Tagchina

Jehova’s Witness finds freedom to think in totalitarian China

Former Jehova’s Witness Amber Scorah on how being a missionary in China changed her life:

When I got to China, things were really different, by necessity. Pro-selytizing is illegal. Religious meetings are banned. The preaching work and congregation meetings have to be conducted underground. This means that the handful of Witnesses in Shanghai can meet only covertly, which makes seeing each other more than once a week next to impossible. Preaching in the usual structured, door-to-door fashion is also, obviously, out of the question. For me, a Witness accustomed to a life of uniform routine, this seemed like an unprecedented adventure.

A couple of weeks after I arrived in Shanghai, I received a cryptic text message from a man who called himself James (some of us used fake names; we knew the Chinese government monitored electronic correspondence). He proposed meeting in a noisy local restaurant in the French Concession. I called his number when I got to the restaurant and he waved so I would know him. We chatted a few minutes, then he immediately got down to business. With a practiced manner, he explained the instructions from the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses as to how to conduct my missionary work. I was to find a job, perhaps teaching English, as a cover. Then I was to start cultivating relationships with worldly people, both Chinese and Westerners. These friendships were to be made with the sole purpose of religious conversion.

This sounded crazy to me. Every day of my life I’d been taught to stay away from these people, and I had. I was the person who made excuses not to lunch with coworkers. Who never kissed the boy who loved me in high school. I was the one who didn’t join after-school sports or attend birthday parties or my prom, all for fear of contamination. But I had my instructions; there was no other choice.

Full Story: The Believer: Leaving the Witness

(via Metafilter)

The 10 Stealth Trends That Rule the World Today

Interesting. Here are the trends, the full article has more details:

1) Old Trend: Expensive solar, surviving only on subsidies.
New Trend: Cheap solar, disrupting old industries.

2. Old Trend: The Latinization of America.
New Trend: The Asiafication of America.

3. Old Trend: The Chinese population bomb.
New Trend: The Chinese population bust.

4. Old Trend: Soaring U.S. CO2 emissions.
New Trend: Plummeting U.S. CO2 emissions.

5. Old Trend: College is becoming more and more important.
New Trend: College is no more important than before.

6. Old Trend: Americans drive more and more.
New Trend: Americans drive less and less.

7. Old Trend: Skyrocketing health care costs, skyrocketing deficits.
New Trend: Creeping health care costs, creeping deficits.

8. Old Trend: The BRICs are conquering the world.
New Trend: China is the only BRIC in the wall.

9. Old Trend: Active management rules the finance universe.
New Trend: Passive investment rules the finance universe.

10) Old Trend: China is buying up all our debt.
New Trend: China is selling off our debt.

Full Story: The Atlantic: The 10 Stealth Economic Trends That Rule the World Today

(Thanks Tim)

How to Do Asian Steampunk Right

Zheng Yi Sao, 19th centry female pirate
Zheng Yi Sao, 19th centry female pirate

Jess Nevins wrote an article on “the problem with Asian steampunk.” Nevins points out that most people default to ninjas, samurai and geishas when they try to do Asian steampunk, but there’s a much richer world of possibilities. “Pirates, submarine captains, hard-boiled reporters, female private detectives… these are all part of east Asian history and popular culture in the steampunk era. Steampunk writers and cosplayers, expand your horizons!”

Here are some examples:

  • Zeppelin pirates are a staple of steampunk, but nautical pirates were a reality in the waters of Southeast Asia. Notable among these were the female pirates, from Zheng Yi Sao and Cai Qian in the beginning of the 19th century to Lo Hon Cho and Lai Choi San in the early part of the 20th century. These women were captains and admirals, commanding dozens of ships and leading them into battle from the front, gaining reputations as fierce fighters. According to a contemporary Chinese account Cai Qian Ma even commanded ships with crews of niangzijun, “women warriors.”
  • The hardboiled, crime-solving reporter was a part of Western mystery fiction from the 1880s, but in real life there were large numbers of reporters just like that in China, especially Shanghai, where the competition between newspapers was intense and reporters and editors did anything they could for a hot scoop. These newspapers were modeled on American and English newspapers, and though many of them were aimed at the Europeans in China, some were written by Chinese for Chinese.
  • Roguish treasure-hunters need not automatically be white. Since the 11th century there has been a tradition among Nyingma Buddhists in Bhutan and Tibet of a special class of lamas, the gter-ston or “treasure hunters,” who “discover” gter-ma (scriptural treasures) which have supposedly been hidden away during the Buddha’s lifetime so that they can be found and revealed to the world at a foreordained time. The gter-ston were active through the 19th century, and while some were genuine many were fraudulent.

TOR: The Problem With “Asian Steampunk”

Chinese Prisons Forcing Inmates to “Gold Farm” in Online Games

Gold farming

As a prisoner at the Jixi labour camp, Liu Dali would slog through tough days breaking rocks and digging trenches in the open cast coalmines of north-east China. By night, he would slay demons, battle goblins and cast spells.

Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for “illegally petitioning” the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.

The Guardian: China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work

Japanese Scientist Produces an Artificial Alternative to Rare Earth Minerals (Specifically Palladium)

Palladium

The world–and particularly the Japanese–may be in a frenzy over China’s newly announced 35% cut in rare earth exports, those used to produce many high-tech devices, in the first half of this year. But a Japanese scientist has found one answer: Create the metals artificially.

