction test and machines that are inoperative fall under the table anyway, so why bother. Scholars, however, are different; they can create and support whatever you hired them to do and write whatever is demanded from them, and it may last forever.
READ MORE Philosophy Is A Syndicate
Did you know that almost every religious cult, corporation, or guild boasts their own ‘research institutes’? Any band of clerics, director, or economists want a study, or two, published about them. Millions of developers each year hire scholars to back a new product, a new start-up, a new project. Guess what they are researching: whatever floats their sponsor’s boat. How about political parties, what are they researching? That’s right, whatever backs their political cause. Did you know that most people working in public relation departments all over the world are trained humanists? Now they prostitute themselves to the movement of whoever pays them.
Some commentators have argued with me that my accusations, although polemic, are still unfair because the humanities are a much bigger realm than the sciences. Scientists are blessed because they have physical laws, mathematical axioms, experiments and what not, but those tools are of little use in the humanities. In the humanities, they say, we don’t have those luxuries.
In the humanities there are too many unscientific factors at play, such as personal relations, hierarchies, entitlement, emotions, feelings, faith, beliefs, motives, ideologies, histories, experiences, philosophies, traditions, creativity, and culture. Yes, one could try to eliminate some of those factors in controlled experiments, but then you get pseudo-sciences like economics and psychology: On paper their theories pose as natural sciences backed by funny statistics, but in reality their theorems wobble and wreck just like all other philosophical systems and religious propositions.
Throughout history the humanities were higher valued than the sciences, for good reasons. Think about all the great archetypes –philosophers, warriors, poets, sages, saints, emperors, heroes! The scientists and engineers are but laboratory gnomes and forging dwarves providing formulas, weapons and machinery for the great project called humanity. To be sure, scientist and engineers will often find themselves as members of the modern workforce. It’s because the jiggle with tools, not just thoughts. No more than workforce, but also no less.
“They’re so cold, these scholars! May lightning strike their food so that their mouths learn how to eat fire!” –Friedrich Nietzsche
The creative forces and the originality of scholarship are undoubtedly among its greatest strengths, but also its subtle weaknesses; scholars are easily seduced as nations and all kinds of interest groups want to use scholarship to their advantages and against their foes.
I have met businessmen, shareholders, deans, senior editors, and professors who openly admit that they will fire or freeze out any scholar, and any of their submissions, if they don’t fall in line with the firm’s ideology, just like they would fire any other minion, worker, secretary, or dissident. One German multi-millionaire in China who regularly funds research chairs explained to me how universities are like factories. You tell them what to produce, they will do it.
Seeing scholars as workforce, or, worse, as a form of soldiery for a nation’s ultimate cause, is indeed soul-crushing for young adepts. They thought that education makes” free.” They thought education was about VERITAS, “Truth,” only to find out later that their training was designed to transform them –metaphorically speaking- into modern versions of foot-soldiers, missionaries, conquistadors, or looting marauders.
End of Part I.
THE European missions to Asia consisted of very few highly specialized individuals trained in theology and the sciences. Their destination countries – India, Japan, China, and Indochina – were the size of civilizations.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing
Christianity could not be forced upon them, but had to undermine those civilizations from within. The Jesuits, a religious order related to the Catholic Church, traveled to Asia and virtually practiced cultural mimicry. They would wear the robes and garments of the local tradition, looking like Confucian scholars, and participated in local rituals and customs, while teaching Western sciences and The Bible to the community.
READ MORE And I shall call you “Religion”
Western “China reports”
It is reported, that the Protestant missions – many prominent German missionaries among them – were less successful in converting the disbelievers. The Chinese were unaware that the missionaries’ “reports” to Europe were useful intelligence that encouraged the Europeans to push further ahead and follow their imperial ambitions to command China’s future: to bring God to the god-less, to dominate the Middle Kingdom culturally, and to transform it into Western colony:
“And the Lord said: Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” [Genesis 1, 25-26].
Chinese naivity and generosity
The Chinese were ignorant for what was coming for them; that Western civilization’s drive for expansion was the necessary outcome of Greek philosophy of endless search for new knowledge and Christianity’s mission to subdue the rest of the world. On the contrary, the Chinese traditional love for learning, and their Confucian sympathy towards all men, made them learn quickly from the Westerners, while they did not (and certainly could not) expect quite the same in return from the Westerners.
