2003: Instant Messaging at the Time of SARS — Sarcasm and the Leadership

Instant Messages at the Time of SARS —  Sarcasm and the Leadership

Cell phone messaging relayed much information and misinformation throughout China during the 2002 – 2003 SARS epidemic . The government found that sarcastic attacks on government officials spread very quickly through cellphone instant messaging.   Up to that time, instant messaging  and the information services on it seemed much less controlled then the Internet was in China.  The Party and government learned its lesson from the SARS epidemic. Afterwards the media watchdogs turned their attention to cell phone messaging, adding monitoring, filtering and even at times “cool it” warnings and informative messages sent out by the local government or police to the populace.

Cell phone messaging had already become a big business in China. The cell phone companies even employed staff poets to create elegant sayings that people can exchange with one another. Incurring telecommunications charges, of course. This early cellphone poetry may have inspired others to turn their hand to it. The poem spread virally as many people waited anxiously at home.  Their distrust of official news media made the messages all the more credible.

Criticizing the regime is one thing, but laughing at it is probably even more serious.

Here are some examples of popular poetry/doggerel that circulated in China during SARS.

Beijing Voices on SARS: Instant Messages Translated

A translation of a collection of cell phone instant messages transcribed on emails now circulating in China.  Some of these class messages can be found in Chinese at http://chinese.wooster.edu/files/jokefolder/sars.gb.html


Beijing has already become an area that has “fallen” to SARS. The cell phone tribe doesn’t feel lonely for it exchanges instant messages of friendship, to please themselves and others, which reflect the feelings of Beijing people these days.

The Instant Message Closest to the Masses:

Until we met SARS we didn’t realize how valuable breathing free really is!
Until we wore a face mask, we didn’t realize how valuable our true face is!
Our thoughts during the emergency period show just how valuable friendship really is!

The Simplest Instant Message

White radish, tangerine skin, ginger, scallion bulb, and coriander stir out spirit. To help protect everyone’s respiratory passages, we resort to fire and water. We suggest everyone drink hot soup.

Most Classic Short Message (Lost Something in Translation):

A web citizen who buries himself in the classics discovered that China’s first reference to SARS [abbreviated feidian for “atypical” — literally not classic] is in the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. Cao Cao was suddenly attacked, but Dian Wei gave his life to save Cao Cao. After Cao Cao was out of danger, he realized that Dian Wei had no weapon. Cao Cao cried out. “Dian was awesome! If I had not Dian [feidian — SARS abbreviation] I would certainly have died!”

[For more on Dian Wei see http://www.kongming.net/novel/sgyy/dianwei.php ]

Most Melodious Rhyme [but not a melodious translation]

SARS is so very dangerous
Some are already afflicted
To avoid harm
We must wear a mask
But only by maintaining a calm state of mind
Can we avoid being harmed by SARS
Finally I wish you happiness each and every day.

Moonlight thick as wine
The colors of spring, the wind in the willows
The peach blossoms opened some time ago
Don’t know if you noticed
A virus very rare arose
Now chaos is everywhere!
Never mind. Just disinfect by washing your hands.

The Instant Message Most Like a Story:

The old lady who has heard so much about SARS [ pronounced feidian, the same pronunciation as “waste electricity” in Mandarin Chinese], said “If you don’t want to waste electricity, then don’t turn on the lights!” Beijing citizens, politically aware as they are, would not forget to look out for political trends even in the middle of the SARS epidemic. Here are a few examples:
Idealism chapter

[A parody of former Chinese Communist Party Secretary Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents” philosophy — that the Chinese Communist Party represents advanced productive forces, advanced culture and the interests of the vast majority of the Chinese people.  For background on the Three Represents see http://www.iisg.nl/~landsberger/jzmt.html ]

The “Three Represents” of SARS

SARS represents the demand of a special virus for development.
SARS represents the advancement of a culture of terror
SARS represents the basic interests of the broad masses of wild animals

Political Chapter

The Center is so troubled
This has already brought some officials low
Too bad about the Minister of Health
His numbers were a bit too low
That Party Secretary Xuenong
Didn’t do his job well.
The core of the fourth generation leadership, Chairman Hu Jintao
Only wants the efforts to halt the epidemic to bear some fruit
But it is late! News of more cases arrives, with still more to come!

[Note: The reference Xuenong is to Meng Xuenong, the Beijing mayor who was fired along with the Health Minister to take the blame for the SARS cover up.]

Bureaucratic Chapter

The Party can’t stop officials from eating and drinking at public expense
but SARS did!
The Party can’t stop junketeering officials,
but SARS did!
The Party can’t stop endless futile meetings,
but SARS did!
The Party can’t stop the deception of superiors and the cheating of subordinates,
but SARS did!
The Party can’t stop prostitution,
but SARS did!

“党治不了的, 非典都治”

Epidemic Situation Message

Guandong got SARS then Beijing caught it
The government isn’t so strict now, so the media dares to speak up
Many people have SARS now, the hospitals are full
The doctors and nurses are having a tough time,
the front line shock troops confronting danger
The masses are scared out of their wits,
wearing masks to cover their faces
International organizations have come to take charge,
SARS will soon be brought under control
Take your Chinese medicine boiled in the pot,
be sure to get some exercise.

PRC National anthem [“Marching Song of the Volunteers” parody message]

Arise, you people who don’t want to get SARS, make our contributions an anti-SARS Great Wall. The Chinese nation is at the moment of its greatest peril, everyone must yell their loudest yell, Close our doors!, Close our buildings!, Seal off our city!

[The real “Marching Song of the Volunteers” a song of popular resistance to Japanese invaders that became the PRC national anthem.  A elderly Taiwanese man told me that some residents of Taipei sang it to welcome the KMT coming to Taiwan in late 1945 — only to discover later that it wasn’t a song the KMT liked to hear!]

