Tag Archives: The Guardian

China’s memory manipulators | Ian Johnson

seThe Long Read: The country’s rulers do not just suppress history, they recreate it to serve the present. They know that, in a communist state, change often starts when the past is challenged

Source: China’s memory manipulators | Ian Johnson

In November of 2002, my colleague and I went to Xi’an one weekend. At the time, the walls of the ancient city were being rebuilt, but there was a gap or perhaps about a kilometre left. There were large plaques up on the new walls proclaiming that the money for rebuilding the walls had come from UNESCO (I think; I can’t recall exactly). I realised in fairly short order that there’s very little in China which is more than about twenty-five years old. There may have been a temple on some site for 1,400 years, but the current incarnation is probably a recent “fake” built during the current dynasty. 大钟寺 in Beijing was being renovated when I visited it ten years ago, but how much of the building or the site was original beyond its boundaries, I can’t say.

Such places end up being little more than museums; a bit more than a building where relics are on display, but still little more than museums. I assume that most cathedrals in Europe, even if they are mainly modern tourist traps, are more than just the remains of history and are still functioning buildings. Of course some, such as Yonghe Gong (雍和宫) in Beijing are still in use; elsewhere, such as Fuzhou, where there are a lot of temples, they appear to be largely neglected.

One of the things I’ve also noted about my pupils in China is their ignorance of history, their knowledge of which, as far as I can tell, rarely goes beyond 1911, apart from key events in the 19th century such as the Opium Wars, which serve a nationalist agenda as a shorthand for something the wicked foreigners did to the Chinese Empire and something to distract people from the truth. My own knowledge of Chinese history may not be that detailed, but it seems to be more extensive than your average Chinese schoolchild, and although I’m not overlooking potential bias, my knowledge of the subject is at least not filtered through the grimy lenses of the Party’s self-serving view of history.

“Modern” China seems to be at about the level of Tudor England when Tudors usurped the throne (“It was empty, so I sat in it,” said Henry Tudor. “That makes me Henry VII”) with no legitimate claim to the kingdom, but plenty of propaganda behind them throughout their short-lived dynasty.


The blockheads strike again

Don’t let a good story get in the way of paranoia.

In baffling news, the Shanghaiist reported that The Guardian has been blocked – at least the desktop version has. Why? No one knows.

Although there have been quite a few China stories in paper over the past few months, there had been nothing recently which might justify the block­ing of the site. It is possible that the block was a mistake, but that seems unlikely. It’s possible that the imperial government got wind of some (al­legedly sensitive) story and wanted to spike The Guardian’s guns, but there have been no revelatory stories so far. It’s possible that The Guardian is being punished for the activities of its journalists in China.

On that final point, foreign journalists have been having problems getting their visas renewed (The Shanghaiist).

The irony (though not a new irony in cases like these) is that the mobile version of The Guardian is still accessible at the time of writing. How long will the desktop site be out? I don’t know. It may be quietly unblocked soon rather than later; but even if it isn’t, my little darlings should still expect to see more articles from The Guardian in the future.

[21.01.14. The Guardian is now visible again, but I don’t know when access was restored. In a bout of contrariness, we were unable to access any search engines from school this afternoon, including that imperial lapdog, Baidu. It’s not unusual for Google to be inaccessible from school, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it.]

[22.01.14. Well, it seems that the block was probably a warning shot from the imperial government because this morning [still currently visible] is China’s princelings storing riches in Caribbean offshore haven. It’s an article about a report on the colossal amount of wealth a tiny number of people in China have. Will this lead to The Guardian being blocked for good? On the one hand, this isn’t exactly news; on the other, it is a little embarrassing for the emperor and his drive against corruption. I won’t be surprised if imperial peevishness prevails.

Later. Imperial peevishness has indeed prevailed. The Guardian is blocked again – completely. Even the mobile version is unavailable this time.

The strange disappearance of Baidu and other search engines yesterday may be due to an alleged hacking attack, which directed Chinese users to some website run by the people behind Freegate. (China blames hackers for internet outage that re-routed users to US site. The Guardian – the emperor’s favourite foreign rag.)]

Grammar and punctuation test: take our quiz | Teacher Network | Guardian Professional

Grammar and punctuation test: take our quiz | Teacher Network | Guardian Professional.

