It wasn’t a reassuring moment.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, compared recent tensions between China and Japan to the rivalry between the British and German empires at the start of the 20th century. Like the Chinese and Japanese are today, he noted, the British and Germans were close trading partners in 1914—until World War I broke out. Abe argued that China’s military buildup is destabilizing the region, warned of “inadvertent conflict,” and admitted that the two countries didn’t have an “explicit roadmap” to resolve one. Then the Japanese leader packed his bags and traveled to China’s rival, India, for an official visit.
Although relations between China and Japan have never been warm, diplomatic efforts between the two countries have deteriorated rapidly since November, when China unilaterally expanded its air-defense zone to include the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea (China claims the five uninhabited islands, which it calls the Diaoyu islands, as its own territory). Abe, whose country has controlled the islands for decades, rebuked China’s move for “unjustly violating the freedom of aviation over the high seas.”
Read more. [Image: Yuya Shino/Reuters]
2710 Thomes Avenue in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is a house like many other houses in America. It’s a split-level; it has a pleasant brick facade; it boasts, if the season is right, a nicely maintained lawn.
2710 Thomes Avenue in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is also the physical address for a whole collection of shell companies. The spunky little split-level, Reuters put it in a 2011 investigation, ”serves as a little Cayman Island on the Great Plains.”
And here’s where things get interesting: Yesterday, the Cayman Island of the Great Plains collided—with China. Starting at 3:15pm local time, The Wall Street Journal reports, Chinese web users were redirected in their web searches—away from popular sites like Baidu and Weibo, and toward sites that they most decidedly had not sought out. The address for one of these was registered to a company called Dynamic Internet Technology, which helps users view sites, like Facebook and Twitter, that are blocked by the Great Firewall. (As Bill Xia, Dynamic Internet Technology’s founder, told the Journal: “It was hundreds of thousands of users per second. They were sending [all of] China to us, so it’s hundreds of millions of users.”) And even more traffic was rerouted to a block of IP addresses that are registered to a company called Sophidea Incorporated.
And what is Sophidea’s listed mailing address? Yep: 2710 Thomes Avenue in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The New York Times, in a widely circulated story headlined “Chinese Internet Traffic Redirected to Small Wyoming House,” calls the apparent censorship snafu ”one of the more bizarre twists in recent Internet memory.”
It is. It’s like that time, in 2002, that web searches for the social news portal Sina.com were briefly redirected to a site for … Falun Gong. The irony of the whole thing—epic #censorfail!—is, for those of us with First Amendment protections we can comfortably take for granted, irresistibly delicious.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/The Atlantic]
BEIJING — He may be an award-winning satirist in the United States, but in China, even Stephen Colbert is not beyond parody: A provincial TV channel in the country has produced a show that borrows rather liberally from the popular American program.
The Banquet, broadcast on Ningxia Satellite TV, lifted the entire opening credits and other graphics from The Colbert Report. Everything from the host’s entrance—flying down the screen as English words buzz past—to the star-spangled background is mimicked, and even the show’s theme music, the guitar riff from “Baby Mumbles” by Cheap Trick, is reproduced note for note.
Online, Chinese were quick to criticize the rebranded show—once known by the staid name Guandian Zhisheng (Comment Matters)— which debuted this January.
Read more. [Image: Xu Mengge/Sina Weibo]
BEIJING — At the Luding Bridge, the site of the single most celebrated event on China’s Long March, I was the lone foreigner in a group of boisterous, chain-smoking government officials. They reeked of baijiu, a fiery grain alcohol, and hollered to each other so loudly that I couldn’t hear the private tour guide. One of the cadres reached into a battle display to wrest a rifle out of the hands of an inanimate Red Army soldier. “It won’t budge!” he yelled. When I revealed that I was retracing the Long March by motorcycle, the men, who carried designer money pouches, shouted drunken reactions: “Are you sure you’re not Chinese?” cried a burly cadre in a sleek leather jacket. “You must really love Chairman Mao! We should make you a Party member!”