Arise, Ye who refuse to be slaves!
With our very flesh and blood,
Let us build our new Great Wall!
The peoples of China are in the most critical time,
From each one the urgent call for action comes forth.
Millions of souls with one heart,
Braving the enemy’s gunfire, March on!
Braving the enemy’s gunfire, March on!
March on!
March on!
On!    ]

Poetry Chapter

In the capital city Beijing
Sickness for one thousand li all round
The virus now spreads ten thousand li
Both within the city wall and without
People’s hearts are trembling
About the City wall there is a great clamor
People eat isastis root to fortify themselves
They eat their vitamins
The will to health and SARS test one another
No peaceful days
As I watch the gloves and the face masks
selling out so very quickly

Posted in History 历史, Literature 文学, Politics 政治, Society 社会 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2010: Ran Yunfei — “How I Lived My Life in the Year 2010”

I translated this 2010 online article by Chengdu writer Ran Yunfei 冉云飞 when I lived in Chengdu. Ran Yunfei’s writing cover a wide range of topics in literature, history, education and society. While he avoids direct commentary on Chinese politics, naturally as a moral person he finds it difficult to avoid the topic.

See for example,

How I Lived My Life in the Year 2010   检讨我的2010年

by Ran Yunfei

I have the habit of writing a diary and a blog every day. It is how I record everything and practice my writing. What I write on my blog isn’t just for my own benefit. I also hope that it can also help society in some small way. I have no great political ambitions, my attitude towards politics is that of Mr. Hu Shi — “I don’t have any interest in being interested in politics.” I don’t have any moral scruples against getting involved in politics. I am just not interested in it personally. I don’t believe that politics is dirtier than other fields of human endeavor, assuming that the political system is a fairly good one.

In other words, what I like best is to read books, write, travel, drink wine, and enjoying myself — as I said once in an interview with a Danish television station, what I really want to be doing is not criticizing the government. In a free country I would happily spend my life in the library doing research. But I live in a country where I cannot in good conscience merely live such a a life. I feel that I have no alternative. I have to voice my criticisms of our messed up social reality. Otherwise I would be uneasy. I would not be able to sleep well. I would feel that I was not paying my dues.

Naturally, as I just said, my reason for criticizing the government and the system is to be a free person to fight for my own rights. That is, every individual has for the sake of their own rights both the duty and the motivation to criticize. We should not expect other to stand up and fight for our own rights. If you do not fight for your own rights, you have failed not only in your responsibility to take care of yourself, but have created serious problems for society for you have, as a human being, failed to fulfill your own responsibilities. The problem is that some people lack the ability to criticize the government and to protect their own rights. The root of the problem is the government’s practice of oppressing and deceiving the people. Therefore people who have been able to see this clearly and people who have a better than average education have out their own good conscience and feelings of obligation, to keep working towards the goal that every will awaken to the need of defending their rights and have the ability to do so.

I don’t want to claim that there is some moral superiority in my motivations. I don’t want to exaggerate my own efforts but neither do I want to understate them. I explained before why I put such great effort into criticizing social injustice. The reason lies in myself. If I do not criticize social injustice, if I do not fulfill all my responsibilities as a citizen, then I will be allowing injustice to spread. If I did not criticize social injustice, I would not be fulfilling my responsibilities as a citizen and as an intellectual. If I did not fulfill my responsibilities, I would be passing the buck to someone else. That would be taking advantage of someone else. That I cannot in good conscience do. Therefore, I often criticize social injustice, the bad points of the system, and the evils of the government for the sake of my own inner peace.

As one individual, I cannot change the state of this society. Even if this society becomes worse, I will still make my best efforts. That is why I, in a China beset by a multitude of problems, other people are anxious, sleepless and fearful while can I can stay relatively calm and composed. Therefore, in order to reduce my own anxieties, sleeplessness and worry as well as any moral qualms, I must fulfill all my responsibilities and not foist them on other people. Constructing a system of freedom and democracy is not doubt important and perhaps indeed the most important thing of all. However, if I were to make achieving democracy and freedom the the goal of my life, I am afraid I would just leave myself disillusioned and broken down.

That is why I admire the saying of Mr. Hu Shi “If I give my all each day, it would all have been worthwhile” [ 日拱一卒,功不唐捐] . Even if I work hard for it but never life to see the achievement of democracy and freedom, I will not have spent my life struggling in vain. It is just as Mr. Szeto Wah says, “I don’t have to achieve the success but the success must be in me.” I admire the epitaph of Mr. Liu Binyan: “The Chinese buried here spoke the truth and did his duty.” I believe that a person who, living under a dictatorship, can speak those words (or can win such praise) has achieved something wonderful. If such a person can have such a epitaph engraved on their memorial tablet, illuminating one’s lives still yet to come, that surely would be a great encouragement.

During 2010 I did a lot of different things but didn’t have any great achievements. I just left a little trace of my passage, really, nothing glorious that could inspire the efforts of others. I just hope to be able to keep it up. I work every day, doing to the best of my ability what I want to be doing. Most of the time I am able to live that way.

1. I write a blog entry each day. I keep on criticizing the realities of our society in order to carry out my ideal of constantly perfecting myself through “Giving my all each day, and not expecting to achieve anything right away”. Since I spent half of this year in the hospital, this year I wrote fewer blog entries than in any of the past six years. It has been 15 days since I last wrote a blog entry. I expect to do what I can and to help society in my own small way.

2. I keep a diary each day. I meet many different kinds of people, see much of human affairs and read many books, so each day I write them down and think about them so as to leave a little trace of my passage through this life. This gives me a lot to reflect on, remember, and discuss. It is quite useful.

