Dueling Aircraft Carrier (Videos)

To celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the Aviation Industry Corporation (a state-owned company) released this video of China’s J-15 carrier plane and the country’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

Round about the same time, the US Navy released their own video of the USS George Washington-based “Royal Maces” squadron showing their stuff.

Let’s just hope that the duel never moves beyond video clips!

 

English Words Borrowed from Chinese

This is a pop quiz — what common English words are borrowed from Chinese? The answer may surprise you.

How about kowtow, gung ho, and ketchup? Or typhoon. Or “long time no see.”

Even though English is a language that compulsively borrows from other languages, we don’t have too many borrowed from English.

A post on the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog last week delved into the question of why not:

“Linguists note that the heyday for linguistic absorption from China occurred before 1950, as can be seen in the spellings of certain loaner words—kowtow, gung ho, ketchup—many derived from non-Mandarin Chinese languages such as Cantonese.

 

Though there are other Chinese terms that are well-known in English, such as bok choy or chow mien, as the Economist’s Johnson language blog has pointed out, ‘[English-speaking countries] borrowed the foods, and their Chinese names merely hitched a ride into English.’ The same could be true of another—by now—commonly known Chinese term, feng shui.”

The post then asked its readers to identify Chinese words that could (or should) be imported by English. Below are my top five suggestions:

1. Ding (订). This is a great word that means to reserve or book or settle something. It can be used in multiple contexts — buying tickets, reserving a table at a restaurant, or arranging a time to meet a friend. It’s one of those words that foreigners in China sprinkle into their English discourse. “Did you ding a table?” “Did you ding the ticket?” And then there’s the great phrase, “jiu zhenme ding le.” (It’s settled, then!)

2. mafan (麻烦). This is another catch-all word that means hassle, annoyance, or all-around pain in the neck. Anything that fits into those categories can be described as mafan. It can also take on political overtones — people don’t want to “have mafan” from the government, that is get into trouble with the authorities.

3. mashang (马上). This means immediately, or presently, conveying the idea that something is about to happen. It literally means “on the horse.”

4. couhe (凑合). This word means to “make do.” When things can’t be perfect, then you just couhe couhe. When you don’t have all the exact ingredients or materials, you improvise — couhe. When you have to change your plans at the last minute, you couhe couhe.

5. bu wenming (不文明). The most common translation of this term is civilized or uncivilized. To suggest that someone is bu wenming is to suggest that he or she is rude, or uncouth — without manners.

So, dear Chinese speaking readers….leave a comment and tell me which Chinese words would YOU like to see make their way into English.

 

Death of a Snow Bank

Here in Minnesota, we mark the turning from winter to spring by monitoring the death of the snow banks that surround us. When they are at their highest, we wonder if they will ever melt. It seems unlikely. But the days get longer, and sun gets warmer, and even the biggest ones eventually succumb.

This year I decided to chronicle the death of “Mount Gracewood,” the giant snow bank that stood guard in the ‘hood for so long. Today, even after 3 inches of new snow on Thursday, she finally gave up the ghost.

At it's peak, on February 21, 2014

At it’s peak, on February 21, 2014

March 30, 2014

March 30, 2014

April 4, 2014

April 4, 2014

 

April 10, 2014

April 10, 2014

April 12, 2014

April 12, 2014

April 19, 2014

April 19, 2014

An hour later she was gone…until November, that is!

Hong Kong, China. Really?

Way back in 1997 I was the director of a Chinese language program at a major university in Changchun. As the semester was coming to an end, one of the students (they were all Americans) let me know that he needed to go to Hong Kong at the end of June.

This was back in the days before multiple entry visas, so every time we planned to leave the country, we had to obtain exit and re-entry visas before we left. (As you can imagine, this made emergency departures for medical or personal reasons quite challenging!)

The tricky thing in this student’s case was that he was going to Hong Kong the last week of June, and would be returning to Changchun mid-July. During his time in Hong Kong, the city was due to be “handed over” to China after 99 years of British colonial rule.