Oh dear, another amateur falls into the English Grammar pond, waves their arms about, kicks their legs, and declares that they can swim. I assume this is some hack’s attempt at a grammar quiz rather than something based on an official sample.

I managed to get 13 out of 14 right, but have no idea which one might be (allegedly) wrong because the link to the answers didn’t work.

Question 4 was nonsense because the sentence “He thought he might be able to dig a tunnel through the rock” is neither a “command” nor “passive”, which only leaves “conditional”, and it’s not conditional, either. Note also the mixing of moods (command, conditional) and voice (passive); also, I don’t fail to overlook that “imperative” is the more usual term than “command”.

My suspicion is that I might’ve tripped up somewhere on Qs. 6, 7, and 8, which are about determining whether the nouns are abstract, collective, or both. I think “team” is collective, and “truth” and “pride” abstract, but have a sneaking suspicion that one (team?) is possibly meant to be both.

Question 12 also had me wondering whether the notions of “main clause” and “subject” might be being muddled up. I think the answer is meant to be “The rescuers were stunned” even although “by the destruction”, as a prepositional phrase, is part of the main clause. I’m also a little diffident about calling a relative clause subordinate in the same way words such as “when”, “after”, and “before” introduce subordinate clauses, but I’m probably being a little picky.

Overall, if this bears any resemblance to what school children are going to have inflicted on them, then I’m sorry for the school children.

It is not inevitable that the EU – or democracy – will survive this mess | Comment is free | The Guardian

It is not inevitable that the EU – or democracy – will survive this mess | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Another doom-and-gloom article about the alleged failure of democracy. Is Europe now headed into the Age of Benign Dictatorships? Unlike the inGlorious Motherland, people could still criticise the government, who would then tell them to bugger off. Oh, hang on. That’s the current system, which is occasionally punctuated by another election after which nothing ever happens.

As I might’ve mentioned, I happened to stray back to the Political Com­pass just recently (where I’m still a left-wing liberal). Your average pol­it­ic­ian in a democratic country seems to be a right-wing authoritarian, who’s only a couple of steps short of declaring themselves President-for-Life, and then turning their governance of the country into a family firm. Mmmm. Does that mean the Arab world has become Europe and Europe will be­come the Arab world?

Back and backn’t

And will the bloody Poles and others sod off and stop wasting time posting comments which will never ever be seen, not even if I don’t delete your shite. Morons.

Gmail seems to be behaving itself again, more or less, but where in the Empire there’s 阴, there’s also 阳 in that when I go to the Guardian website, I can see the front page, but can’t access any of the stories. I can’t see any headlines about the Empire: no references to tiresomely intolerant robots; no words beginning with T that might cause palpitations; no recommendations for courses in critical thinking. Perhaps they don’t want anyone reading the Dr Who blog. Baffling.

I invigilated my final exam for 2011 this afternoon, AS Physics Multiple Choice. When I got out of the building, there were hordes of Senior 3s waiting to sit this afternoon’s paper in the College Entrance exam. One girl was sitting on my bike and I observed that it made a better bike than a seat. Remember how the Senior 3s will have an English exam or two, including listening? Well, I may as well have been speaking Zhou Dynasty Chinese to her. “听不懂! 听不懂!” I said mockingly to them as I departed. I’m such a total wit.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

And possibly again and again.

Last night the Internet got switched off for a time, perhaps to update Paranoia++ software (no truth ever knowingly admitted into the Empire) and, I was hoping, it would see the cessation of deliberate interference with gmail and the Internet in general. Net access did reappear and things seemed to be a little better.

I was commenting on The Guardian’s 190th birthday this morning (mock-up of 1821-style page) when I discovered that although the green light is on on my laptop, which indicates there’s a live connection, there was no Internet access and I’d lost the first draft of this entry.

Apart from the Guardian’s birthday, the other news this morning is that like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning is supposedly not quite playing with a full pack of cards. The Russians are also saying that Gaddafi has to go. Did Medvedev clear that with Czar Vladimir or has he started thinking independently?