3. I have benefited from the efforts of many NGOs and so I too participate in the little things they do to help society and to enlarge the space for civil society. I learn a lot from them. This not only helps me understand NGOs better but also to better understand the importance of NGOs in a normal society. As I have said, it is important that our society knows Hu Shi and Lu Xun but this is not enough. Society also needs to know about the work and efforts of people like Yan Yangqu and Tao Xingzhi who have enlarged the space for civil society. I hope that more Chinese intellectuals will get a better understanding of the essential role of NGOs in the transformation of Chinese society. They need to understand more than that NGOs have good people who do good works. That is why I have continued editing the “Civil Society and NGO Development Weekly”. Unfortunately thus far few people know about it.

4. I have been writing a history of a Buddhist temple from the perspective of economics, history and society “The Lungs of Old Sichuan: The Story of Daci Temple” (I didn’t discuss religious faith, firstly because I don’t understand much about it and secondly because it would be hard to write about religion and come up with anything original), which will be published next year. I also enjoying writing and researching ten long articles for the history portion of the Lonely Planet “Guide to Sichuan and Chongqing”

5. I continue to collect Chinese language teaching materials for the period 1900 – 2000. My collection of Tibetan language teaching materials has increased from several hundred to several thousand volumes. I completed the plan, rough outline and draft of my book “Changes in a Hundred Years of Chinese Language Teaching Materials”. This will be the foundation for this book which I expect to basically complete writing in 2011. I also made some preparations for editing this year four primary school Chinese language teaching materials for the Huacheng Publishing House.

6. I have edited the last six years of my blog entries into a two volume collection with the working title “China’s Ideological Revolt”. One volume has the working title “Chinese Bullets are Flying”. I did not finish editing these two volumes so that work will carry over into this year.

7. I read about 80 books and saw 50 movies. That is really no great number because I was preoccupied with many odd jobs and trivial tasks and was ill for two months.

My greatest joy this year was getting back in touch with friends I had lost touch with over the years. When my family hears about these things, they say that God on high must be looking out for me. I think this is true too so I will be reserved in my enjoyment of my good fortune. This is what I hope for this year:

1. I hope that my family with be health, safe and happy and especially that my daughter can get through her adolescence happily. I hope that I will be able to make up for lost time with those friends I had lost track of for many years and that we can spend more time together, come to understand one another better, love and help one another.

2. I hope that more people will be able to eat their fill and dress more warmly and comfortably. I hope that Chinese society will come to have a better conscience and that the breakdown of society will not get worse and worse.

3. I hope that my protruding lumbar vertebra problem will get better so that I will be able to complete my work in editing the four Chinese language teaching materials and the writing of the book “Changes in a Hundred Years of Chinese Language Teaching Materials”.

4. I hope that I will be able to use my knowledge and abilities to do more for the public good such as recommending books for organizations (I haven’t given up my task of helping with the Chinese Rural Library [立人乡村图书馆] , I am working on it now), help establish and make contributions to libraries (I have gotten a lot of help from nephew in this area), and the badly need cultural classes in many localities (last year Southern Weekend and the Bridgestone Corporation organized a “Rural Classes on Aesthetics” in which I enthusiastically participated, I gave a class on Du Fu in Kuizhou and assisted some others to my own great pleasure. I participated in those activities to the extent that they did not interfere with my life and work.

February 3, 2011 at 1403, the Lunar New Year in Chengdu.



冉云飞先生是当代中国的杰出的作家。 因为他的思想跟中国执政党不一致, 他成了一个思想犯。我看了他的博客,推特与他送给我他的一本书之后,我不理解他的思想犯罪在那里。他今年春节写这篇探讨他一年来的工作有可能提供大家一些线索帮助我么了解到他为什么他是个思想犯。我还没发现冉云飞是个思想犯的理由。所不定虽然我是从很远的地方来, 我还是读不了这里的神圣的文件。



冉云飞 @ 2011-2-3 14:08 阅读(4794) 评论(15) 推荐值(204) 引用通告 分类: 贡献常识



















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Posted in Famous Chinese Political Court Cases 中国政治名案, Literature 文学, Society 社会 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2008: The Populism of the Lower Social Strata and the Intellectuals 翻译摘要:底层与知识分子的民粹主义

The Populism of the Lower Social Strata and the Intellectuals

By Tang Xiaobing 唐小兵

南风窗 4/2008 issue


Tang Xiaobing  唐小兵 a scholar at Shanghai’s East China Normal University 

(http://college.usc.edu/faculty/faculty1008212.html ) in a recent issue of Nanfeng Chuan outlined the development of populism in China during the Twentieth Century.

[Translator’s note:I originally translated the term mincuizhuyi as national chauvinism, since populism does shade over into national chauvinism and it seemed to fit better there, rather than the conventional translation of mincuizhuyi as populism. Now I changed it because Tang Xiaobing, who knows English well, told me he prefers and meant populism. I am reminded of my old French professor who told us one day that translation is like imposing two screen with whole of different dimensions on each other. Nothing really quite matches. And of the French expression “traduire, c’est trahir” – to translate is to betray. End note]

Summary translation follows:

Chinese populism flows from two sources. The first came to China from Russia in the early 20th century from the writings of [Note: the 19th century utopian socialist and inspiration to Lenin] Nikolai Chernyshevsky and others who called on intellectuals to go out amongst the people for it is among them that all that is pure, noble and worthwhile is to be found. The other root of Chinese populism comes for the radically anti-traditional current in Chinese tradition “discard the sages and cast aside all wisdom” 绝圣去智慧

Populism has been extremely influential on Chinese society at all levels during the 20th century. Especially interesting is how populism got such a strong hold on Chinese intellectuals. We can divide this story into three parts.

First, there is radically anti-traditional May 4, 1919 movement that called for the wholesale importation of western ways. Slogans calling for Democracy and Science were common. While totaling rejecting the elite Chinese culture of the day, the May 4 movement looked for inspiration among the folk culture of the lower strata in Chinese society. In Shanghai, the Left Wing Writers’ Group, which was under the political and social influence of the Chinese Communist Party, in publications such as Shenbao, came a great wave of writings, calling for people to go down to live with the people and to become one with them all the way criticizing cultural elites for being very corrupt and being mere servants of the authoritarian rulers of traditional society. True goodness and truth was to be found among the oppressed and exploited people at the bottom of society.