Western “China experts”
It was a common belief that the Chinese language was too difficult for Europeans to master, perhaps a cheap stereotype, but a stereotype to which the Westerners certainly contributed their bit. Most of the missionaries being middle-aged or old men, they were venerated (maybe more so, than in Europe), and were not expected to master Chinese. Usually, if they spoke a sentence or two, that was sufficient to go down into the annals of history as “Chinese experts”.
No matter what their actual proficiency of Chinese was, they almost certainly needed Chinese helpers. But those Chinese helpers had never seen the world outside China, and unknowingly surrendered their precious and unique Chinese concepts to Plato and Jesus Christ.
The Evangelization of China
Some German missionaries and orientalists first felt disgusted  that the Chinese had no God, but decided they needed Him; thus Schott (1826), Gützlaff (1833), Grube (1902), Haas (1920), Wilhelm (1925), and Biallas (1928) deliberately used biblical language (e. g. Gott, Heilige, Heilige Geist, Heiligkeit, Gottmenschen, etc.) to report China as a pre-Christian society that could be converted and dominated:
This dismantlement of a culture from within was undertaken all the while the missionaries and orientalists in China enjoyed the hospitality, kindness, and resourcefulness of their naive and trusting host. That the original concept of shengrenwas already compromised – it never reached Europe and the Chinese now officially had biblical holy men – the Chinese could hardly have anticipated.
READ MORE Language and Empire – Why We Shun Asian Words
Finally, to add salt into all wounds, and a bitter irony, Western commentators today never stop at accusing China of stealing Western concepts and innovations, tinker them around and change them a little bit, but never contribute anything original to world history. A more accurate picture of world history is that the West systematically collected and cashed hundreds of thousands of foreign concepts already.
 Giles, Herbert A., 1925, p. 260
 Richter, Heinrich, 1833, pp. 13 ff.
This is a condensed version of a chapter on ‘Missionarism: A Form of Parasitism’ from the manuscript Shengren.
BEIJING – James Palmer, a journalist from Beijing, reports about the ongoing plight of the disabled in China. His article deserves attention:
Practical and communist
“95% of orphans in China have special needs,” quotes James Palmer from one of his sources. They are disposed of by their parents who, in China, mostly are allowed only one child. Ideally that should be a boy –a healthy one. Most handicapped have little access to education, and, so Palmer’s argument, there’s a pervasive lack of empathy for their struggle.
READ MORE Crippling injustice
Famously, during the Beijing Para-Olympics 2008, China’s handicapped were briefly paraded and showcased to the world’s media. China eventually raked in 211 medals, including 89 gold. That was more than Great Britain and the United States combined (which ranked #2 and #3 in the medal count). Critics said it was largely due to a nationwide Soviet-style program to identify and domesticate an army of disabled athletes ready to win the crude metals for the glory of their motherland.
China thriving cities offer little comfort as their infrastructure, the transportation system, and all governmental institutions, including schools and universities, lack meaningful support for people with disabilities –so they stay at home; or go performing, or begging in the streets (many refer to themselves as ‘self-employed).
Some clever entrepreneurs have already tapped into the artistic talent pool of this largely underestimated minority group. They have initiated prestigious dance shows like ‘China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe‘ or (controversial) tourist attractions like ‘The Kingdom of the Little People‘.
Yet, at the same time, reports are surfacing in the media that some “ruthless recruiters often prey on the mentally disabled” as a form of modern slavery. All these examples above have in common that people with disabilities are separated from the rest of society, not integrated.
City-life is already an improvement to the horrors that awaits the disabled in the countryside, explains Palmer, where Buddhist suspicion and glaring Confucian prejudices against the canji ren (lit: the deformed) crushes down on their families who gave birth to imperfect offspring. In Buddhism this often translates into bad karma or sins in one’s previous life.
“Children who are severely disabled are often kept in their homes for reasons of protecting their families “face.” –Tom, a blogger
Superstition and Prejudices
James Palmer sees hope in the charity work of the Christian community in China (both foreign, but even more so, local Christians) and – surprisingly – Taoism. Taoism, Palmer argues, has always taken the world as it is and embraces diversity in the form of its many not so perfect deities and heroes all coming with a sense and purpose into this world. But the real heroes, he admits, are the brave individuals who form interest groups and fight for better treatment, more rights, and access to better medicine and education.
