Wednesday, 15 December 2010

BEDiD 16: Chinese Democracy

Finally! I'm online again. Not even half way through my BEDiD project and a Chinese person just HAS to get awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, BBC is blocked, my VPN is blocked and chances of managing to actually Blog Every Day in December are thwarted. Damn you Liu Xiaobo!

Throughout British media and Western media in general, there was a common theme through most of the commentary of the award, 'this is the start of the beginning,' that the awarding of this prize is that start of the democratic train that will ride through the Red East. I'm sorry to burst the bubble of The Guardian's China column, but democracy as we know it in the west is far from heading anywhere near China's direction.

On a side note; don't you think it's quite ironic that the most left leaning paper we have in the West is probably the most anti-Chinese one?

The problem with the West's desire for China to become democratic is simple, but quite large; the average person on the street does not want it.

When you speak to Chinese they will say that yes, they want a freer press, uncensored internet (the fact they can't get on Facebook, especially for those who have been abroad is a particular soft spot) and an end to corruption, but democracy is very often not on the list.

Even in the Tian'anmen Square protests of 1989, when scores of young students descended on the largest public square in the world, the protests were mainly for an improvement in student teaching conditions and less corruption. Western media decided, however, to focus on the minority that were asking for democratisation.

The fact is, and I think I tend to agree with this, democracy in China would not work. The country is too vast, has too many problems (including poverty and workers' rights) and would probably end up breaking up in the event of democratization. China would not have enjoyed the vast economic development it has had in the past 20 years if it had had to endure a change of government every 5 years. It would thus not have lifted the millions of people out of poverty that it has. Communism in China, though it had a shaky start, has ultimately done a lot of good for the country.

We should also remember that, though the Nobel Peace Prize is invariably given to fantastic and deserving people, which person is chosen is very often politically motivated. Obama last year, selected after a laughably short time in office, is a good example, "Oh, you're not George Bush any more, here, have a medal!"

It does annoy me sometimes when Western media goes on about how Chinese democracy is only a couple of decades away when they have never lived here or bothered to talk to the people who make up with vast land. It also annoys me when I can't write my blog. So basically, I'm ticked off at both sides right now.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

BEDiD 9: My Reading Teacher

This is a strange time of year in Nanjing. Everyone is getting ready for exams, the majority are gearing up for going home for Christmas where those of us who are going to be left over are frantically trying to figure out who else is staying and what the hell we are going to do in a city where there is only one Christmas tree.

The teachers start to get all funny too. This is a much shorter semester than usual for them, they would usually be teaching until new years if they were teaching Chinese students, and some of them misjudging the amounts of classes they had to do, adding or taking away a class or two just before the exams.

Those that decide to cut the classes short fill up the spare time with whatever they can think of, films, class discussions, in class karaoke sessions or, like my reading teacher the other day, long anecdotes about their lives.

Our class had an hour long of what felt like an outpour, as if she had wanted to tell people about her life for such a long time. She told us about her studies, how she got into her job, but one of the most shocking things she told us was that, even though she is a Chinese language teacher, she hates reading.

She said it had never been something fun for her, it was always something she had felt she had had to do so as to get to the next level, the Gaokao exam at the end of high school, her bachelors exams, then her masters. And she said she didn't like it, that the job she was doing wasn't the one she really wanted, even though she did describe it as, "还可以," which essentially means 'not bad'.

She went on to say she thought we must be really hard working and love to study because western students are here by choice, not because they have been pushed into it. She said we were very lucky, and we are.

I teach a kid who is 10 years of age and never has an evening off. He does karate, piano, English and extra maths classes every night of the week. Is this because he wants to and is interested in it? No, he does it because that is what he and his parents feel he should have to do to get a foot up int he world.

It puts into perspective some figures that put Shanghai schools as the best in the world, with Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea hot on their tails.

Yes, these kids are excelling in reading, writing and science, but how many of them are having their learning experiences ruined by society demanding so much of them. Without the freedom that so many of us take for granted in the West to have your own interests and follow your own ambitions, how many of them will end up like my reading teacher?

There is a very important vote in parliament today. It will pass. It is wrong. There will be riots.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

BEDiD 8: Ecuadorian Amazon

It's been a long day today. Had some iffy family news and was revising for exams all day. Was productive, but didn't have a lot of time to consider a blog, so today will be a bit of a cop out.

