He’s Making a List, and Checking It Eight

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American Foreign Policy / Art / China / Chinese communist party / Cultural Politics / East Asian modernity / Environmental Politics in East Asia / EU-East Asia relations / French / North Korea / Sino-French Relations / Sino-North Korean relations / US-North Korea relations

Before you “check your loot” for the holiday, consider checking out the following eight stories:

1. This Global Times story (in English) digested from Yonhap and AFP reports of the inevitability of North Korean miniaturization of nuclear weapons.  That China is reporting on this as well indicates that the CCP recognizes that, as bad as things have been lately with North Korean nuclear tests, things could and probably will get much worse if North Korea isn’t brought back from its habitual yet no less dangerous brinksmanship.

2. This China Digital Times digest of the PRC reaction to Cambodia extradition of twenty (20) Uighurs back to China not only deals with a significant subject, it has a multitude of helpful links, including to Rebiya Khadeer’s reactions to these events as she travels in Europe to solicit support.  Montreal’s best daily, Le Devoir, covers the U.S. State Department’s rather plangent response to the episode, which probably came after some frantic cables/e-mails back to the U.S. from the embassy in Phnom Penh.  Naturally the French reportage on this issue links traditional notions of human rights protection with some inside knowledge of Cambodia, which was, in an earlier time, part of Francophonie.  Probably more relevant here is the State Department statement, available on the U.S. Embassy’s website in Phnom Penh in both English and, if you’re really impressive, Khmer.

Ambassador Zhang Jinfeng / 张金凤, herself a true Southeast Asia hand, can expect a promotion for spiriting out 'Uighur separatists'

3. Le Monde reports on China’s self-satisfaction with the results of the Copenhagen conference (in French).

Preparing for the future of post-socialist, post-Kim art in North Korea

4. Choson Ilbo carries a short piece on apartment construction in Pyongyang, but a far more interesting story is carried regarding an upcoming solo show in Seoul by a North Korean defector-artist, Kang Jin-myong.

I already like this guy:

After graduating from an arts college in Pyongyang in 1974, he worked as an artist employed by the military, drawing the usual portraits of North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, and propaganda paintings of battle scenes.

“I tried very hard to take my family with me, but I failed in the end,” he recalls. Kang went to Qingdao in China and had a fairly stable life posing as a Korean-Chinese while working in an accessories factory run by a South Korean. Then he was struck by liver cirrhosis in 2007. At the advice of an acquaintance, Kang arrived in South Korea in April 2008.

Three months later, he moved into public housing in Sindang-dong, Seoul, and took up painting again immediately. “What else could I do except painting?” he says.

Kang now spends all day painting.

Indeed!  And Kang’s work in a factory situation as a highly-educated person seems typical of North Korean defectors.  You have professors who become valets; it’s rather like China in the late 1940s when the professors could only “eat their books,” as their skills became worthless amid the chaos of a disintegrating state.  Of course, at least Chinese professors were within the borders of their own maternal nation-state.

But doesn’t a state of exile seems in some ways appropriate for an artist?  Being too secure, or too close to power, or to close to a dominant patron, can be rather stifling.  (Fans of Mozart’s “Prussian Quartets” need not respond, as those as well as Beethoven’s Berlinian/Prussian Op. 5 Cello Sonatas  all prove me wrong anyway.)

5. French P.M. is in Beijing for trade talks.  No wonder Sarko didn’t want to let Ribiya rock the boat, keeping her well away from the French Foreign Minister last week.  Reciprocating, all of a sudden the Chinese media cares that the French people are getting very cold this winter!  Funny.  [See 法国部分地区近日最低气温接近历史同期纪录, via Huanqiu Shibao.]

6. Meteors land in northwest Beijing! See 寻找“天外来客” (Chinese) or an English version from a no-coverup-this-time China Daily.   Is it a coincidence this extraterrestrial slap  happened during Copenhagen conference?

7. More modernist architecture is cropping up in China, this time in designs for the School of Architecture for the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  Keep drawing, kids!  One of the funnest aspects of being in China usually comes when these kind of drawings get plastered up in giant canvas/plastic outdoor sheets which cover up what begin as giant dirt holes.  (I’ll never forget one such vision of modernity which appeared spreading outside a giant farm field on the outskirts of grimy, gritty, brave-hearted Liaoyang, Liaoning province: it was of the Cleveland, Ohio skyline.  Cleveland as a modernist fantasy!  Yes, and that the 1920s in Cleveland might very well approximate the polyglot and hardscrabble ambitions of a Northeastern frontier city in the 2020s.) I suppose that even something as beautiful as the present drawing, when it comes to being realized, starts with overturning rock and mud.  As Allen Ginsburg once wrote, “shadow changes into bone”:

Chinese University of Hong Kong School of Architecture: eat your heart out, UCLA and CalArts!

8. Finally, and ending on “eight” so that we all get rich and retire to modernist villas near Shenzhen where string quartets of second-generation post-socialist elites will play Philip Glass on floating bowls of resonant carbon-neutral ceramic amoebas while various light-globes flicker out their cross-rhythms, a very, very significant essay emerges out of China:

“Rumor as Social Protest,” by Hu Yong / 谣言作为一种社会抗议

Though the article is in Chinese and really needs to be translated and published somewhere important, the abstract is bilingual:

摘 要

在新媒体事件中,谣言发挥了种种颇具争议的功能。中国许多学者的研究倾向于否定谣言中的真实性,从而将谣言定性为「虚构」、「捏造」、「毁谤」,其中甚至不乏动机判断。本文认为,谣言常常作为一种社会抗议而出现,并指出,对谣言内涵的演变以及谣言在现实中发生的相关语境进行认真考察和研究,将有助于提示官方文本、主流思维之外的另类谣言观,解读特定历史时空中造谣、传谣的群体心态和社会氛围,描绘出更加多维度、多层次的历史图像。

关键词:新媒体事件、谣言、社会抗

Rumor has several controversial functions in new media events. This paper takes a theoretical analysis approach to study how Chinese researchers stress the false, unverified, and defamatory nature of rumor, with a special focus on the ways researchers’ emphasis on motivational factors tend to demonize rumors. This paper points out the role of rumor as a social protest in various new media events. The paper further contends that a careful examination of the definitions of rumor and its social contexts will help form an alternative view that challenges the official story and questions the authorities of mainstream media.

Keywords: new media event, rumor, social protest

法国部分地区近日最低气温接近历史同期纪录

The Author

Lecturer of Chinese history at University of Leeds, and Editor-in-Chief of SinoNK.com.

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