Your author always knew that something was strangely wrong with Beijing’s metro system the moment he set foot in it. After a while it became strikingly obvious: there are no elevators whatsoever. But then, I never saw a wheelchair (or baby-cars, for that matter) either, so maybe that’s why at first I thought nothing of it.
As to universities, if the disabled were willfully excluded from higher education, we had no way of knowing for sure because we didn’t meet any to discuss their struggle. Of course, before 2004, there were the crippled beggars around Shanghai’s People’s Square, Nanjing Road, and the French Concession in Xu Jiahui. I remember that once a Chinese student told me not to give them any money, because they were all “agents of the hidden beggar king.” There were rumors that many beggars mutilated themselves, cutting off flesh here and there, or a leg or arm, so that they could beg for even more money.
READ MORE Overview of Disability in China
It’s still a long way
As Palmer noticed, in this competitive society, employers are highly trepidatious about hiring ugly, retarded or deformed people. They are bad for business, the bosses say. Yes, there are quota-laws in place, but many local employees, highly aware of Chinese superstitions and customs, are happy to pay the fines, Palmer says. It’s better than inviting bad fortune into the house.
“Such feelings are not unique to China. Every society has long-standing prejudices against the disabled. Until the rise of sentimentality in the 19th century, mocking imitation of the elderly, the lame, the blind or the mad was common practice in Europe.” –James Palmer
This all said, it seems a bit unfair, and your author always feels like this, to measure China against the living standard and level of charity in developed countries. China has still over 150 million citizens living in absolute poverty. And those 200 million migrant workers, often admired by Western economist as the sure sign of China’s economic progress, are so grossly underpaid, maltreated and exploited, that demanding nationwide access, say, to guide dogs for the blind may seem a bit pathetic compared to other human rights problems of China’s authoritarian leaders. But it matters dearly to those in need.
To be true, the entire Beijing subway system, a milestone for the Chinese civilization, was purposefully designed NOT to be nice to the handicapped. It literally appears as if some party official at some point had decided that Beijing didn’t want the crippled and impeded to access the metro –they can drive by bus and car, no?
Follow James Palmer on Twitter.
Credit image: Ben V/Flickr.com
This article first appeared on Big Think.
We cannot and we must not become Chinese, and at heart we don’t want to either. We must not seek ideal or higher meaning of life in China or in any other thing of the past; otherwise we lose ourselves and adhere to a fetish. – Hermann Hesse, 1921
SHANGHAI, March 2012 - About 111 years ago, the German emperor Wilhelm II. farewelled the East-Asian Expedition Corps from Bremen’s harbor to China in order to beat down China’s resistance to European imperialism. His orders were unequivocal: bring civilization to China, show no mercy to reactionaries, and teach China a memorable lesson so that no Chinaman will ever dare to look askant at one of us. Things of course have changed since then.
Airplanes have been invented. Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research and her delegation of top officials once again landed in Shanghai. China’s Pearl River Delta’s megalopolis is more populous than Germany’s capital, Berlin, and Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and the next ten biggest German cities combined. It’s awesome.
The Federal Minister certainly preferred Beijing, China’s capital and the center of politics and educational policy. Yet, most of the “schaffenden” Germans, those who actually produce material value since bilateral trade agreements began in 1979, have traditionally settled in Shanghai or farther down in the industrial south, in Shenzhen and Guangdong, China’s manufacturing bases. Over 5300 German companies are active in China, and 8000 German administrators are stationed in Shanghai alone.
The Tongji University of Shanghai is a German partner of choice. It was co-founded by Germans, handed honorary degrees to politicians like Gerhard Schroeder, the former Chancellor, and invites German lecturers by the droves. However, there are only about 250 German students studying full-time in all of China, most of them only for an exchange year, sitting dui wai hanyu classes (Chinese for foreigners). Compare those figures to the 25,000 proper Chinese students who study in Germany “for real.” And unlike the Chinese in Germany, the Germans in China weren’t obliged to provide evidence of 200 hours language work prior to applying for a student visa.
Over two dozens German professor chairs at Tongji are currently sponsored by German corporations; most of those senior fellowmen don’t speak a word Chinese of course – not learning the language of the colonized is an old tradition that I will not explain here. Needless to say, Chinese translators are cheap and come by the dozens for the prize of one German interpreter.