I want to link you to a story where the Ecuadorian government has managed to get the international community to compensate them for laying aside oil field located in the amazon rainforest. They have asked for what they estimate to be half the yearly profits per anum if they were to capitalise on the oil fields US$3.6billion. Germany, Spain, France, Sweden and Switzerland, are some countries that have stepped forward to provide the compensation. The plan has two main benefits; leaving the oil for future generations and protecting ons of the most intact parts of the Amazon in Ecuador. In principle it sounds like a fantastic idea, but do you think it is a practice that will catch on in other regions? Have a read here and feel free to tell me your thoughts.

Proper blogs coming soon, but you know I enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

BEDiD 7: Wikileaks

So I said I would talk about Wikileaks and so I will. I would like for you to start with this

I am usually not the biggest fan of Dan Brown, but his video on this is actually very well thought out and, quite rightly, focuses on the serious consequences of the Wikileaks fiasco rather than the fact Prince Andrew hates the French. Dan raises a good point that Wikileaks, as a media organisation in a democracy, has the right to release these documents. However, the serious question behind the comments of British paranoia about the 'special relationship' and the fact that Kim Jong-il likes a drink, is whether people's lives have been put as risk.

Not only soldiers on the front line, but under-cover spies, activists and journalists could all have their jobs and lives put in jeopardy. At least that is what the argument insists.

We can, however, draw a comparison, because Wikileaks were kind enough to release US defence department data at the end of last summer. It has been reported in various publications and stated by several politicians that no deaths on the field are yet to have been linked directly to the exposure of sensitive data through the website on that occasion.

In fact, the USA has a long and colourful history of releases of sensitive information; from the release of sensitive documents on the Vietnam War released by the New York Times in 1971 to pictures of prison camps in Iraq in 2004, (The UK has also been rocked by similar pictorial releases in the past).

So does the US administration have the right to be angry, of course it does, they have massively lost face. Some of the scandals are down right embarrassing for all parties, albeit a wonderful reminder that even those in the top jobs are still only human and like to have a gossip about each other.

I do not think anything overtly world changing will come from the release of these documents. Governments and diplomats know that they are going to be talked about, sometimes ungraciously, behind their backs, and no-one can afford to make a fuss about things the bully in the school yard said when they weren't listening.

History speaks for itself, showing the chances of massive losses of life on the field as a result of these leaks are low.

So, what do you think about it?

Monday, 6 December 2010

BEDiD 6: Productive Procrastination?

Revision is the bane of my existence. Well, not so much revision, but the whole exam period in general. Without nudging and competition I very often find any excuse not to work. A plus side, however, is that I become very productive on other things. I've spent the last four hours boxing, reading blogs, researching universities and doing travel research. I am now getting ready for bed, but of course, tomorrow I will be much more productive in the way of learning things that will help me scrape through my exams.

I will blog about something more interesting tomorrow, I promise, but in the mean time check out this radio series I found on the BBC, Climate Connection, talking about climate change and what we can do to solve it. I'd like to draw your attention to this particular episode, there is a very interesting section talking about how religion and climate change are linked, as well as this interesting interview with a Kenyan farmer. Do let me know what you think.

Sorry today's blog is so short. Despite my procrastination in the last few hours it has been a long day, my brain is slightly fizzled. Night night.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

BEDiD 5: The Future

I must apologise to any musicians out there for my post yesterday. I had no idea that Spotify was such a shit deal! I had my views put right by Dave from Blue Skies and my guilt about not being able to afford real music is freshly restored. In retrospect, everyone buy physical or from iTunes, Dave linked a pretty chart in the comments yesterday that explains the best way to benefit the artist quite well.

This blog is as much for me as it is for you, it's a nice place to put down my thoughts and look back at them later (I have been doing it with a couple of my blog posts from years back, it's interesting to see how terrible my spelling is without Chrome auto-checking). I have been thinking a lot about my future recently, what I am going to do after I graduate in summer 2012, and what the hell I am going to do with my life.

