Category Archives for "New Writing"

Dec 12

“Sometimes you need someone who doesn’t act professional”: Taiwanese on Trump

By Mitchell Blatt | China , Foreign Affairs , New Writing

Whatever one thinks about Trump the person, the vast majority of Taiwanese are ecstatic that Trump appeared to give their country a little respect and took a (pre-planned) phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen. I wrote about the circumstances behind Taiwan’s domestic politics at Red Alert Politics and how Taiwan’s youth are increasingly united around independence: What Trump’s call means to Taiwan’s ‘strawberry generation'”.

Now here are brief comments from two other young Taiwanese I talked to recently.

Ryan, a bartender who has worked in Nanjing, China, the Republic of China’s old capital, said:

“Finally there’s a politician who is not political. Sometimes you just need someone who does not act like a professional to make a change. When you try to break through an impasse, you’ll need a random genius to break it, then you’ll have a chance to rebuild something.”

Mohan, whom I met at a hostel in Nanjing, China, said:

“That Trump had a phone call with Tsai Ing-wen made me especially happy. Although China has developed pretty well, life isn’t just about money. The mainstream thinking of Chinese people still isn’t in accord with the tide in the world.”

Aug 08

Visiting Chonnam University – Day 10

By Mitchell Blatt | History , Korea Trip 2016 , New Writing

Yesterday I arrived in Gwangju to revisit the sites of the historic Gwangju Uprising of 1980 against military rule. On my first day here, I followed the May 18 Road to see where and how the uprising started out of student protests at Chonnam University.

I wrote about it in detail at Kim Chi Bytes, one of the top South Korean blogs, where I am now a contributor. In part:

Chonnam National University is credited with being where the events of the Gwangju Uprising actually started, and it’s where the first May 15 Road trail starts. When the students arrived on the morning of May 18, the day after martial law was declared over the entire country, they were met with paratroopers and told the university was closed. Students across the country, along with about two dozen opposition lawmakers, including Gwangju local and future democratically-elected president Kim Dae-Jung. According to the May 18 Memorial Foundation, the paratroopers “unconditionally beat the students who were being observed in study in a library.”

As the news spread, more began coming to the university to resist martial law. By mid-morning, about 300-500 students had gathered by the gate in contrast to 30 paratroopers. Yoon Sang-won, then a student at Chonnam, writes that the students chanted, “Soldiers controlled by political commanders, return to your army post.” Other chants by the fifty students who sat down included, “End martial law!” and “Withdraw the order to close the universities!” according to Gwangju News.

The paratroopers warned, according to the account by Na Kahn-chae in South Korean Democracy: Legacy of the Gwangju Uprising, “If you do not return home immediately, you will be dispersed by force.” Students began throwing stones, and the paratroopers attacked. But the students were eventually able to move their protests throughout the city by the afternoon and march to the train station.

The spirit of student protest seems to be alive and well at Chonnam today. Banners hanging from trees voice opposition to THAAD, a missile defense system the government bought from the U.S., and support for students’ academic freedom.

Read the full post here: Visiting the Place Where the Gwangju Uprising Started

Feb 04

I Appear on Jiangsu TV

By Mitchell Blatt | New Writing

I was interviewed by Jiangsu Education TV last Thursday and Friday and this Monday. The reason for my fame? I’m a foreigner in China.

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They wanted to know about my views on American and Chinese culture and on how foreigners celebrate Spring Festival, the celebration Chinese New Year, which starts on February 19, new year’s eve, and goes through March 5, which is Lantern Festival.

They filmed me drinking tea and talking with a Chinese paper-cutting master on Thursday and Friday then they interviewed me on Monday and asked about my experiences in China, my views on cultural issues, dating in China, studying abroad in China, food in China, and what have you.

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It airs before Spring Festival. I will post the video when it is available.

Last summer, I participated in the Jiangsu TV Chinese for foreigner competition:

Jan 23

My Profiles on 2016 Presidential Candidates

By Mitchell Blatt | New Writing

With 2015 comes the start of the presidential race. Already Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee have announced they are considering running, and others have hinted at it. As such, being an American columnist for China.org.cn, I began this year by analyzing a few of the candidates:

Here they are:

Jeb Bush

Bush’s two terms in office were widely considered to be huge successes. He had relatively high approval ratings in office and got a lot of policies enacted. He was innovative on some fronts, being the first governor to successfully introduce school vouchers, now a popular conservative education reform idea in other states. But since leaving office, Bush has been slammed by the Tea Party for taking positions on Common Core, a national movement to reform education standards, and immigration reform that right-wingers detest. In truth, when you look at his record in office, he was a very conservative governor, cutting taxes up to US$19 billion, vetoing about US$2 billion in spending, strengthening gun rights laws, and suing to keep a feeding tube inserted in the body of Terry Schiavo, a brain dead woman whose case the “pro-life” community rallied around. All of these positions are clear conservative positions, but the Tea Party has moved the Republican Party farther to the right since Bush left office.

