Dali vs. Lijiang: The Paradox of Successful Ethnic Tourism Marketing

To create an ethnic tourist attraction, tourism officials need to promote the exoticness of a locale. Tourism officials have done that extremely well in Yunnan, in cities like Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-La, and Xishuangbana, where many minority ethnic groups live. The paradox is, to create the illusion of exoticness, they need to do some creating, and creating is somewhat fake, contrived. It is, what tourism officials call, staged authenticity. People want to see some minorities dance or sing in an interesting way, so they might make a show about it, but that show might be made to appeal to tourists rather than traditional culture.

That’s one aspect, but another aspect is that simply by having a lot of tourists come in, there will have to be hotels and bars and such to accommodate the tourists, and that, in and of itself, will make the location become more tourist-focused and cause some of the locals to move out as they sell or rent their property to high bidders.

I lived in Yunnan for a few months, and you can see that happened to Lijiang. It’s a fun place with its bars, and it still has stone streets and ancient-looking buildings and such, but it doesn’t have quite the same local flavor as Dali does.

Here’s another paradox: There are also some reasons it might be good to play down your ethnic culture. If there is discrimination against your ethnicity, then maybe you want people to think you have been assimilated and are no different than the majority culture.

In Dali, the local Bai people often say they have been Han-ified (China is 99% Han), and the Han, in their evaluations of the 55 minority ethnic groups have long viewed the Bai as one of the more advanced ethnic groups.

In Megan Bryson’s (University of Tennessee) paper “Baijie and the Bai” (pdf) published in Asian Ethnology in 2013, she finds that some Dali tourism officials feel they are stifled by this view:

Tourism industry employees and local officials I spoke to in Dali
lamented the greater success of their northern neighbor Lijiang in attracting both
domestic and international tourists. This success rests on the superior marketing of
Naxi culture as an exotic commodity. In the case of ethnotourism, being “almost
Han” becomes a liability rather than an asset.

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Republicans Take Senate – A Discussion with Me and Noah Rothman

The Republican party won at least 53 seats, probably 54, and maybe even 55 on Election Day, November 4, 2014, depriving President Obama of his Senate majority for the last 2 years of his presidency. Also: Marijuana was legalized in Oregon and Washington, DC.

Mitchell Blatt discusses the results with Hot Air.com political writer Noah Rothman. Listen as we answer questions like:
– How did Republicans like Cory Gardner escape the “War on Women” label?
– Will weed be legalized nationally? (And what will the GOP think of that?)
– Will a Senator with a 0% conservative rating (Angus King) join the Republicans?
– Why did the pollsters get everything so wrong?
– And more…

Furthermore, read my pre-analysis of the Senate elections at China.org.cn:
After defeating Tea Party, GOP primed to defeat Democrats



“Occupying the Toilet but Not Shitting”

There’s a phrase in Chinese that literally means “occupying the toilet but not shitting.” The phrase “占住茅坑不拉屎” used by a character in the 1997 movie “Eighteen Springs” (半生缘) to describe a man courting Anita Mui’s character. It’s a long-standing idiom, and if you look it up on Baidu dictionary, the definition it will give you is “dog in the manger”. In the metaphor and the story, a dog occupies a manger while not eating the grain but preventing the horse from eating the grain.

Here’s the phrase broken down:
占住 zhan4 zhu4 – to occupy
茅坑 mao2 keng1 – latrine
不 bu4 – not
拉屎 la1 shi3 – to defecate

Yesterday there was an article on Ecns.cn about people who occupy parking spaces with beds or chairs so that they can keep the parking spaces for themselves when they aren’t using them. Although these people do intend to use the parking spaces later (unlike the dog in the manger), the phrase ought to fit. Someone occupying a toilet while not using it could indeed use the toilet later. The people occupying a parking space with a chair have no need for the spaces at the time, and others have a need. (That you need to use put something there to occupy the space proves that much, and you are only making the parking shortage worse.)

Here’s the first photo from Ecns’s slideshow, and click here to see the rest.

Chinese Woman Wanders 1,900 km Away After Getting Lost Buying Groceries

A trip to buy vegetables turned into a 40 day odyssey for one 50-year-old woman.

The small town woman left her home in Nanning, in the southern province of Guangxi, and ended up in Kunshan, Jiangsu, about 1,900 km away (1,100 mi), 40 days later.

How did it happen? According to Nanjing’s Yangzi Evening Post from Oct. 29 (where it was the front page story), the woman recently moved to Nanning where her husband was working and went out to buy vegetables. After getting lost, she kept walking east because she thought that was the way home.

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Analyzing The Aftermath Of The Ukraine War

Ukraine is negotiating a cease fire after covert Russian troops pushed back Ukraine’s advances on rebels. The war apparently ends with Russia having taken Crimea and having turned eastern Ukraine into an ungovernable region.