I, like a lot of people, change my mind a lot about what I want to do. Things like teaching and politics interest me, but they are things I might want to go into when I want to settle down in one place, I'm not ready to do that yet. In terms of teaching, I know I can do that and that I am good at it, it is always something I can fall back on. I also went through a phase of wanting to go into some kind of journalism, but I have had quite a few brushes with the industry that I haven't liked. I don't like the mentality of the industry and, no offence if you work in that sector, but I think journalism has a lot of less than nice people in it. I don't want to have to work with or for dickheads for the rest of my life. I don't take bullshit very well (excuse my French). YouTube and the online thing is always something fun that I would want to do, but let's be honest, I'm no Buck or Charlie. I'm not going to be able to make a living out of it. I do know it is a hobby I will always want to dip in and out of though.

At the moment I am weighing up two sectors that I might want to go into. Both require me to go on to further my education.

I have been toying with maybe doing a law conversion course and doing that. I think I would be good at it and it is something that will challenge me and make me feel like I am making a difference. I would want to go into something like human rights, international treaty or environmental law. All are incredibly competitive and the kind of thing most people who start out in law want to do. It is also a lot more study before I go into the real world. Between five to seven years before I head out into the real world. Downsides; I don't know if I am comfortable spending so much more time in school and spending that much more money on my education. I also worry about the fact the profession involves an awful lot of reading. I'm not severely dyslexic (I can at least spell it) but I do struggle reading and summarising long texts, especially ones with lots of terminology. I'm not sure if I would be up to the amount of intensive reading that the studying and profession would require.

Number two on the table is doing a masters in something to do with Environmental Management. This is something that seems really suited to me; very hands on, makes me feel like I'm doing something worth while, I'm interested in the field etc. The problem is that my degree program at the moment is Chinese and Spanish, not really very related to a science based course. I could have trouble finding a course that will take me. They usually want something like biological sciences or geography for a course like that.

For both these options I would want to come back to Asia to study. If I can't get a scholarship to go anywhere it would involve getting out a pretty hefty loan but I am pretty sure that my immediate future is going to be here. I am not ready to settle down in the UK just yet. I have been looking at both University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong as well as the National University of Singapore.

If anyone could give me any pointers then feel free. The problem with both law and environment is that I don't know many people in those fields. I really need some advice from people who have been there and done it rather than just reading course bios and blogs about them. Also, any advice about good Universities in Asia would be greatly appreciated.

On a lighter note...

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 1.

People mountain people sea.

Chinese Root/ 人山人海 Rénshānrénhǎi

Meaning/ Literally "people mountain people sea", meaning "crowded", "packed"

Mary: Did you register for the Environmental Management course at NUS yesterday? There were loads of people, right?

Da pi: Yeah, it was really people mountain people sea!

NOTE: This is another one that Chinese like to use. Some Chinese people are so determined to prove that Chinese is also influencing English language, some teachers tell their students that not only "long time no see" comes from a translation of Chinese (好久不见 when translated literally does mean that, pretty sure it's just coincidence though) but that English speakers also go around saying that places are "people mountain people sea." We obviously don't, but it's fun to say.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

BEDiD 4: China Friendly Media Consumption

Just a quick one today. Have been out all day and am full of an expensive yet disappointingly average buffet. I was going to have a quick chat about the Wikileaks scandal, specifically the 'paranoia' of the British government towards our special relationship with America, I will save that for another day, some time in the next day or so.

In the mean time, I thought I would link you to some places on the Internet that I frequent a lot, and touch briefly on (ooh, split infinitive, controversial) why I like them. You see, Internet where I live has become temperamental, and accessing things like Youtube and other video sharingsights with a VPN has become mortifyingly tedious due to the necessity of using a VPN to jump over the infamous Great Fire Wall of China.

On a side note, I don't know why I even bothered to mention "other video sharing websites". I almost exclusively use the choob.

So, without further ado, here is Jazza's (ever so tiny)guide to China friendly media consumption:

BBC Radio 4
Oh BBC, oh Radio 4. How I love thee both with reckless abandon. Yes, I appreciate it is not socially acceptable to enjoy this station until you have at least got your first mortgage, but it is the best spoken word broadcaster in the world and good golly I love it. My regulars include Newshour in the morning as I get ready for University, an edition of Book at Bedtime or Any Questions? as I do my work in the afternoon, and then some comedy, either Just a Minute, News Quiz or The Now Show. Radio 4 is my life blood, I am not ashamed to say this.

TED is a fantastic institution. It shares talks given by some of the world's greatest minds for free on the Internet. Some personal favorites of mine are Pranev Mistry about the innovation of a sixth sense device, Simon Sinek on how to be a great innovator and leader and Ngosi Okonjo-Iweala on how to approach aid and trade in Africa.