I’ve started reading The Mysteries of Udolpho which is supposedly set in 1584, but, as the introduction says, is viewed through the lens of late 18th century sensibilities. M. St Aubert goes round picking flowers and rambling around the countryside where a real-life 16th century French squire would’ve been cutting open live dogs to see what was inside and sticking his finger in their hearts as they died in agony. While Emily might have been taught Latin, she wouldn’t have learnt a word of English or even have cared to learn it.

Radcliffe’s descriptive powers are lush, overwhelming, heady, and rather purple. It’s an ironic style in that for an Age of Nature (you know, those bloody daffodils), it’s artificial and still very Neoclassical. The language may describe nature, but it is divorced from it.

Lights! Camera! Inaction!

Another day of hysteria on the Internet.

I went to the IMDb last night only to find it blocked. Very blocked. We’re not talking about dither blocking, but rather insta-blocking. The only film news vaguely relating to China was about Ang Lee casting some unknown in the film version of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, but I didn’t think the junta hated Lee that much. Mind you, there’s no rhyme or reason to their loathing as they continue their plan to turn the Internet into a robot eunuch.

This morning I tried the IMDb again in case the site had had some problem, or it had been the victim of Nanny’s short-lived hysteria, but again, it was definitely off the menu. It was only when I went to the Guardian website that I found the possible reason for the blocking of the IMDb. (12.08.14. And then, quite some time later, the IMDb was un­blocked.)

Some idiot of a woman in Chongqing announced on Τwίττεr that she was going to attend some anti-Japanese rally carrying a banner praising Lίυ Ξιάοβο, and was nicked by Pc Plod. (Guardian story.)

Now the IMDb has Τwίττεr displayed fairly prominently on its front page, which makes me wonder whether that was the cause of the site being blocked. The stupid thing is that Τwίττεr is already blocked here unless there’s a Chinese version with the usual gaping holes allowing the Paranoia++ software uninhibited access to tweets.

In addition, there’s a story on the Reg about the Νόβελ Prize website being hacked. This particular piece of malice was aimed at Firefox (although noscript would put a stop to it), but there was no information about the source of the hacking. The final paragraph mentioned a certain junta’s displeasure about the awarding of the Pέαcε Prize to a certain Lίυ Ξιάοβο. If I’d been marking the article, I would’ve questioned the relevance of the final paragraph because I’m sure that the imperium sericum would never condone such an action. Nor would the Americans or any other freedom-loving nation. [Open a window. The irony stinks in here. –ed.]

The Guardian article concludes with

China has accused the west of ideological warfare. One commentary on the People’s Daily website today was headlined: “It is an un­quest­ionable fact that Chinese people have freedom of expression and press.”

It’s true, of course. Look up any English dictionary produced in China and you’ll find

freedom of expression (NP) – saying exactly what the Party wants you to say.

Meanwhile, the corruption index has come out, which rates New Zealand, Denmark and Singapore as the least corrupt countries in the world, and Somalia as the most corrupt. The UK comes in at 20 and the US at 22. China is 78th on the list, which puts it on a par with Greece, but way ahead of Russia at 154.

It is a little depressing to look at the map of the world and observe that there are swathes of red across South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia, which would lead any outside observer to conclude that corruption is the norm on Earth, and wonder why anyone would be particularly bothered about it.

Après l’excitement


While the switch from Spaces to WordPress doesn’t bother me, I am slightly agitated by that Cyberian Sword of Damocles which perpetually hangs over the Internet in the imperium sericum, and must admit that it’s hard not to feel that WordPress will be blocked sooner or later. It’s a little slow to load, and it’s probably easier to insert a link manually than click on the button at the top of the editing screen. (That’s from school, which has a much faster Internet connection than I do at home.)

In the meantime, I’ve been welcomed by my first dollop of spam. I hope cleaning out the crap doesn’t become one of those frequent household tasks. This looked like a robotic turd, which I swept into the oblivion of cyberspace.

The Guardian has an article asking Captain Scott: a second-rate hero? It’s a book promotion article, but it seems to have brought the Scott-haters out of the woodwork. I’m not really having problems imagining Scott saying things like, “Heavy sweater and a scarf should be enough”, and really meaning it. There seems to be much potential for black parody: the Empire, stiff upper lips, and catastrophic mismanagement in an extreme environment.

Well, there goes the bell. I have a little extra time because there are eye exercises before the next class.

That’s why it wasn’t working

The Guardian hasn’t been playing at all.

