I always say that it's mind-blowing how wasteful and inefficient the English teaching system is, with literally millions of kids (and adults) wasting millions of houses of precious schooling to study a language that they have no use for, no interest in, no talent with and will forget a lost as soon as they graduate.
That said, whenever I meet people with incredible English (and it happens often) I find it amazing how they did that without ever having come into contact with native speakers or even semi-decent language materials. It's a puzzling one.
I judged competitions like this a few times. It's a weird experience. Often the students/academic institutions have a bizarre and extreme view of what makes good language - speaking at 100 mph, emulating some kind of thick Amayreeecaaahn accent, choosing crazily complex topics to memorize... At the end of one horrific competition, a visiting professor from Xiamen University (a good Uni btw) told the crowd you could never speak a language well unless you could memorize 4 pages of A4 :/
Incidentally, years ago the national CCTV English competitions were broadcast live, but after my friend Justin completely forgot his speech and fluffed everything they changed it to a pre-recorded (or time delayed perhaps?) broadcast instead. He was the only person in that final stage who didn't grow up in America or have 100% international school upbringing.
> He was the only person in that final stage who didn't grow up in America or have 100% international school upbringing.
This is why such competitions has always been BS. They've been around for 15+ years. At first I admired those kids (back then my "peers"), but later on realized that the education they received could only have been afforded by a very small "elite" class. English was far from a foreign language to the vast majority of the final-rounders and this applies to every single competition and every single age group. Totally fair huh.
I can only trace a small handful of distant ancestors that came from outside the US, and have only left the country for occasional vacations, but, having never memorized four pages of anything, I should probably take "native proficiency in English" off of my LinkedIn :(
I saw him on some billboards in Wuhan recently :) I honesty don't know, there seem to be more foreigners now on TV with good Chinese though, ones doing word games and straight up presenting with great Mandarin.
You're misinterpreting the nature of control. Yes, there are protests, mostly because the government lets them happen. It helps people let off steam, it gives the government an indication of how people feel, and quite often there are conflicting interests which the Party can rise above (remember, government and the Party are not the same thing). So, often it's a bunch of workers protesting against a company, or a corrupt local official in one department - the Party can let that happen, and choose sides later when they've decided which way the wind is blowing. Policemen are shitting themselves because the Party mostly sides with the security apparatus but today they might let the protest get a bit wild if they want to allow the protesters a bit of leeway, and then those untrained, poorly equipped policemen will be screwed.
When stuff he Party doesn't like happens, they shut it down using methods you (on the whole) cannot do in France, the UK, and the U.S. Try introducing political censorship of material critical to Hollande. Try censoring books and courses in university. Try locking up journalists and writers (on tax evasion charges of course) when they say stuff you disagree with. Try rolling out the tanks when a protest gets out of hand. Etc.
So don't be fooled by the seemingly light hand of the gov - they've intentionally backed off from the Cultural Recolution level of control because they know that most people don't give a damn, and if left alone they will do nothing. How about an experiment - I'll hold up an anti government sign in front of the French parliament, and you do the same in Tiananmen Square and we'll see how much control the Chinese gov has ;)
"How about an experiment - I'll hold up an anti government sign in front of the French parliament, and you do the same in Tiananmen Square and we'll see how much control the Chinese gov has ;)"
Actually, i did just that 10 years ago, in front of the elysee ( white house french equivalent), alone, american style with my street sign ( although i didn't shout any sligan, i remained silent), and one policeman asked me my ID, went somewhere with it, gave it back to me, and told me to leave, saying "this is is not the US here".
But, yeah, nothing else happened. I wasn't beaten up or followed or spyed upon after that.
I don't think so. I am just taking the other angle, from the people's perspective, and want to debunk the cliche that Chinese people are easy to control. They've had much more revolutions than any other country in their long history. They're all but easy to control. In French we say "like boiling milk", which means they can easily and suddenly get out of control and wash out anything on their way. Just blocking a few topics on social network is certainly not enough. As for things that are allowed or forbidden, it seems more cultural than anything else: In China direct verbal confrontation is very rare, while it is very common in the West, and this holds in families, in companies and also at the country's level. Not very surprisingly, in France insulting the head of state is not forbidden, and even something like a national entertainment. However, in France we have laws telling people if they are allowed to work on Sundays, which seems extremely weird and borderline "totalitarian" to the Chinese, which believe people should be allowed to work whenever they need to or want to.
Also, when talking about China, it needs to be reminded that in fact the core Western values (i.e. Enlightment values) and the core Chinese values (i.e. Confucean values) are very similar, and quite compatible. (See how fast Chinese immigrants adapt to and adopt Western values.) For instance, secularism and religious tolerance, equality of rights and before the law, meritocracy, etc.
I think the world is going very badly these days, and a big chunk of it is in the hands of people whose values are really opposed to the core of modern humanist values, and this chunk is not China. We'd better team up and fight (with ideas, not with guns) what really threatens humanity as a whole. Just my thoughts.
I know what you mean in terms of "boiling milk" - in that respect I agree. I keep thinking these days of that old saying of China as a sleeping elephant; instead I think the people are the sleeping elephant. I think the government's strategy relies a lot on ignorance and apathy, but if even half of these stories we read as standard on NYTimes etc made it into the public consciousness, there would be huge issues.
About the laws - I guess it's not the actual content of the laws or relatively different values that illustrates control. Eg in your example about working on Sunday's - if you decided to fight one of those laws, you could do it openly and publicly and in principle it would be a fair fight. You might even embarrass the government or a political leader, but here there's so little chance of that - that's the different nature of the Communist Party control. The government/party has taken away avenues to legitimately discuss/debate/fight, so the options are either total apathy or explosive revolution. That's scary!