The fact that Hong Kong was reverting to Chinese sovereignty was a matter of great pride in China, and we had been bombarded with slogans and propaganda about  Hong Kong’s “return to the Motherland” for months and months.  Let’s just say the Communist Party was milking this one for all it was worth!

As for the student, clearly, he was leaving China in June, but would he be ‘returning’ to China in July. If Hong Kong was to become a part of China on July 1, wouldn’t he then already be in China? And if he was, by virtue of the July 1 handover in China, would he need a visa to return to Changchun?

It was a great question, and one that I had no idea how to answer, so off we went to the foreign student office to see what they would have to say about the matter. Since they were the ones who handled visa paperwork, surely they would know.

I handed the passport to Mr. Y. and explained that Mr. G. was going to Hong Kong, so would need an exit visa. “But when he returns in July,” I said, “Hong Kong will be a part of China….so will he need a re-entry visa?”

My question stumped Mr. Y, so he decided to call the local Public Security Bureau, which was in charge of actually issuing visas. The conversation went something like this:

Mr. Y: I have an American in my office who will go to Hong Kong at the end of June, but return to China mid-July. Will he need a re-entry visa?

Mr. Policeman (he was on the other end of the phone, but Mr. G and I could hear him clearly): Of course. Why wouldn’t he need a visa?

Mr. Y: Because by that time Hong Kong will have returned to the Motherland.

We could “hear” silence on the other end of the line as the absurdity of the situation began to dawn on Mr. Policeman. Then he began laughing hysterically, and soon we were all laughing hysterically!

After a few minutes, we regained our composure and waited for Mr. Policeman’s response.

Mr. Policeman: That’s true, but he will still need a visa to return.

And so it is — Hong Kong is a part of China, but it isn’t. Flying from Beijing to Hong Kong is considered an international flight, and thus requires a passport — even for Chinese. And a foreigner wanting to travel from Hong Kong to China must get a visa. But remember, it’s a part of China.

Are you confused? Never fear; this short video explains it all!

(If you receive this post by email, and cannot view the video clip. please click here.)

And now you know why “Is Hong Kong a part of China?” is a tricky question. 

China Divided in Half

It is often said that there are two China’s — urban China and rural China. But according to this map, recently published on Tea Leaf Nation, China can be split in half according to GDP distribution. Here’s the description:

Foreign Policy compiled GDP figures reported by municipalities across China and found that 35 cities contributed just under half of China’s GDP in 2013.

The map (below) merits two caveats. First, the definition of a “city” in the PRC includes all counties, county-level cities, and city districts it governs. (Chongqing, for example, is a megacity in southwest China with a population of just under 30 million that covers 31,814 square miles, netting in smaller towns that lie far away from the bustling, recognizably urban center.) Second, multiple regions will sometimes take credit for the same dollar of GDP, such that the sum of reported numbers exceeds the top-line national statistic. Nonetheless, the below map provides a revealing look at just how much China’s GDP growth machine depends on a few regions:

140328_China50PercentMap

 There you have it — the two China’s! Wow!

 

 

Jesus and Mao on China’s Internet

On April 7, the online magazine Tea Leaf Nation (one of my favorites) published an article titled Infographic: Jesus More Popular Than Mao on China’s Twitter.

The writer set out to determine the prevalence of religious content vs. political content on Weibo and discovered (much to her surprise, it seems) that “the atheist Chinese Communist Party, known for its sometimes heavy-handed policies towards religions, from Islam to Christianity to Tibetan Buddhism, seems far more willing to allow Christian terminology to appear on Weibo than Communist argot, according to data taken from search results on the platform conducted April 3.”

She did a search for “Bible” and “Quotations of Chairman Mao,” and discovered 17 million recent mentions of “Bible” and only 60,000 mentions of Quotations of Chairman Mao.”

A search for “Xi Jinping” (China’s President and General Secretary of the Communist Party) yielded 4 million mentions, while a search for “Jesus” yielded more than 18 million mentions.

She found 41.8 million mentions of “Christian Congregation,” while “Communist Party” only turned up 5.3 million mentions.

In other words, the words “Bible,” “Jesus,” or “Christian” are NOT considered to be sensitive words on Weibo. This is something that I wrote about on this site last year in an article for ChinaSource titled China’s Online Christian Community.