It’s been impossible to get onto The Guardian since last night. I can get to the site, but at best it loads in part and then spins on its wheels until I get annoyed and give up on it. The progress bar, which I take as a thoroughly reliable indicator of the degree to which a page has loaded, usually stands at 90% or more while nothing happens. I hope that this is a sign that the undersea cable is being repaired.

Live update! The Guardian now appears. The Catholics can’t opt out over gay adoption. Not sure what that’s about. Do Catholics have to be gay to adopt? Or do the children have to be gay to be adopted by Catholics? These are troubling times.

In another story, the Chinese will soon be the world’s most numerous Internet users – in a couple of years. (Yes, people, it’s a dejà vu moment. Tangential thought: what about India?) Of course we had to have

Online leap reported despite heavy censorship


Beijing is aware that the internet is a powerful tool in shaping public opinion and encourages web use for education and business, saying its aim is to only block material the authorities consider subversive or obscene.

But we can still buy Japanese AV from DVD shops. Way to be consistent, Nanny. What’s the bet that the biggest buyers of porn in China are the Party boys? [04.08.14. There was a recent case (in Hubei, I think) in which some corrupt official was found to have hidden is stash of porn under a statue.]

I thought from another comment that wikipedia might’ve been unblocked, but apparently not so from my attempt to get onto the site just now.

As I’ve noted before about online censorship here, it seems to affect the expat community more than it does the Chinese whose experience of the Internet is probably predominantly limited to the Chinese part of Cyberia because language is a natural barrier for most surfers here. None of the pupils I’ve ever taught here, barring one I can think of, would have a chance of understanding articles in The Guardian or have the perseverance to struggle through just one.

Anyway, Simon Underdown is taking a swipe at Intelligent Design in Survival of the thickest. The post comes from an article about Intelligent Design in RE classes. (Intelligent Design to feature in school RE lessons.) That’s not all.

In a move that is likely to spark controversy, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has for the first time recommended that pupils be taught about atheism and creationism in RE classes.

Two things. One, what has religion got to do with a secular education? Two, how does atheism fit into religious education classes since it’s not actually a religion in the first place? (Perhaps we’ll get the old argument that atheism must be a religion because we all worship Richard Dawkins.) Actually, a third thing. Creationism? Are you kidding?

The article (ID to feature etc.) ends

The new guidelines for key stage 3 (11 to 14-year-olds), published yesterday, say: “This unit focuses on creation and origins of the universe and human life and the relationship between religion and science. It aims to deepen pupils’ awareness of ultimate questions through argument, discussion, debate and reflection and enable them to learn from a variety of ideas of religious traditions and other world views.
“It explores Christianity, Hinduism and Islam and also considers the perspective of those who do not believe there is a god (atheists). It considers beliefs and concepts related to authority, religion and science as well as expressions of spirituality.”

It’s still making religion seem to be the unmarked state beside which other states of existence are implicit aberrations. Wouldn’t classes in philosophy be much more useful instead of time being wasted on this?

I think, though, that it’s important to distinguish being taught about a religion from being taught about some of its nonsensical accretions as if they have some sort of validity. (Yes, I’m kind of aware that I’ve probably blithely blundered through several fallacies in logic because I’m sure that other accretions have been controversial, but the whole matter is now in the past just as current issues such as ID and creationism may be added to the catalogue of religious follies in the future.)

The decision by the QCA does rather seem to be an instance of jumping on a contemporary bandwagon. Right now, ID, creationism and atheism are getting a lot of airtime (at least in The Guardian). Sooner or later, should I expect to see these as topics of IELTS writing task 2 which is often on subjects that I recognise as (formerly) controversial?

[04.08.14. The Guardian has now been blocked, probably per­man­ently, after it posted a story about the devious doings of the rich and powerful back in January. Ironically, Emperor Frog Face has been conducting an anti-corruption campaign whose natural targets ought to include the people in the Guardian article. In fact, while the campaign appears genuine, Frog Face seems to be using it to strengthen and widen his grip on power.

As far as I can tell, Emperor Robot I not only caused Robot II problems throughout his entire reign, but his people remain influential today, and, apparently, somewhat of an impediment to progress. According to the savvy punters, Shanghai remains problem­atic because of this.]