Later, during the anti-rightist period [Note: Great Leap Forward of 1957 and later] , the movement to sent young educated people to the countryside, and the Cultural Revolution, this kind of populism reached a peak and many intellectuals were “brainwashed”, so there they would experience in the depths of their souls a revolution would break out as they renounced their previous system of thought and cultural values. At the time, China’s workers and peasants were regarded as the people who were the most moral and were the most able members of society. Intellectuals were likened to devils and snakes as the worst kind of political criminals.

From this we can see that after populism appeared amongst Chinese intellectuals, it has been used mostly as a means of political and cultural control.

Today, after there first two stages, we see populism appearing once again among Chinese intellectuals in China today. It most extreme expression is in accusations that China’s intellectual elites have been all deceived by the market and interest groups. Intellectuals who urge liberal economic reforms are particularly distrusted or even hated. People who think that way believe that only they themselves stand with the lower strata in society and represent their needs and interests.

For the past several years in periodicals such as Tianwa and Shanghai Wenxue (Shanghai Literature) intellectuals have been discussing the “lower strata” 底层and “lower strata literature” . In the controversies that break out, one side says that there is a pure, natural and diverse “voiceless lower strata” , they cannot be spoken for by intellectuals, since any intellectual trying to speaking for them is just a distortion and a selfish use of them. The other side seems to be deliberating just how to give the lower strata their own voice and some even seen themselves as the spokespersons for the lower strata. The problem of the lower strata is not simply an “academic problem” of how to describe them in literature or how the intellectuals can represent the lower strata in addressing issues of “virtue”. It is a matter of how intellectuals handle problems in the space between morals and politics.

Populism is well represented on the internet. The “people” has become a sensitive word that cannot be criticized, because the people are the one repository of moral goodness that has been harmed by the interests pushing reforms. Whenever there is a conflict between the rich and the poor, no matter who is in the right, the students and other people on the web in their vast majority stand on the side of the weaker one. They are very critical of intellectuals who want to look at an issue dispassionately. Writings by economist Mao Yushi “Speaking for the Wealthy, Handling Affairs for the Poor” “ 为富人说话,为穷人办事” and scholar Xu Jilin’s reflection on graduate student education “Why are graduate school entrance examinations just like university entrance examinations?” and the overreaction to the foolish Elegant Club Woman Affair 雅阁女事件 [Note: In mid 2006 a self styled “Elegant club woman” declared that anyone who makes less than RMB 3000 per month is lower strata set off a firestorm of millions of angry responses] are vigorously attacked online. Elite intellectuals are dismissed as mere servants to interest groups and are challenged at all turns about their morals and actions, while the oppressed and insulted are considered the seed bearers for a moral renaissance.

There are social reasons behind the attractiveness of populism to intellectuals today. Perhaps considering the social sources of populism and can gives us methods for dealing with this populism rationally. The most fundamental social reason for the rise of populism is the growing gap between rich and poor in Chinese society today. There an increasing feeling of a divide and of enmity between people on the two sides of the divide. People of the properties strata are seen as using illegal means such as relying on power to harvest economic rents or special deals between officials and businesspeople to capture resources that originally belonged to all the people. Hating the rich has become a common attitude in society. The people at the grassroots or the lower strata are characterized as “living cleanly in this world.” Intellectuals with this social background are affected by it in subtle ways.

Moreover, ever since the 1990s, universities and scientific institutions rapidly institutionalizes in step with the rapid expansion of the market economy society. Commercialization and commercial pressures have come too to the academies have faced more pressure for evaluations, organization of projects, and society became more and more elitist. At the same time the gap between society and the intellectuals grew with migrant workers, laid off workers and villagers are locked outside the ivory tower of academia. Among some intellectuals there is a feeling of distancing and unease since they believe that intellectuals living up to Chinese tradition cannot allow themselves to be “a group set apart”, giving up the duty of human concern for real people. Meanwhile from academe itself come report after report of corruption, academic work becomes more routinized by administration and bureaucracy, resulting in feelings of alienation and identity crisis for some intellectuals. As a result some intellectuals feel they want to leave their own intellectual circles and become very passionate about the masses of the workers and the peasants.

A large proportion of intellectuals with chauvinist tendencies come from grassroots backgrounds and faced themselves frustrations as a member of the lower strata and so have come to feel great sympathy for them. When they enter academia, they find that the intellectual elites are completely different from what they had expected. They see scheming interest groups in academia and so their punctured illusions are transformed to hate. These memories of past wounds and sadness can breed a raging, idealist passion and imbue their speech with a sanctimonious quality.

In these days when the ills of the political cultures have not been remedied, when the rights of citizens are not “realized in practice”, and civil society has not become rock solid, when what Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil” spreads far and widemany intellectuals put their trust in the small, isolated communities like rural villages. They idealize the beauty and excellent characters of the lower strata without any reserve. They despise the rational thinking of the intellectual strata of society. They can only entertain fantasies about intellectuals who search for a new national path.

But in actual fact,  scholars with real ties to the masses such as Yu Jianrong 于建嵘 [Note: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences scholar] has done field studies of the peasant rights protection movement in Hunan Province, the environmental protection movement that stopped the PX project in Xiamen, and demonstrations in Shanghai against the high speed maglev train, demonstrate the non-oppositional nature of relations between intellectuals and the masses (including the lower strata) demonstrate both the possibility and practice of cooperation between the masses and the intellectuals. Zou Dang 邹谠, the late distinguished scholar of Chinese 20th century political culture at the University of Chicago, who is of Chinese descent, said something that everyone concerned about the trend towards populism should consider: “Extreme idealism and extreme cynicism are the same: they take no responsibility for anything or anyone other than themselves. Extreme idealists take responsibility only for their own ideals, extreme cynics only take responsibility for their own narrow interests.”



