Gulou Neighborhood: Partially destroyed but still alive, hutongs shrinking into ever-smaller pockets, festooned with banners about harmoniously participating in pre-census surveys that should effectively run most undesireables out of the neighborhood by November 1.
The Chinese Internet: Danwei.org remains blocked, NY and LA Times are available, Twitter and its biggest Chinese imitator FanFou are both blocked, WordPress is open, Blogspot is blocked. Unlike South Korea, I can read North Korean “news” on KCNA in China, although the North Korean government inexplicably does not have a Chinese-language news service.
Commemorations of August 15: This year the CCP decided on 8/15 as a national day of mourning for the Gansu landslide victims, but there was still a fair amount in today’s papers about war commemorations across East Asia.
Mosques I’ve Seen in Beijing So Far: Zero. As in “Ground Zero.” Whereas it was common to run into Uighurs in Beijing prior to 2008, it seems that most of them have been politely (or not-so politely) asked to leave the city. Which is my way of saying that Islam is global, and to pretend that the US is the only country that struggles with the integration of Muslims within the polity is folly. How the United States deals with Islam and endeavors to prevent discrimination against Muslims can play a role — however marginal, however futile — in providing global models for toleration, if not building a positive international image of the United States. President Obama’s Friday remarks on the role of mosques in Manhattan and their connection to religious freedom in the USA therefore looks pretty good from China, where his statement has gotten a small amount of attention. In a best-case scenario, Obama spurs a minor dialogue in the PRC about religious tolerance, not the power of the American right wing.
Is it really a good thing that US-China cooperation in the so-called “War on Terror” became part of the basis of what was, all things considered, a pretty good decade in Sino-US relations?
On a side note, it’s almost as if the opponents of a mosque near the World Trade Center see the thing as a kind of Yasukuni Shrine which will deify the souls of the 9/11 attackers. Does a single iota of evidence support this view? Perhaps opponents of the mosque would be satisfied by moving all of mosques out of lower Manhattan and then ceding the entire area to Joel Osteen’s feel-good brand of stadium-Christianity for Texans with SUVs?
Beijing Mongolian-Style Heavy Metal scene: Alive and thriving. My ears are still ringing from the three-hour rehearsal in the Gulou 121 Club which I was just privileged to witness.