Jeb Bush: A bipartisan punching bag

Mike Huckabee

In 1957, the Soviet Union released the satellite Sputnik 1, beating the United States in the first round of the Space Race. Non-reproductive sexual relations were criminalized in the privacy of one’s own home. Jim Crow laws and segregation prevailed across the South, and Sen. Strom Thurmond spent 24 hours filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

It doesn’t sound like it was a very good time to be an American, but you wouldn’t know it if you heard prospective presidential candidate Mike Huckabee describing it. Huckabee, who announced on Jan. 3 that he was quitting his Fox News talk show to consider a 2016 presidential run, never misses an opportunity to wax nostalgic about the bygone era of “Leave It to Beaver” and “Father Knows Best.”

Mike Huckabee: stuck in the past

Mitt Romney

Is the third time a charm? Mitt Romney is quoted as having told supporters that he is strongly considering a run for the presidency in 2016.

Skepticism abounds. As Romney said in the documentary “Mitt,” those who lose are branded as losers for life. Richard Nixon was the only president in the last century to win the presidency in a general election on his second try.

But Romney is a driven man who learns from his mistakes. It was easy to see in the 2012 primary debates, where Romney made pointed attacks on his challengers, how much Romney had improved from his 2008 primary loss.

Moreover, Romney has earned the respect – if not the love – of the GOP’s conservative base and the Tea Party. The way the race is shaping up, he might have a path to victory that builds on both “conservative” and “moderate” support.

How Mitt Romney can win conservatives

Rand Paul

It’s impossible to say who is the most dishonest politician. There are too many good choices, and the most dishonest politicians are often the hardest to find, anyway. If they’re good at it, then you won’t know they are lying.

The politicians who are bad at lying are easy to spot. They’re right there on cable news or in print spewing transparent contradictions. When Sen. Rand Paul went on CNN in March 2013 to discuss his proposed anti-abortion Life at Conception Act, he responded to the host’s first question by saying, “I don’t think we’re in any real rush towards new legislation.”

This is Rand Paul’s approach to controversial questions across the spectrum. Unlike his father, Ron Paul, who would go on CNN and unapologetically defend his radical positions, Rand Paul will run from them in an instant in order to try to win votes.

Rand Paul: Too radical for America

Jan 22

Charlie Hebdo Articles

By Mitchell Blatt | New Writing

Last week, the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris was the topic dominating conversation and commentary. As a columnist as China.org.cn, of course it was a topic I and my colleagues analyzed from many angles. China.org.cn has summarized the articles in a brilliant format, which you can see here.

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My column espoused the need for tolerance of many religious and political views so that we don’t try to silence people’s speech by force or otherwise. You can read it here:

Everyone has their own ideas about religion. Everyone has their own ideas about what is offensive or blasphemous. No one should be forced to live under the rules of a religion that they don’t believe in. Charlie Hebdo brutally mocked Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, not to mention many political issues, but they didn’t deserve to die or be censored for doing so.

Tolerance is key in the wake of tragedy

Of course there were many other great articles by China.org.cn writers, so click the link to see the full summary: Charlie Hebdo Paris shootings

Oct 01

New Magazine Issue: Hong Kong’s Hidden Beaches

By Mitchell Blatt | New Writing , Travel

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
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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

Sep 18

New Article: Our Mistaken Search for “Authenticity”

By Mitchell Blatt | New Writing

Here’s the column I wrote for the latest issue of map magazine. Actually, it was published on Sept. 1, so sorry for being late…

On TripAdvisor, many of the reviews of Jinli Pedestrian Street in Chengdu criticize the popular attraction because it’s too commercialized. “It is now a completely commercial zone, capped off with, wait, you know it, a STARBUCKS!” says a top contributor from El Paso, Texas.

It seems foreigners always hate something that is too commercialized and are always looking for the most “authentic” thing. I have felt the same way, too, from time to time. Whenever the topic of Yunnan comes up, I tell people not to go to Lijiang but to go to Dali instead. (Of course, Dali has bars and hotels, too. After all, without commercialization, there’s nowhere to sleep.)

In our search for “authenticity”, it’s worth defining what we’re looking for. According to the China Highlights travel agency, “Jinli Old Street is one of the oldest shopping streets in Sichuan Province, and it can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms Period, over 1,800 years ago.” Does it really make sense to criticize an ancient shopping street for being excessively commercialized? …

Read full article: Our Mistaken Search for “Authenticity” – map magazine

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Aug 08

My Review of The Wind Rises and Other Articles From Map’s Newest Issue

By Mitchell Blatt | Culture , New Writing

The new issue of map magazine has been published, and I wrote a few articles in it, including a column reviewing Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, “The Wind Rises”, which caused some controversy because it was based on the life of a Japanese World War II warplane designer. As such, I analyze the theme of the movie.