作者:唐小兵 来源:《南风窗》杂志 日期:2008-02-07



作者:唐小兵 来源:《南风窗》杂志




















Posted in Ideology 思想, Society 社会 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Highlights from the Chinese Spy Novel “Fatal Weakness” — Chapter Entitled “The CIA Spy School”

Fatal Weakness [Zhiming Ruodian] author  Yang Hengjun 杨恒均 worked in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for several years and later in a Hong Kong company.  Now he is an Australian citizen. Yang Hengjun blogs in Chinese on his website http://www.yanghengjun.com/

Yang’s novel portrays competition between US and Chinese intelligence services, and the fatal weaknesses 2434and susceptibility to manipulation of both services by a third party. Fatal Weakness along with the other two novels in the series, Fatal Weapon and Fatal Pursuit are available online, together with several review of the novels in this trilogy, on the boxun.com website.

Read in Chinese the chapter summary translated here at http://blog.boxun.com/hero/zhiming/19_1.shtml

Fatal Weakness by Yang Zimin’er was published in Hong Kong by the Kaiyi Publishing House in 2004.

Chinese reviewers of Fatal Weakness call it an excellent portrait of the government millieu of corruption and double dealing in which the intelligence agencies operate. According to the plot summary, the United States exploits corrupt Chinese officials as information sources by playing on their greed. Some friends of the young Chinese former spy trainee who has departed for the private sector are caught and so he rescues his friends by playing on both the weaknesses of the Chinese Ministry of State Security and those of the Central Intelligence Agency.
According to the plot summary a US – China double agent in the book works for neither side but on his own account, and feeds false information to both sides in order to serve his own agenda — the precipitation of a US – China conflict.

Fatal Weakness, the first volume in the trilogy, is well written.
The chapter on FBI counterintelligence work against Chinese espionage in the US for has dialogue in which some FBI people are worried about China’s rise and talk about the “Yellow Peril”. So the US part of the book may be a bit overblown and pieced together from press reports and books and not reflect direct knowledge.

My translation of the plot outline on the boxun.com website:

Fatal Weakness, 260,000 characters in all, is divided into 26 chapters with titles such as “Drugs Shock the Devils”, “God’s Surgical Blade”, “The Old Classmate in Washington, DC”, “Who Do You Think You Are?”, “Infiltrating the FBI”, “Sex Spy”, “Target: Beijing Olympics” and “Double Agent”.
The main plot line follows Yang Wenfeng from university graduation to assignment to the Ministry of State Security, then after switching the private sector, to Guangdong Province.

Disturbing things began to happen. One after another, his old classmates, one at the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, one at the Guangdong Provincial Government main office, and a third at the Jiuquan Guided Missile Launch Center were one after another were detained by State Security on suspicion of disclosing secret information.
Yang himself was taken away by the Guangdong Province Public Security Bureau. With the help of his former superior at the Ministry of State Security Intelligence Bureau, Yang discovers that the CIA is exploiting the fatal weaknesses – uncontrolled sexual desire and greed — of this classmate in carrying out its intelligence collection activities against China. In order to protect these old classmates, and in order to keep himself and his lover out of trouble, Yang Wenfeng takes advantage of the fatal weakness of the opposing intelligence service. He charges into the breach with his comrades and fights bravely. But Yang Wenfeng isn’t the only one who understands well the fatal weaknesses of both the Chinese and US intelligence services. When a double agent pursues a personal agenda and uses the fatal weaknesses of the Chinese Ministry of State Security and the US Central Intelligence Agency to reach the goal – to make the 2008 Beijing Olympics a disgrace to the Chinese nation, to force the US and China into a confrontation and to make the entire world impose sanctions on China.

Summary translation of a few highlights:

The science park opened ten years ago but there are still some buildings under construction. All this construction activity made David Tian think of China which he hadn’t seen for years. Recently he had accepted the request of the Central Intelligence Agency to come twice a month to give a class for CIA China analysts.

He got out of his car and walked toward the building. The wall are made of a special material. Just in the exterior walls are planted 63 high precision cameras not to mention many infrared heat detectors, and equipment for detecting hazardous materials and gases.
After David Tian transferred to the FBI China Section last year, he was given responsibility for liaison with the CIA. Naturally he got into frequent arguments with CIA counterparts, but a senior CIA analyst Frank Buck [??], who later become the first president of the CIA Sherman Kent School invited David Tian to give a class on China intelligence analysis at the school. David Tian reported this secretly back to China and in return his old classmates regularly fed him “material” for his class. The CIA is divided into senior administrators who might be in and out of the White House, spies who have a $30 billion a year budget, and analysts.
Analysts are trained at the Sherman Kent School. Analysts generally are not involved in intelligence collection around the world. Thus unable to skim money off “intelligence expenses” the analysts have to get by on their regular pay. Similarly, their chance of being promoted to the higher ranks especially to vice director or director is small. They don’t get to go on the TV news and even less get to play a role like in the glamorous Hollywood movies.

Spending their days reading and working alone, most analysts have hemorrhoids and bad breath after a few years. Just for that reason, the CIA has them take training classes once every two years. When you want to teach these people in class, they have this habit of lounging about in a slovenly manner with their coffee, always arguing back and forth, it is a real pain – you feel like strangling them!

Yet it is just those people who write the most expensive and lowest circulation newspaper in the world – The President’s Daily Brief…..