> if you decided to fight one of those laws, you could do it openly and publicly and in principle it would be a fair fight.
Yes, but here you may have assumed that "openly and publicly" is a precondition for fairness. I do not think openness and publicity of fights is the only way to get fairness. Or at least this can be discussed and we should allow that, on one side openness is often faked, on the other that private and closed tractations may to some extent result in a decision or in a law that is efficient and corresponds to the long term better good of the concerned people (i.e. what they would really choose if given all the elements, and not disturbed by red herrings)
For instance, if the governing elite is composed of ("extracted from") people from all parts of society, attracting the best of them with some good rewards (e.g. not money, but something like "good fame") and they collegially discuss important issues using the powers of associations, it could very well be a sane way to distillate the will of the people. Maybe even a saner way than ours (where representatives are elected from their good-looking face, this has been proven).
I don't know, I'm kind of skeptical of the ability of closed elites from anywhere doing things that are fair. We've seen the last few years how tightly linked elites in European/US societies have been evading tax responsibilities, trampling on constitutions or laws to spy on citizens, protecting those responsible for the 2008 crisis, fabricating evidence for various invasions etc. I just mean to say that temptation is too great - openness is too often a toothless tool, but it helps check those elites when their interests veer wildy away from the common good.
China is weird because it's so closed, and it's often tempting to say that the elites here are doing a pretty good job of doing what's best for the people. Until you read about how much money they are making personally from abusing their positions.
> but today they might let the protest get a bit wild if they want to allow the protesters a bit of leeway, and then those untrained, poorly equipped policemen will be screwed.
I'd say most often than not, when a government lets a protest get wild it's because they want to justify the harsh repression that's coming or at least that when the time comes for decision, they won't side with the protestors.
Or they're just in over their head but in that case, they don't let it get wild, they just loose control.
The HK protests were interesting recently for that reason - the protestors had the momentum, and the governments first reaction if it was mainland China would probably be to crush it. They let it boil over, and eventually the momentum was lost and anti-protestor sentiment took over. Whether that was by design or 'helped along' is another issue, but it showed how popular protests can sometimes just sour if left to their own devices.
Occupy Wall Street comes to mind as another example. NYC sentiment turned rather quickly against that movement once the public delectation, rape allegations and the inconvienient even caused by protestors started to boil over.
At university my friend was studying police tactics dealing with football hooligans and riots in the UK - they were slowly changing their tactics from full-on horse charges and batons waving to a very tai chi style light touch. Generally speaking the moderates would get bored and go home and then leave only the hardcore, who were then easier to identify and target. The light touch is a fantastic PR tool too because it shows any gov as tolerant and open.
For me the most interesting thig about this incident is how the GFW is being used offensively. Most other governments so far have protested online censorship from a kind of moral standpoint, but not from a security standpoint per se. Now it's quite clear the GFW is being leveraged offensively - did anyone spot this capability previously?
It's an identical setup to the NSA QUANTUM infrastructure, just in China instead of scattered around the western internet system. So I guess it's probably been used offensively in a more targeted approach for a while.
It is not advanced technology: TCP just has no protection here. Anyone capable of in-path packet surveillance and in-/by-path packet injection on a significant link can pull off this exact same attack. You could co-opt a router to do it: GCHQ have.
We're going to need pervasive (authenticated) encryption to defeat it.
I believe this is precisely the method GCHQ used to compromise Belgacom, for the purposes of spying on the EU. They used QUANTUMINSERT to inject an exploit payload into connections from belgacom employees to LinkedIn and slashdot.
Although in those, they targeted using pretty close selectors and the payload was browser exploits with a very advanced dropper from what is essentially a big, supported modern malware construction kit. GCHQ used the same technique, but leveraged it to do a very different - and actually far more intrusive and destructive - thing.
This, by contrast, is a widely-targeted, fairly dumb DoS payload - but of course, not every DDoS has to be smart! Scale does all the work, and dropping malware, albeit relatively benign malware, en masse like this yields a lot of scale. This is particularly bad when there are potentially more personnel adapting it to evade defenses than there are personnel trying to defend against it: bravo to the GitHub security team!
I totally agree with you - the Chinese government has some right to protect their sovereignty, but if github or the American way of life is so offensive, then block the website and tools outright. I live here too, and it's kind of offensive when (speaking generally now) Chinese people want cherry-picked access to Western technology, science, design, creativity etc. but then aggressively reject the culture that produced them.
You've got a strong argument to say "the reporter should do a little bit more work to put these numbers in context" but the reporter has an equally strong argument for "This is a news wire, not a journal. I just report today's news as succinctly as possible, it's the readers responsibility to read further and put this stuff in context if that's really important". As a side note though, I like the Economist because they tend to do what you're talking about - put things in context.
The "ghost city" phenomenon always seemed like a good headline, ignoring the real building tragedy going on: poor quality housing, poor city planning, poor urban facilities. I see massive developments going on around me and yes, for a long time they are empty and ghostlike. they slowly fill up, and the urban centers become that bit more unliveable, that bit more crowded etc.
Well... no bubble is the same, otherwise we'd be able to spot them and avoid them every time, right? If there is a common factor in housing bubbles, it's the extent to which housing moves away from its primary purpose (ie. a roof over a family's heads). In China housing has become a massive source of income for local governments, income for developers, and an investment vehicle for rich people. It has all the signs of being a classic bubble and the only question is how/if the government can deflate it. Also don't forget that a lot of people pay cash because they can't get a mortgage or don't trust the banks, but they still borrow money from friends, family, lending circles or other informal sources - there is often still a wobbly chain of debt behind each purchase.