Professor Hiroshi Kitagawa of Kyoto University has announced that he and his team of researchers have artificially produced a metal similar to palladium, a material commonly used in catalytic converters. In his lab, Kitagawa used a heating method to produce ultramicroscopic metal particles, ultimately mixing the usually resistant rhodium and silver to create the palladium-like metal.

Fast Company: Rare Earth Race: A Japanese Scientist Produces an Artificial Alternative

Meanwhile: U.S. rare earth mine resumes active mining

China, Exporter of 99% of Certain Rare Earth Metals, to Reduce Exports of Rare Earth Metals in 2011

rare earth minerals

Emphasis mine:

China’s commerce ministry announced on Tuesday in Beijing a steep reduction in export quotas for rare earth metals in the first months of next year, a move that threatens to cause further difficulties for manufacturers already struggling with short supplies and soaring prices.

The reduction in quotas for the early months of 2011 — a 35 percent drop in tonnage from the first half of this year — is the latest in a series of measures by Beijing that has gradually curtailed much of the world’s supply of rare earths.

China mines more than 95 percent of the global supply of the metals, which are essential for smartphones, electric cars, many computer components and a range of military hardware. In addition, the country mines 99 percent of the least common rare earths, the so-called heavy rare earths that are used in trace amounts but are crucial to many clean energy applications and electronics.

New York Times: China to Tighten Limits on Rare Earth Exports in Early 2011

The good news, if there is any, is that there are mines for these minerals in other countries that could go back into production if China seriously curbs its exports: “Japanese companies account for half the world’s consumption outside China and have some stockpiles, but have kept secret the size of these stockpiles.”

(Via Bill Whitcomb)

China 2013: the Controversial Novel Rocking China’s Intelligentsia

The Gilded Age: China 2013

The novel, first published in Hong Kong in late 2009, caused quite a stir on Chinese websites early this year. For instance, Hecaitou, one of the most influential bloggers in the country, wrote in January that the book “once and for fall settles the majority of Internet quarrels” on what China’s tomorrow will be like. At the time, the book was only available in Hong Kong. But after interest grew apace in Chinese cyberspace, the author himself “pirated” his rights from his own publisher in Hong Kong to let Chinese mainlanders read it online for free. Since February, numerous digital versions of the novel have circulated and sparked heated discussions on the Chinese Internet.

Foreign Policy: China 2013

(via Chris Arkenberg)

Tibetans May Represent Fastest Case of Human Evolution

Tibetan monks

Tibetans live at altitudes of 13,000 feet, breathing air that has 40 percent less oxygen than is available at sea level, yet suffer very little mountain sickness. The reason, according to a team of biologists in China, is human evolution, in what may be the most recent and fastest instance detected so far. […]

If confirmed, this would be the most recent known example of human evolutionary change. Until now, the most recent such change was the spread of lactose tolerance — the ability to digest milk in adulthood — among northern Europeans about 7,500 years ago. But archaeologists say that the Tibetan plateau was inhabited much earlier than 3,000 years ago and that the geneticists’ date is incorrect.

New York Times: Scientists Cite Fastest Case of Human Evolution

(Thanks David Forbes)

(Photo by waterwin / CC)

China Likes “Microblogging,” Not “Twitter”

Not surprisingly, China still supports the so-called “Great Firewall” approach to controlling and censoring Internet content, but also oddly mentions Twitter as a favorable development for Chinese Internet citizens. Why is that odd? Because China routinely blocks Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking services from being accessible to Chinese citizens.

The Twitter mention, cited by a number of news agencies including the AP and WSJ, appeared in the English language version of the document released on Tuesday. It appears to have been a translation error since the Chinese language document only touted “microblog” services, and did not specify Twitter specifically. (It also appears to have since been removed on the document hosted here.)

ReadWriteWeb: China Likes Twitter (What?), but Will Still Censor It

See also:

How the Net aids dictatorships

Read-Only Facebook Coming to Your Company?

Cyber warfare: don’t inflate it, don’t underestimate it

inside cyber warfare

Interview with Inside Cyber Warfare author Jeffrey Carr:

MS: For China in particular: what are the things to consider and what are the things to look out for?

JC: China clearly has a lot of problems internally. Their economy is growing, but it’s still relatively fragile and highly dependent on the U.S. The difference in economic conditions varies radically from the countryside to the cities. On the other hand, they own over a trillion dollars of U.S. debt. That gives them incredible leverage. So that’s a balancing act that’s going to be very interesting to watch, especially over this Google issue. But they’ll never concede to eliminating censorship on their Internet. They’ll walk away from Google if that’s what it takes.

People inflate fear about China, but China has no interest in attacking the U.S. They want the same things that any country would want. And they’re going about it the same way that we would go about it. We’re doing espionage. We’re looking after our interests. We’re exerting our will as a nation. It’s silly to try to take the moral high ground here. It doesn’t serve any useful purpose.

MS: One of the interesting points that came out of the Google-China analysis is the idea that Google has its own foreign policy now. Do you think that’s the case?

JC: Honestly, I don’t see it as anything new. The idea of a new, more sophisticated attack against Google that we’ve never seen before, I think that’s overblown. The idea that you have hackers who gain entrance to a network and then exploit data from that network, that’s not new. This is all just espionage. Google is just another company that has something of value.

But Google does represent a turning point because it’s getting so much press. It’s raising the issue to the point where the U.S State Department got involved. That’s all good.

Read More – O’Reilly Radar: Cyber warfare: don’t inflate it, don’t underestimate it

(via Chris Arkenberg)

See also:

US oil industry hit by cyberattacks: Was China involved?

Bruce Sterling on cyberwar and cyberpeace treaties.

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