Read at Big Think Can Asians think? Yes, and no
Meanwhile, the German political parties, the German media, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Max-Planck Society, the German Chamber of Commerce, the Goethe Institute –all state sponsored, pro-government organizations- they all have arrived in the Middle Kingdom already with the mission to make the Chinese do like the Europeans do, or to start chinabashing if the nation doesn’t comply.
Germany’s hostility against China is overt and official. German media constantly demonizes China because it is too Chinese and too communist. According to the Asia-strategy-paper of October 23rd 2007, the ruling Christian Democratic Union and its junior partner the Christian Social Union (you thought Germany was a secular place, didn’t you?) named China a “threat to European values, economic and political development”.
But let us come back to our Federal Minister; at Tongji’s Chinesisch-Deutsches Hochschulkolleg she gave a lecture that day (or shall we say, she lectured China) on “Global responsibility”. It all sounded suspiciously like a monologue about how China should westernize itself, and, perhaps then become civilized along the way.
Indeed, the Germans try to rectify Chinese culture whenever they can: German officials in Shanghai, illiterate in Chinese language and tradition, complain that Chinese family names and first names are backwards and thus should be re-arranged so that, say, Wang Yuhe becomes “Yuhe Wang”, Jin Li becomes “Li Jin”, Li Hao becomes “Hao Li” and so on. Surprisingly, they haven’t tried a “Zedong Mao”, “Weiwei Ai”, or “Jiabao Wen” yet.
Germany cannot patronize the English-speaking world (let by the United States), of course, but most smaller European states it can and does. Western observers are reminded today of the first Prussian diplomatic mission to East-Asia, the Eulenburg Expedition. In 1861, when Great Britain and France had just invaded Beijing over a commercial dispute concerning opium, Count Friedrich Albrecht zu Eulenburg forced a commercial treaty upon the Qing Empire on behalf of the entire German Customs Union. These days, the Germans consult China on behalf of the entire European Union: “We in Europe,” they start…
Read at Big Think “F”"k the EU”? – What would Nietzsche say?
Now, are China’s and Germany’s research industries compatible? Of course they are –if the Chinese become more German. No other future scenario exists. The idea that Germany could learn anything from China is utterly absurd –the Chinese want to drive German cars just as the Germans do. It’s a metaphor.
Are China’s and Germany’s educational systems compatible? The answer is a clearmafan (troube). First, Germany historically lacks elite universities and university rankings which we so naturally find in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, or China. You will see “Directors” and “Professors” flown in from such obscure places like Bochum University or Greifswald University who then co-chair with Chinese elite technocrats who graduated from Asia’s most competitive schools like Peking University, Tsinghua University, or Fudan University. It’s an honor for the Germans, but for the Chinese? They would rather work with their equals of Harvard University or Cambridge University. Learning English from Germans can be annoying, too.
Second, numbers matter: Germany has just 1.2% of the world’s population, China has 20%. Germany united in 1871, China in 221 BC. However, since the Germans indulge in the oriental fantasy that Europeans are of greater importance, hence they frequently commit a ‘fallacy of category’: We recently followed the ego of Minister President of Bavaria (a place with barely the population size of Linyi in the southern corner of Shandong province) on a fleeting trip to China’s capital, who was left enraged and in disbelief as to why President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao felt no obligation to receive him.
Next, the old German education system has worn out –it’s now slowly modeled after the Anglo-Saxon one. As long as the German degrees back in the 20th century eluded comparison, the Germans assumed superiority, but after the Bologna Reform ended in 2010, German students can now be evaluated against their global peers. It turns out that German scores, according to the ‘OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)’, rank merely in the middlefield. Ironically, Shanghai students are now officially the best students in the world.
Last, Germany is a class society with a three-tier school system that reflects its class consciousness. It essentially means that children, after having spent four years in primary school together, are separated by the age of ten years onto three different school forms (there are quotas) which will then pre-determine their lives long before they understand the importance of grades, higher education, or even reach puberty. The United Nations believes the system is rigged in favor of parents, not children, and condemns Germany for it. That’s why China fares much better, I think, to rely on its class-blind, clear-cut meritocracy that leads kids of all backgrounds to the gaokao.
Read at Big Think Philosophy is a Syndicate
Indeed, the German spirit is a peculiar one. Germany never experienced the Enlightenment –only its own inward-looking Aufklärung; it lacks the crucial development where the Anglo-Saxon world learned, by experience, to co-exist in diversity.