Was this Russia’s goal? Does Russia spell trouble for other Eastern European countries?

Find out as journalist Mitchell Blatt and International Relations scholar Sumantra Maitra, who specializes in Russian Foreign Policy, discuss.

Also, read their recent op-ed on the matter at:
Ukraine: The End of History is Still a Long Way Away


Podcast: Indian PM Modi Visits U. S. For The First Time

Was Indiana Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the U.S. and meeting with Obama important?
What does it mean for the two countries? Find out why International Relations scholar Sumantra Maitra says “a lot.”

Along with making travel and study exchanges easier, India and America also agreed to land on the planet…

Listen to find out more.


Podcast: America’s Confused War on ISIS

Will America’s war with ISIS work? Journalist Mitchell Blatt and IR scholar Sumantra Maitra discuss.

– How moderate is the Free Syrian Army really?
– Does ISIS really pose a direct threat to the United States and Europe?
– Should other regional powers play a greater role?

Hear why Maitra thinks that America should leave it mostly to Iran and Egypt.


New Magazine Issue: Hong Kong’s Hidden Beaches

While we’re on the subject of Hong Kong, it just so happens that the latest issue of map magazine came out yesterday, and I have an article in it describing the beautiful secluded beaches of Sai Kung Country Park in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong is best known on the mainland as a “shopping paradise”, but I like it more for the rickety wooden bridge made of planks and poles tied together by rope at Ham Tin Wan Beach.

Along the shores of Sai Kung Country Park, bays and covers hide in jagged corners, pristine beaches remain sparsely occupied, and fishers live on boats in the water. Located 20 miles to the northeast of Mong Kok, the brightly lit shopping district that was ranked by Guinness as the most crowded place in the world, Sai Kung Country Park is on the easternmost tip of the New Territories. The beaches of Tai Long Wan Bay are among the most beautiful and least crowded in Hong Kong. …

Read the full article here: Hong Kong’s Hidden Beaches
hk beaches copy
Other recent articles I have written:
Ukraine Proves The End Of History Is Still A Long Way Away – Daily Caller
US needs to be vigilant, not panic about terrorism – China.org.cn

What is Hong Kong’s Nomination Committee, and What Does it Have to Do With Occupy Central?

With Occupy Central in full force blocking some streets in Hong Kong, some people may be asking, what are the protests all about?

At the end of August, China’s central government endorsed a proposal that would limit candidates for Hong Kong chief executive, essentially restricting potential candidacies to those who support Beijing. The proposal calls for two or three candidates, each of whom needs to win at least half of the nominations from the Nomination Committee, on the ballot for public voting.

While some democratic protesters called for civic nominations that would allow Hong Kong citizens to nominate candidates directly–a measure supported by Occupy Central–the main thrust of the protests aren’t about civic nominations. The restrictions on candidates in the National People’s Congress proposal simply make it impossible for candidates from liberal pan-democratic parties to run for chief executive, denying the public a choice.

Here is what Hong Kong’s Basic Law (Article 45) says about the chief executive elections:

The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

There are three important points:
1.) Basic Law states the “nominating committee” should nominate the chief executive.
2.) The nominating committee should be “broadly representative.”
3.) The last line says it should be “in accordance with democratic procedures”, which pro-Beijing officials say means that it should have a 50 percent nomination threshold.
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The Stupidest Argument in the History of “ISIS is Crossing the US Border”

Ever since ISIS beheaded two American journalists, some Americans have been hyping fears about ISIS terrorists supposedly crossing the US border. There doesn’t appear to be any real evidence of that happening. Typically the argument sounds something like this one: A Texas sheriff said he found Qurans at the border. Now we have the stupidest argument yet about ISIS coming over the border, courtesy of activist/prank video maker James O’Keefe.

The U.S. border with Mexico has long been a controversy among conservatives who think that it isn’t well controlled. Many illegal immigrants come to America over the border. In fact, the government estimates that 60,000 unaccompanied children will illegally cross the border without authorization in 2014. There is a political debate about what to do about them, with conservative Republicans typically opposing allowing illegal immigrants to become legal citizens. All of that is background for the illegal immigrant terrorist debate. Since conservatives think the border is a problem, they are apt to exaggerate the problem by talking about terrorists coming rather than migrants or refugees or people seeking American citizenship.

James O’Keefe went to the Southern Border in August and purported to film himself crossing the border dressed as Osama bin Laden. It doesn’t need to be said that wearing a terrorist mask doesn’t identify anyone as a terrorist.

Now in early September, O’Keefe topped himself. In his recent video, he filmed himself driving in American waters on Lake Erie and then coming to shore. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t face any problems since he never left America.
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