The class of eleven men and ten women settled down. In addition to the regular teachers at the school who focus on basic training, the school regularly invites guest lecturers from throughout the Washington, DC area including think tankers from the Heritage Foundation, the Atlantic Council, etc. David Tian was excited at this opportunity – and Yang Wenfeng had planned it that way. Getting into the CIA directly is difficult, but first getting into the FBI and then moving over to the CIA was much easier, especially in the post 9/11 environment.

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What Deng Really Said: Yellow Cats, Black Cats — Not White Cats, Black Cats!

White Cats are Usurpers. Deng Spoke of “Yellow Cats and Black Cats”

What Deng really said:  “It doesn’t matter whether it is a yellow cat or a black cat, as long as it catches mice, it is a good cat.” “不管黄猫黑猫,只要捉住老鼠就是好猫”

Very few Chinese people know this.  You can blow the minds of your Chinese friends as you stick up for the yellow cats. Send them off to check the reference in the Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping!   Were they asleep in class when this was covered at the Party School?

Deng Xiaoping in his famous quote, borrowed from an old Sichuan saying, spoke of yellow cats and black cats, not black cats and white cats.  Very few Chinese and Western sources get this detail right!  After reading about it, I looked it up in Deng’s Selected Works (available online on the People’s Daily website). Yup, white cats are out of luck.

Deng, who was born in Guangyuan in Sichuan Province might learned that saying at home: it is an old Sichuan saying.  Deng in a 1962 speech that can be found in the Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping 《怎样恢复农业生产》,《邓小平选集》第1卷)  borrowed the saying “It doesn’t matter whether it is a yellow cat or a black cat, as long as it catches mice, it is a good cat.” “不管黄猫黑猫,只要捉住老鼠就是好猫”  from famed PLA General Liu Bocheng. Liu was from near Chongqing, then part of Sichuan Province.

Deng in his 1992 speech urged his Chinese Communist Party colleagues to take a more pragmatic line in agriculture after Mao’s mistaken policies led to the starvation of tens of millions of people.  Deng was  speaking out to support the contract responsibility system in agriculture that incentivized agricultural production by allowing peasants to keep part of what they produced.  Unfortunately, Liu Shaoqi’s pragmatic policy eventually failed. Mao defeated the pragmatists in his revolt against the Party in what became the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

After Mao died, the contract responsibility system  became an essential part of China’s economic recovery.  Some sources will say (there is a story popular in the PRC about several peasants in a village in Anhui Province inventing it secretly by themselves in the late 1970s)  that the contract responsibility system started only after Mao died but one can find other sources showing that Liu Shaoqi was trying to implement in earlier — certainly in the early 1960s and possibly in the mid 1950s as well.  But getting beaten back for revisionism each time and only winning out posthumously after his murder by the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.


This soon became known as the black cat, white cat policy (the colors changed for some reason).  During the Cultural Revolution Deng was criticized for this pragmatic approach — his critics called it an idealistic theory of production.   唯生产力论  Since Communists were supposed to be materialists, not idealists, this was considered a serious charge at the time.  See the December 12, 2008 issue of Xinxi Shibao — 邓小平白猫黑猫论成为改革开放思想理论标志 





I first heard about what Deng actually said in 1962 from an article on this Chinese government website about finance.



资本运作官方网站政府信息网・(2011-4-29 9:45:58)・国内新闻





















种形式,不合法的使它合法起来……‘黄猫、黑猫,只要捉住老鼠就是好猫’。” (见



















































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2012: Singaporean Critique of Critique of People’s Daily: Stability Obsession Blocks Reform, Precipitates Crisis

Looking back,  many common threads can be seen in commentaries on China’s political and economic development and the obstacles to reform.  Here is one from 2012.

Singapore Chinese Language Daily Critique of People’s Daily: Stability Obsession Blocks Reform, Precipitates Crisis

A Singaporean commentary on the Feb 23, 2012 Chinese People’s Daily commentary says obsession with stability is blocking reform and precipitating a crisis.

In its own commentary entitled  Stability Obsession Blocks Reform, Precipitates Crisis Lianhe Zaobao 联合早报 [United Morning News] of Singapore discussed the significance of the February 23, 2012 People’s Daily Commentary Dept.   “Imperfect Reforms are to Be Preferred to the Crisis Caused by No Reforms” http://www.zaobao.com/zg/zg120224_003_1.shtml  At this URL the China News Service picks up the People’s Daily commentary http://www.chinanews.com/gn/2012/02-23/3690700.shtml  

[Summary translation] According to the commentary, Chinese have placed great hopes in reform for over 30 years. Now that the easier reforms have been largely completed, the remaining ones are much harder.  Naturally in the course of reform, there will be dissenting voices but that should not be a reason to reform.  Some worry so much about stability that reform does not become vigorous and prudent, but merely prudent or even worse, taking the counsel of fears and illusions and not going forward with reforms at all.


Moreover, “Reform is risk, but not reforming is risky for the Party”.  When we look at the rise and fall of great parties and great nations, one fundamental cause of their decline is that they only made little fixes here and there. In the end they lacked vigor and worked themselves into a dead end.  Many localities and ministries are facing serious institutional obstacles to reform that “cannot be ignored or sidestepped”.  If we allow ourselves to be intimidated by this or that issue and do make progress and have the passive attitude that “doing less is better than doing more” or even take the thorns of dilemma as flowers, we can rest easy for a time and serve certain special interests well.  But that will only delay things into we face problems of historical proportions.  If we allow crisis to move faster than reform, we only nourish the roots of a great coming crisis or even fall into the “pitfalls of a transitional period”.

