Monthly Archives: May 2014

May 20

The Development of a Eastern Jiangsu County: Funing

By Mitchell Blatt | Travel

Funing is a county in eastern Jiangsu province, over 3 hours by bus from Nanjing, and over 4 hours from Shanghai. The whole county has a population of 1.08 million people and 180,000 in the urban area, which is to say it’s not very big.

But it might be a little bit bigger in the future. 15-30 story towers are sprouting up in groves along the edge of a downtown center.
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May 09

A Judicial Coup for the Rich? Reviewing Giles’s Book in the Aftermath of Yingluck’s Dismissal

By Mitchell Blatt | Foreign Affairs , Literature

600px-9147ri-Yingluck_ShinawatraThailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra must step down, making her the second member of the Shinawatra family to be dismissed from a prime minister post after protests by the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted in a 2006 military coup, the subject of Giles Ji Ungpakorn’s book A Coup for the Rich (available for download at Wikileaks).

Giles’s book is a quick take (144 pages) on the 2006 coup, published shortly after it happened, from a left-wing perspective. Giles described in detail not only the events surrounding the coup but also the background of Thai politics and history that builds the context for the P.A.D. movement and the coup. The book was banned for “insulting the monarchy”, and Giles fled Thailand to avoid Lese Majesty charges.

Giles, who published the book while working as an associate professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, is listed as a founding member of the socialist group Turn Left Thailand in an international communist journal. His left-wing political lean is palpable throughout the book.

Still, anyone with a grasp of politics can read through his opinions and apply their own ideology. When he portrays the anti-government protesters as being concerned about government “‘over-spend[ing]’ on welfare” to those whom they (Giles asserts) view as “‘ignorant rural and urban poor’”, a left-winger might consider the P.A.D. activists to be greedy and uncompassionate, while a free-market supporter (right-winger, conservative, neoliberal… pick your descriptor) might consider the P.A.D. to be hard-working people who support pro-growth economic policies. For Giles, it is a fight between “the poor who understand and are committed to democracy” versus “the so-called middle classes who are determined to hang on to their privileges by any means possible.”
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May 06

Results of Occupy Central Hong Kong Final Deliberation Day: Here are the Three Election Proposals on the Ballot

By Mitchell Blatt | Uncategorized

Today, May 6, 2014, Occupy Central held its final deliberation day to select the proposals they will put on the ballot for the referendum they are holding on June 22 on establishing universal suffrage in Hong Kong.

Occupy Central is campaigning for universal suffrage for the 2017 chief executive election. The election in the past has been decided by a 2,000 person election committee. The 2017 election is expected to involve universal suffrage, but Occupy Central is concerned that the voting process will be fixed to favor the pro-Beijing candidate, so they decided to propose nomination and election procedures that adhere to international standards. If their proposal isn’t adopted, they plan to block the streets of downtown Hong Kong in protest.

Today, they deliberated over 15 proposals and 2,594 of their members voted. On June 22, they will include the three winning proposals in a referendum they are hosting that will be open to Hong Kong residents, and then they will demand the government adopt the winning proposal.


The three proposals that will be on the ballot are those of the student activist groups Scholarism and Federation of Students; the political party People Power; and the Alliance for True Democracy.Continue reading

May 02

The Donald Sterlings of Asia

By Mitchell Blatt | Uncategorized

Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, was exposed making racist statements in a tapped conversation with his girlfriend. He said, among other things, “It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people.”

The outrage across the NBA was swift and resulted in the league forcing Sterling to put the team on the market. It also recalled past housing discrimination cases brought against Sterling, including one that he settled for $3 million with the U.S. Justice Department in 2009.

According to an article in ESPN: The Magazine, Sterling said that an apartment unit he had purchased smelled bad “because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they’re not clean.”

An article by Helier Cheung of the BBC News about housing discrimination in Singapore shows that some landlords use similar language when denying housing to Indians and mainland Chinese.Continue reading

May 01

Luohu Station in Shenzhen Represents Everything Hong Kongese Hate About China

By Mitchell Blatt | Travel

If you want to know why Hong Kongese people hate mainland Chinese tourists, go to Luohu subway station in Shenzhen.

Luohu is one of the two checkpoint stations in Shenzhen, and it’s full of low class shopping malls, aggressive touts, and aggressive vendors selling milk powder and other products they took across the border from Hong Kong.


Hong Kongese have been scared about their growing integration with the mainland. About 30 million mainland tourists go to Hong Kong each year, many of them to take advantage of Hong Kong’s tariff-free shopping. (China, by contrast, has high import tariffs on many foreign goods, particularly luxury items and electronics.) Also, Hong Kong consumption products are considered safer, after many mainland food safety scares, so mainlanders buy a lot of milk powder. This has caused Hong Kong to implement a milk powder customs limit.

Hong Kongese feel that Hong Kong, crowded already in 1997, is becoming way too crowded with Chinese tourists and will become even more crowded as more Chinese are allowed to immigrate or visit. Many mainland mothers even go to Hong Kong to give birth and get a Hong Kong passport for their kid.

These circumstances have led to many protests and controversies.Continue reading

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Mitchell Blatt is an intrepid travel writer, and an author of two top China guidebooks, who brings his readers deep into the cultures of the places he explores. Subscribe now to get real stories of real people in real places around the world delivered right to your inbox.