That the film glorifies the creation story of a Japanese war plane has prompted some criticism. Heck, the film was even criticized by anti-smoking activists for its frequent portrayal of characters smoking. That seems like a trivial point in comparison to the war question. Nonetheless, it encompasses the issues raised in making a movie about this time in Japan. A film about the 1920’s and 30’s without people smoking would be just as inaccurate as a film that ignores the war industry or retroactively portrays all the characters as bad.

Read it here in the electronic magazine: “The Wind Rises”: Brilliant Film Raises Tough Questions.

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Another article I wrote, titled Nanjing’s Silk Road, is about the history of an old alleyway residence that once served as the headquarters of a prosperous brocade company.

Diaoyu Tai alley has white walls with black horse head terraces. Stone dogs guard doors in the wall. If it weren’t for the cars and electric lines, it would look a little like it did in the Qing Dynasty.

There’s more to it, including political intrigue, with the owner supporting underground Communists. Read it in full here: Nanjing’s Silk Road.
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The newest issue of map also has travel tips for people coming to Nanjing for the Youth Olympic Games. If you happen to be in Nanjing, make sure to pick up an issue of map magazine (can be found at some restaurants, hotels, and Starbucks shops)!

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Mar 25

Recent Writings: Taiwan Protests, Hong Kong Protests, Disgusting Trains, and More

By Mitchell Blatt | New Writing

Forget about Ukraine (until an article I wrote about it gets published). Taiwan’s legislature has been invaded by students protesting a trade deal with China. Hong Kong is next (this summer), if Occupy Central does its thing. They praised the Taiwanese protests as a model. Here are some articles I have written recently about those and other topics:

Chinese netizens slam Taiwanese celebrities for supporting Occupy Legislature protests

Taiwanese musicians and celebrities are under fire on Weibo for lending their support to the protesters who have occupied Taiwan’s legislature in opposition to a trade deal with China.

The musician Zhang Xuan (张悬) and the director He Yizheng (柯一正) were both present at demonstrations against the deal, as reported by People Online.

The musicians taking a stand against the deal face backlash in China where they have large fan bases. Weibo users have been referring to them as being supporters of “Taiwanese independence.” The hashtag #Taiwanese Independence Stars Get Out of the Mainland# (#台独明星滚出大陆# ) is trending on Sina Weibo with 81,012 mentions this week.
Full Article: Mayday band receives Chinese hate after they support Taiwanese protests

Occupy Central Hong Kong expresses support for occupy Taiwan legislature protests

After one of the leaders of Occupy Central, a pan-democrat protest movement in Hong Kong, visited an outspoken Taiwanese politician last October, critics of Occupy Central claimed the movement was backing “Taiwanese independence.”

The Global Times said that meant the Hong Kong opposition was “at risk of becoming [an] enemy of the State.” Protesters outside of an Occupy Central deliberation day in October held a sign that said, “Oppose Occupy Central, Resist the Influence of the Taiwanese Independence Movement Attacking Hong Kong.” (“反占中,拒台独势力袭港.”)

Now Occupy Central has expressed support for the Taiwanese protesters who have occupied their legislature in opposition to a cross-straits trade deal.
Full Article: Occupy Central solidarity with Occupy Taiwan

Photos

China’s Dirtiest Trains


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See more disgusting pictures of China’s dirtiest trains in my article.


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“On March 16, Xinhua reported the story of a Hunan farmer who turned his motorcycle into a helicopter…

Taiwanese mothers are on the scene to support their little protesters, and Claudia Mo, a leading Hong Kong pan-democrat politician, posted their photo to her Facebook fan page.

Apr 20

2 New Articles About Chinese Education

By Mitchell Blatt | Culture , New Writing

Studying from 7 am until 10:30 pm? Is the Chinese education system too stressful for students? I recently published two articles highlighting those aspects of the Chinese education system. Read on:

It’s Sunday night in Dali. I’m standing outside Tang Dynasty on Foreigner Street, the famous bar street here, where I work as a greeter, waving at tourists passing by and inviting them in.

At around 10:30 p.m. a long line of teenagers in blue uniforms starts walking down the street.

“Hello, please sit down,” I say.

“Don’t say that to them!” my waitress colleague says to me. “Students don’t come to the bar. It’s bad for studying.”

What are students doing getting out of class at 10:30 on a Sunday night?

Students in Chinese high school study hard, and you can see it in Dali. On weekdays, they are in class from 7 a.m. until 10:30 p.m., with breaks from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Saturdays, they have class from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., and on Sundays, they have class from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. With a study schedule like this, it’s no wonder that China topped the PISA international education test scores in 2010, an event that some American education analysts called a “Sputnik moment” signaling the rise of China.

But is it really good for students to be studying this long? What’s it like for the students?

In Dali, like many small rural towns in China, there is a lot of pressure on the students to advance themselves.

“In Shanghai, it’s more relaxed. We just have class from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” said Fancy, a Shanghainese student. “The poorer the area, the harder they study.”

Read the full article: Looking for Freedom From the Chinese Education System
Also published recently: “Fairness” and the Gaokao: The Invalid Argument Against Reform
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