Deng Xiaoping said that there is always risks to reforms but we are up to handling them. Reform is risky, not not reforming will be risky for the Party. [Note — People’s Daily commentary department commentary on September 1, 2011 on the importance of freedom of information rules for government departments also used this quote, attributing it to an unnamed ‘central leader’ 这背后的逻辑,诚如中央领导同志所言,改革有风险,但不改革党就会有危险。   http://opinion.people.com.cn/GB/15563239.html  End note   ]

In fact, when China’s reforms began, when the country was teetering on the edge of collapse to Deng talk on his 1992 trip to southern China, the Party paid close attention to the future of China and its people. The reform spirit meant “Not taking fear at the changes in the world, not taking the traditions of our ancestors as our law, and not being satisfied with mere words”.  It meant daring to grasp the principle contradiction, and courage to face the crisis. Only in this way could crisis be transformed to opportunity, and waves of reform propelled forward that made of China the world’s second largest economy.

小平同志在20多年前就曾告诫:“不要怕冒一点风险。我们已经形成了一种能力,承担风险的能力”,“改革开放越前进,承担和抵抗风险的能力就越强。我们处理问题,要完全没有风险不可能,冒点风险不怕”。事实上,从改革开放之初的崩溃边缘,到南方谈话前的历史徘徊,我们党正是着眼于国家和人民的未来,以“天变不足畏,祖宗不足法,人言不足恤”的改革精神,敢于抓住主要矛盾、勇于直面风险考验,才能化危为机,推动改革开放巨轮劈波斩浪,让中国成为了世界第二大经济体。 宁要微词,不要危机;宁要“不完美”的改革,不要不改革的危机。一个长期执政的大党,尤其要时刻警惕短期行为损害执政根基,防止局部利益左右发展方向,力避消极懈怠延误改革时机,所思所虑不独是当前社会的发展稳定,更有党和国家事业的长治久安。面对全新的改革历史方位,当以“不畏浮云遮望眼”的宽广视野,以无私无畏的责任担当,按照胡锦涛总书记所要求的,“不失时机地推进重要领域和关键环节改革”,“继续推进经济体制、政治体制、文化体制、社会体制改革创新”。如此,我们就一定能把风险化解在当下,让发展乘势而上,为党和国家赢得一个光明的未来。本报评论部

We can take criticism, what we don’t want is a crisis. We can accept imperfect reforms since they are preferable to the crisis that no reform at all will bring.  A Party that has governed for a long time will be very cautious of anything that might hurt its political base in the short term and so resist change that could effect the development of some special interests.  We need to avoid the passivity and laziness that will delay reform. What we need to bear in mind is not only the development and stability of our society today.  What is more important is long-term governance and stability for the sake of the Party and of the tasks facing the state. Considering the new historical vistas of reform before us, we should not fear that “some clouds obstruct our vision”.   We need to move forward selflessly in line with the requirements set forth by General Secretary Hu Jintao:  “Don’t miss the opportunity to make reforms in key areas and in key links”, “continue to pursue reforms and innovations in the economic system, the political system, the cultural system, and the social system”.   In this way, we will succeed in resolving the risks before us, allow progress to move forward, and win a glorious future for the Party and the state.      [People’s Daily Commentary Department]

人民日报:宁要不完美的改革 不要不改革的危机 2012年02月23日 05:28 来源:人民日报 参与互动(254)120  无论方案多么周密、智慧多么高超,改革总会引起一些非议:既得利益者会用优势话语权阻碍改革,媒体公众会带着挑剔目光审视改革,一些人甚至还会以乌托邦思维苛求改革。对于改革者来说,认真听取民意,又不为流言所动,既需要智慧和审慎,更要有勇气与担当

自1978年至今,中国的改革已如舟至中流,有了更开阔的行进空间,也面临着“中流击水、浪遏飞舟”的挑战。  发展起来的问题、公平正义的焦虑、路径锁定的忧叹……在邓小平南方谈话20周年、党的十八大即将召开之际,人们对改革的普遍关切,标注着30多年来以开放为先导的改革进入了新的历史方位。




在改革进程中,可怕的不是反对声音的出现,而是一出现不同声音,改革就戛然而止。现实中,或是囿于既得利益的阻力,或是担心不可掌控的风险,或是陷入“不稳定幻象”,在一些人那里,改革的“渐进”逐渐退化为“不进”,“积极稳妥”往往变成了“稳妥”有余而“积极”不足。这些年来,一些地方改革久议不决,一些部门改革决而难行,一些领域改革行而难破,莫不与此有关。  然而,“改革有风险,但不改革党就会有危险”。纵观世界一些大党大国的衰落,一个根本原因就是只有修修补补的机巧,没有大刀阔斧的魄力,最终因改革停滞而走入死胡同。对于当前各地各部门千头万绪的改革来说,面对“躲不开、绕不过”的体制机制障碍,如果怕这怕那、趑趄不前,抱着“多一事不如少一事”的消极态度,甚至将问题矛盾击鼓传花,固然可以求得一时轻松、周全某些利益,但只能把问题拖延成历史问题,让危机跑在了改革前面,最终引发更多矛盾、酿成更大危机,甚至落入所谓“转型期陷阱”。




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2010: Interviews in Tibetan Yushu Following the 2010 Earthquake 翻译:“舞台–玉树采访手记”

 http://photo-zt.blogbus.com/logs/62691963.html  (link now disappeared)

A Chinese blogger combined pictures of Yushu, a Tibetan area in China’s Qinghai Province, before the April 14, 2010 earthquake with  the article by Ai Mo艾墨 “The Stage” that appeared recently in Hong Kong’s Mingbao newspaper.

The full text of that short article, which did not appear on the Ming Bao website, is copied below, after my translation.  This story points out the great cultural gulf between Tibetans and Han Chinese and the difficulties of doing culturally and religious sensitive relief work.

Probably because of some ethnic chauvinism and perhaps because some think it will affect the Chinese-ness of Tibet,  many Han Chinese find it hard to appreciate the profound cultural differences between the Han Chinese and the Tibetans.   Well, many Chinese Buddhists understand, but the mainstream media doesn’t reflect their views and the Chinese government strives to prevent the thousands of Chinese Buddhist who want to study in Tibetan monasteries from doing so.