Okay, it isn't really a website, but I think this is one of the most revolutionary ways to consume music to come about in the last few years. Your own personal radio, adverts are played every 5 songs or so and the artist gets paid as a result from the ad revenue. It also has a section at the top that has related artists to the one you are listening to. This way, I have gotten to know so many more artists than I would have otherwise done, and all legally and with benefit to the artist. I have never liked downloading for free. I'm sorry, it is stealing. This way I can listen to the music I enjoy and support the artist. I use it so much I never even bothered to reinstall iTunes when my computer crashed. Downside; it is only available in select countries. Find out if you can download it, and if you can, do so.
Okay, not so much media consumption, but a website I use a lot. As Spotify revolutionised my music consumption, couchsurfing revolutionised the way I travel. A friend of mine and I were travelling Japan earlier this year and were trying to keep prices down by not staying in too many hostels. I had a friend in Tokyo but nowhere else to stay when we traveled to other parts of the country. My friend had heard of couchsurfing and we used it once in Kyoto and once in Kobe and had two fantastic experiences. The premise is that you create a profile, get people you know who already use the site to verify that you are sane and then you can ask to stay on other people's 'couches' (sometimes bed, sometimes floor) as you travel. It's completely free, it is just asked that you are decent. If you end up not being decent someone will leave a bad review and the chances of you being accepted again will decrease. It's a fantastic way to travel and get to know a place from a local. There are often local events, I have one in Nanjing that I try and attend every Friday night, and it is a good way to meet interesting, like-minded people if you move to a new city; I used it in Madrid when I lived there this summer to both find a flat and find some people to hang out with. I recommend it whole heartedly. And if you're ever travelling round China and fancy popping into Nanjing, my username is JazzaJohn.

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 1.


Chinese Root/ 听不懂 Tīng bù dǒng

Meaning/ I don't understand

Mary: 你想闻我的狗的屁吗?

Da pi: Sorry love, tingbers.

Friday, 3 December 2010

BEDiD 3: The Fear in Their Eyes

There is something quite magical about travelling in China. No, it's not the stunning views that fly past as you steam along on the fastest commercial train in the world. No, it's not the array of historic and modern sights that greet you in cities across the country. It is the fear in the eyes of a fully grown businessman in Shanghai as he barges past the queue, launches himself into the carriage and positively dives for the nearest vacant seat, only then to suddenly become engrossed with something on his iPhone as an elderly lady with a hunchback and cane stands near him.

I love China, I adore the Chinese, but something about travel brings out the worst in these people. Getting on an off any kind of long haul transportation, be it train, bus or plane, is like a scene out of War of the Worlds. It is every man for himself, no matter whether you have a reserved seat or not, you MUST be the first person to board and get in your seat so you can sit there, smugly surveying the other, lesser passengers as they follow behind you.

The Chinese are not Japan or Korea; countries that politely queue as they wait for the subway, and that will scowl at you for talking on your mobile on the commute into work. A lot of the social structure and levels of respect that still reign true for their Eastern neighbours were stripped away during the cultural revolution. The Chinese will spit in the street, yell down the phone on the bus and barge you out of the way boarding the subway quite happily, and when you gently remind them of the social norms adhered to throughout the rest of the world, "There is a queue you know." They will do little more than say, "Oh," look back at the people they just jostled past with a huge grin, and then stand as still as a rock, facing forward, as if we will not notice them if they stop moving.

Okay, I appreciate this is not a purely Chinese phenomenon, these dog farts exist throughout the world, it is just a high proportion of those dog farts live here. And it is definitely not the minority who thunder towards the still moving bus like a tsunami as it pulls into its stop.

I am British. I am appalled when the world's most democratic symbol, the queue, is thrown out of the window.

So if you ever come here, just consider yourself warned, travel with a crash helmet and a bucket full of patience.

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 1.


Chinese Root/ 当然 , Dāngrán

Meaning/ "Of course", "Obviously"

Mary: If someone pushed in front of me in the queue for the subway, would you punch his lights out for me?