In 1934, an estimated 86,000 soldiers in the Communist Red Army decamped from their Soviet-style base in Jiangxi province in an attempt to escape from Chiang Kai-shek and his encircling Nationalist Army. The desperate retreat, which Mao Zedong later ingeniously labeled the “Long March,” lasted four trying seasons and crossed 11 provinces. Along the way, the marchers traversed snow-capped peaks in their bare feet and used dilapidated wooden rifles—if they were armed at all—to defend themselves against the Nationalists’ machine guns and U.S.-supplied arsenal.
Today, the Long March is the closest thing the People’s Republic has to a national creation myth. It was during this trek that Mao solidified his position in the Communist Party leadership, and to this day, in a nod to symbolism, Chinese leaders often announce new policies from key sites along the famous route. For decades, the Long March has been a critical element of the Communist propaganda narrative, providing the Party with a veneer of ruggedness and frugality at a time when its top leaders have become a pampered elite.
This summer, in an attempt to better understand the Long March’s evolving legacy in contemporary China, I retraced the entire route by motorcycle, traveling from Jiangxi province to Yan’an, the Shaanxi city that served as the Communist headquarters from 1936 to 1948.
Read more. [Image: Adam Century]
Located near Beijing, the mock-Alpine village of “Spring Legend” has houses, restaurants, shops—and few people.
Read more. [Image: Phoebe Strom]
China is preparing to surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy, in purchasing power parity terms. Already its economy is 80 percent the size of ours, and if current growth rate differentials persist, it will take China only about four more years to surpass us. At market exchange rates, China’s GDP is smaller, and is expected to remain less than ours until 2028. This is hardly surprising. After all, China has four times as many people as the U.S.; if every Chinese worker were to earn the U.S. minimum wage, its GDP would be larger than ours. That is not a very high bar. With that economic size comes military power and global cultural clout.China’s awe-inspiring rise is often framed as the return to a historical norm. A common belief is that for most of the last 5,000 years, China was the world’s center of wealth, culture, technology, and power. The 19th and 20th centuries, we are told, were a brief aberration, and China is now simply retaking its rightful place as the world’s preeminent nation. This trope gives China a certain air of inevitability.
The problem is, it’s not really accurate.Read more. [Image: Reuters]
As if a nasty bribery scandal in Mexico was not enough to deal with, Walmart is now embroiled in a fox-meat scandal in China. Over the holidays, I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, and now just can’t help but imagine Walmart CEO Mike Duke exclaiming, “Those feisty foxes!”
According to a Chinese saying, “In heaven there is dragon meat, and on earth there is donkey meat.” But it has to be pure donkey meat, straight up.
Read more. [Image: SKsogang/Flickr]
Last Friday, Chinese president Xi Jinping walked into Qingfeng restaurant in western Beijing and, after waiting in line, ordered six pork buns, one dish of fried pig liver, and one vegetable dish. After paying 21 yuan (about $3.50) in cash, Xi ate his meal at a communal table and chatted with customers before departing.
Initially, Chinese Internet users suspected the photos of the event were fake—earlier this year, a story that Xi had personally hailed a Beijing cab proved to be a hoax—but once China’s official news agencies confirmed their veracity, the images went viral. The next day, customers flocked to the Qingfeng restaurant, and, after braving a line that snaked out the door, ordered the exact meal their president had eaten.
In China, where important officials seldom mingle with the general public, Xi’s casual lunch showed fresh evidence of his populist streak.
Read more. [Image: Sina Weibo]
Today was the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth, and as the event is celebrated in grand style in Beijing and around China, images of the Chairman are even more ubiquitous than usual this week: A rumored $2.5 billion was invested in celebrations in honor of the figure whose portrait watches over Tiananmen Square and is fastened to the gate of the Forbidden City.
In spite of the birthday celebrations, Mao’s status is marked by a growing ambivalence. Officially, a Communist Party Resolution dictated by Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s successor, declared that Mao was 70 percent right, and 30 percent wrong (with the most grievous errors being the disasters of the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward). And this mixed legacy makes it hard to pin down exactly what about Mao Party leaders want to celebrate, and what about him they don’t. Who could have anticipated this?
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
On the dictator’s 120th birthday, Sidney Rittenberg—whose life story entwines with the turbulent history of the People’s Republic—describes his interactions with the man who still dominates China 37 years after his death.
Read more. [Image: Sidney Rittenberg]