The Stage

By Ai Mo 艾墨   (printed in Ming Bao, Hong Kong)

A cold evening in Yushu, in the tents, a cadre sent by the province irrigated by high plateau barley wine, rubbed his unwashed dirty hands, and turned towards me, saying sincerely, “Young lady, look now, this natural disaster has been swiftly politicized.  Got out of here as soon as you can.  Leave this trouble spot.”

When I heard those words, I regretted the decision that I had already made to take a bus early the next day and leave Yushu.

For me, during these four days and three nights in Yushu, this place of cruel death and difficult survival, the word politics has something of a foul smell. During the rescue period, where saving lives was the top priority, it laid low.  That seemed significant. It looked like this country plagued by disasters had finally learned that “lives are the most important thing”.  However, once the 72 hour golden period for rescuing survivors from the ruins had passed and the mammoth-scale cremations had begun, it seemed like something had changed. The disaster area had become a stage.

That is something I don’t want to say, but yes, it had become a stage.

The difference between the stage and reality is that in reality things happen and appear but on stage there is a director, a leading role, and a supporting role and they are sent on stage as needed. That is what Yushu was like.

President Hu and Premier Wen had the top leading roles, given the nature of China,  that is not anything to criticize, even the local Tibetans took the sincere tears of Prime Minister Wen and the promise of President Hu that they will have new homes like the words of Living Buddhas.

The official rescue troops had the secondary leading role.   “We won’t be able to rescue any more people” the rescue workers realized as the fourth day after the earthquake began.  One People’s Armed Police 武警 officer, who had done relief work after the Sichuan earthquake, said that the timber and earth construction of Yushu is not as good as the reinforced concrete of Sichuan since when buildings collapse here, unlike in Sichuan,  no empty places are left where some people might a breathing space. So the miracles of survival are much rarer in Yushu than they were in Sichuan.

On the streets of Yushu many officers and soldiers had nothing to do.  One could see many roadside ruins,  houses that apparently nobody had sifted through to look for survivors.   Despite this, many flags and banners proclaiming the outstanding quality of this or that group of rescue troops.

Another journalist doing interviews in Yushu told me that he had the impression that there was a lot of “showing off” going on.  That is not to say that the rescue troops were not working hard. They had a hard time doing their job given the physiological effects of high altitude.  Nobody can criticize them.  It was just that the so-called “showing off” was in inverse proportion to the amount of rescue work that they had actually done.

The disaster victims had the third leading role.  That is to say the disaster victims who cooperated with interviews had the third leading role.

Many people like to ask,   ‘What was the difference between the Sichuan earthquake and the Yushu earthquake?’  Nobody yet knows how to compare the scale of the earthquake.  One hundred thousand people died in Sichuan, perhaps not as many as 10,000 died in Yushu. Yet that comparison isn’t meaningful  and shouldn’t be made.   As a journalist in the Yushu disaster area, the strongest impression that my colleagues and I got was that in Yushu you didn’t see the wailing and pounding on the earth, and even more seldom do you see weeping.  If it were not for the sight of many collapsed buildings and the many homeless on the streets,  you wouldn’t guess that so many people had died here.  People who have lost their relatives wear solemn and respectful faces. They read scriptures. They take the corpse to the monastery.  They ask the monks and Living Buddhas to help them pass on to the next world, and pray that they escape the cycle of suffering and rebirth and enter blissful happiness.

Ninety-seven percent of the population of Yushu is ethnic Tibetan. They believe in Tibetan Buddhism.  For them, through the monasteries, live and death connect each of them to the Buddha and their ancestors.  Very many journalists from mainland China didn’t find the “story they wanted” — the family of the victims did not display “extreme grief” and those rescued did not “shed grateful tears.”  There is no way for you to share their sorrows.  Their ideas about life and death are so far beyond your own that you cannot comprehend.  They — really, they don’t understand how to act according to your instructions.  In Yushu, there is much thankfulness.  A simple old Tibetan mother can shed tears of gratitude and say “Long Live the Communist Party”.   But performing to script according to the needs of others is not what they do — they are not “grateful” or “sing praises” in a particular circumstance because that is what the script requires.   Take a look at the mainland China TV broadcasts on the disaster, you will see that these Tibetans just don’t act that way.

On the director’s stage, the monks were the only supporting players who were forced to the margins of the stage. This despite the fact that in real life, these people in red robes had the most important leading role of all, even more important than the role of the rescue troops.

Two days after I left Yushu, I heard from a journalist colleague that monks not from Yushu had already been “admonished to leave” Yushu with the reason given to “ensure the effectiveness of relief operations”. Some had driven several hundred kilometers to Yushu from their monasteries in Ganzi Prefecture in Sichuan Province, others monks hurried from Qinghai, Gansu and many parts of the Tibetan Autonomous Region to help. They don’t understand specialized relief work but they understand the Kampa dialect and they know how to assist the souls of the dead to pass on to the next world.  They know how to truly console the people of Yushu who have lost relatives. Even before official help arrived, the monks were making donations in the disaster area.  Disaster victims received from the monks noodles, mineral water and even hot porridge.  But what does that matter?  This is a stage and the supporting role can never become the leading role. At the very least, the audience that watches the stage as it is broadcast will never see this.

On the Chinese Central TV disaster evening program, there were the names of companies that had given one million, two million, 10 million or 20 million RMB, and individuals who contributed and wanted to do something good. But they what truly moved them was themselves.  For the National Day of Mourning, the state organs forbad all entertainment activities, including on stage and online.  The Yushu disaster area was far away but they said in chorus, “This evening we are all Yushu people.”

My dears, I really have to tell you, that is not wounded Yushu, that is only a stage.

(printed in “Ming Bao” Century edition)


(现在这个网页没了, 大概因为不宜于你的思想健康。) http://photo-zt.blogbus.com/logs/62691963.html

























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