To this day, German culture lacks a holistic conception of humanity; it prefers a linear way of thinking with European culture prominently ahead of China and others. Everything non-European is seen as an awkward deviation from German/Western standard. Unsurprisingly, Angela Merkel, the Chancellor, recently confirmed that multiculturalism is dead. It means that foreigners must be assimilated. But not in Shanghai please where the Germans will always be German.
If we don’t talk about it, imperialism never stops. It changes paradigm, then rattles on. A Chinese student recently asked me: Do the Germans want to teach more Chinese students because they are really interested in us, or just because the Americans were doing it first?
I vaguely recalled our mission and replied dutifully: No –this commitment to teaching orientals we truly share. It’s our global responsibility to make you more like us. That’s why we are here. Yet again.
This article was first posted at Big Think on Feb 6, 2014.
There’s something deeply and profoundly philosophical about the gradually decline of the Europeans: It’s going on for over a century now.
MOST observers will have heard about the latest US diplomatic gaffe: ‘Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State’, Victoria Nuland, in a phone call to the ambassador Pyatt said “Fuck the EU.” The call was anonymously uploaded onto Youtube, the video platform, and immediately picked up by virtually all major European media outlets. That’s because, I think, Ms. Nuland frankly said what most people, certainly international journalist, letting alone top diplomats, already knew: The US has little patience with the European Union, and, sometimes, even less respect so.
But first things first: The “Fuck the EU” is Ms. Nuland’s personal recommendation for the European Union’s latest attempt to influence the future of the Ukraine, a former Soviet satellite state (independent since Aug 24, 1991) and valuable pawn in the new Eurasian power game. The Ukraine experienced strong democratic protests ever since November 2013 because some citizens demanded the Ukraine’s integration with the European Union.
Since mid January 2014, the country has seen an escalation of violence between governmental forces and the protesters. So, naturally, diplomats may be stressed out and strong language used in private conversations becomes somewhat permissible. However, Ms. Nuland’s telephone scandal, now having turned into a global metaphor for backstabbing one’s allies, comes at a time when Europe faceshumiliation after humiliation for what many world historians think is its gradual political, military, economic, and cultural decline.
EU leaders find the remark “unacceptable”
So, when Germany and France protested against America’s NSA surveillance of the entire European phone and internet services, including the mobile phones of two German chancellors, the US contemptuously defied explaining or clarifying the espionage act, letting alone stopping the surveillance of its “allies.” This has alienated the German political class, and has deeply humiliated Angela Merkel and her current German government which obviously is incapable of protecting the privacy of its citizens –whether in the past, present, and the future. It’s rather disillusioning.
Why was Ms. Nuland’s phone call leaked and by whom? Some commentators suspect it was the Russian intelligence service that saw an opportunity of retaliation for the EU’s current Russia-bashing about corruption scandals surrounding Sochi where the Winter Olympic Winter 2014 take place these days.
Whoever it was, I’d say: Mission accomplished. “Fuck the EU” has already turned into an Internet-meme (an element of culture passed on by imitation). We can already watch Youtube videos, read foreign blogs, articles, forums, and follow hashtags.
If Friedrich Nietzsche, the great European mustache, philosopher and nihilist, had lived today, perhaps he would have read for us from his little wise book Beyond Good and Evil:
“The Chinese have a proverb which mothers even teach their children: “SIAO-SIN” (“MAKE THY HEART SMALL”). This is the essentially fundamental tendency in latter-day civilizations. I have no doubt that an ancient Greek, also, would first of all remark the self-dwarfing in us Europeans of today – in this respect alone we should immediately be “distasteful” to him.”
This painfully slow decline of the Europeans in global status is tragic but not irreversible. First the people have to see the new reality clearly. Most Europeans, however, are completely unaware of their nation’s decreasing power status and declining influence. They were taught since they were little children that there’s this big brother USA that solves all their political, economic, military, and cultural problems. Not any more. Because the US is in decline too.
It is possible that the US – over the many decades of world domination and absolute technological, scientific, and cultural supremacy – has gradually lost its respect for the whining and utterly dependent European civilization; what if leading US diplomats are plotting against Europe? Imagine for a moment US intelligence services were infringing on European laws and dignities just because they can, or, worse, because they know that Europe can’t do shit about it.