Da pi: Dangers!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

BEDiD 2: Who wins, Fifa decides

I am writing this post in a cafe to watch the presentations for the host nations of the 2018 Fifa World Cup. I've just watched the Olympic Russian pole vaulter, Yelena Isinbayeva, declare that "actually, I love football!" I've always found something very unconvincing about when people say things like that. The rest of the Russian bid is actually very impressive compared to Belgium/Netherlands who seemed to take the whole thing as a joke, and Spain/Portugal who took the whole thing far too seriously. After the presentations it looks like it's England and Russia fighting it out. I pray to God England get it.

I am not going to pretend it isn't for purely selfish reasons. After the fantastic atmosphere that is going to be the 2014 world cup in Brazil, a true football loving nation, my claim that England provides a country with geniune history with and passion for the game falls flat on its face. It makes sense to go for a Russian bid that will bring the worlds biggest competition to a new part of the world, look at the wonder South Africa performed this year.

The fact we are the hosts of the 2012 Olympic games also tips the scales in favour of a fair result going to Russia. "Share and share alike" my Mum used to say when I played Power Rangers with my brother, the same goes for international sporting events.

There is also a quote from David Beckham that said that we should win the bid because we have the infrastructure and stadiums so that if we wanted to we could host the event next week. This may be true, but the event isn't going to be enxt week, and Russia is investing a huge amount in stadias and infrastructure. Ticket holders get free visas and ground travel between venues.

And lets be honest, the Tube really needs a revamp and our trains are always delayed by mushy leaves on the line.

One thing England can be proud of though, someone has taught Mr. Beckham to talk! He was quite eloquent in his presentation. Bravo.

So when I think about it, bugger it, we don't deserve it more than the Russians. But Fifa, please, for purely my own selfish, nationalistic reasons, please let the place of my birth host the world cup. It gives me an excuse to cry in public and climb on buildings in celebration.


Well, we lost. No doubt in my mind, England for 2018 and Australia for 2022 were the best contenders, but from the countries that Fifa has chosen it seems clear they want to promote the game in new regions and take football into new frontiers. This is important if football is to truly be considered a sport that brings together the world like no other. The world cup has been the glory of a very elite few countries, it is important that others are included.

Both Qatar and Russia will have a lot to loose if they bugger this up, the world will be relying on them. Let's hope they deliver.

I'm now going to try and forget we ever entered with a bowl of porridge, cup of Chinese medicine and some Radio 4.

In the mean time...

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 2.

"Oh my Lady Gaga!"

Root/ Following Gaga's rise to deity on the Asian continent, Chinese youth have replaced the Lord's name with that of our new figure of worship, Lady ride on my disco stick Gaga

Meaning/ "Oh my God", "Oh, my goodness", "Oh golly gosh!"

Mary: Did you hear that Russia are hosting the 2018 World Cup over England?

Da pi: Oh my Lady Gaga! I have links with the Mafia, I'm well in there with free tickets!

Notes: No joke, you will genuinely hear Chinese kids on the street saying this.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

BEDiD 1: Blog Every Day in December

Well, hasn't it been a long time?

Believe me when I say I have missed you, the Internet, the videos, the blogs, the comments, the scathing hate, the unadulterated praise, the healthy banter, all of it. And as a result of me missing it (especially in recent months) I have decided, not on a storming comeback, but on a steady drip, drip, drip back into the virtual world of the Interwebz. This little mini-project, Blog Every Day in December (BEDiD, as I shall now name it) is the first step in getting me back on the proverbial wagon.

See, I feel all excited already, I have a 'project'! It's like I'm Dan 3.0... just without Revision 3 or the plethora of fans.

December, I hope, is going to be a particularly interesting month for me. I shall be finishing my third semester here at Nanjing University, having a Chinese Christmas and going travelling at the end of the month. I also hope to be set to return to YouTube in the new year (fingers crossed), so I should have plenty to talk about.

If, however, you would like me to talk about anything in particular (just like the good old days, ah, remember when I made videos and we talked? Good times) then send me an email to

At the end of each post I will have a lighthearted little entry in what I hope to soon become The Great Book of Chinglish, comprising of words that friends of mine and I have come accustomed to using when we live in China, but when used amongst non-Chinese speaking friends, are generally greeted with confusion.

The Great Book of Chinglish, Entry 1.

Buzh - [booj/ booge]

Chinese Root/ 不知道 , bù zhīdào

Meaning/ "I don't know"

Mary: Would you agree with Mao's declaration that capitalism is all dogs' farts?

Da pi: Buzh, I never read that red book thing, I went to the shops and all they had was the French version...