So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the Tea Leaf Nation article veers off course a bit when the writer highlights the results of her search for the term “underground church:”

“That’s not to say that Christian content is free of censorship. A search for the term “underground church,” referring to Christian congregations in China that refuse to register as one of the state-sanctioned churches, produces a blank search page with a notice reading, “results cannot be displayed due to relevant laws and regulations.””

The implication is clearly that these un-registered churches are outside the bounds on Weibo (and by extension, the Internet in general), and therefore fall into the ‘not permitted’ category.

Here’s the problem:  people in China generally do not use the term “underground church” (地下教会) to refer to congregations that are not registered as state-sanctioned churches. That’s a term used almost exclusively by foreigners. The common term for these unregistered churches is “house church” (家庭教会). This is true even if the church meets in a venue other than a house, such as rented office space.

If she had used the term “house church” instead, she would have discovered thousands, if not millions of mentions, something that would have actually bolstered her findings.

That mistake notwithstanding, her conclusion is spot on:

“Chatter about religion may make the Chinese government queasy, and occasionally terrified, but it’s politics that keeps its leaders (and censors) awake at night.”

Note: This post first appeared on the ChinaSource Blog.

 

Laughing is Happiness

So says the darling little boy in this video:

(if you receive this post by email, click here to watch the video)

It is a clip from a popular TV show in China called “Amazing Chinese.” Obviously it’s along the lines of America’s Got Talent, or other such shows. As in the west, this genre has become quit a hit in China.

When Little Zhang talks about dancing with his mom in the plaza everyday, he is referring to the spontaneous (and sometimes loosely organized) dancing events that spring up in city plazas and parks in China. It’s mostly grannies who are out dancing (one of the judges makes reference to them), but anyone can join in the fun.

It’s one of my favorite things about Chinese society, and I have often thought that if we spent more time dancing with our neighbors, we’d probably have a less violent society.

 

Ode to St. Albert’s Fish Fry

Last night, a bunch of us trudged through the newly fallen snow to partake in a great Minnesota tradition, the Friday Night Fish Fry. Sponsored every year by local Catholic churches, clubs, and bars, they are the community event of choice during the Lenten Season.

For the past few years, my family and friends have gathered at a VFW post in St. Paul, but this year we decided to branch out and try one of the dinners hosted at a Catholic Church.

An online search led us to a Mpls. St. Paul Magazine article which proclaimed that St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Minneapolis serves the best fish dinner in town: 

St. Albert the Great is the big dog, feeding a ton of tilapia to some 800 people on Friday nights without breaking a sweat (two lines, people). Plus classic bingo twice nightly, cash raffles, and real homemade church-lady desserts. Extra parking one block to the north with a looping shuttle.

With a recommendation like that, who could resist? The fish, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, coleslaw, and yummy homemade desserts did NOT disappoint, and everyone was so friendly. A good time was had by all. 

St. Alberts Fish Dinner

In honor of the occasion, my brother-in-law set the evening to verse:

Ode to St. Albert’s Fish Fry, by Jeff W.

 

A few said, “We’ve had enough, that’s all!

Not another visit to South St. Paul!”

From the city of sin they heard the call,

Should we try St. Albert?

 

At the VFW the fish was fine,

And sure you could order both beer and wine,

“The macaroni is awful” was a common whine,

And tipped the scale toward St. Albert.

 

The new place was rated on a pescatarian blog,

Endorsed by Clifford the Big Red Dog,

The dear Saint’s statue cradles a frog,

On the corner near St. Albert.

 

A German theologian honored by Rome,

An odd combination under St. Peter’s dome,

They all should have returned to their Orthodox home,

Not that stubborn Kraut St. Albert.

 

Within the walls of the church was a smoking ban,

The fish isn‘t smoked, it is cooked in a pan,

They even locked the pipe smoking Prince in the can!

Such is the way of St. Albert.

 

Fish baked or fried, spaghetti too,

Leave room for dessert when the main course is through,

You may want a chocolate chip cookie or two,

Sweets for the sweet at St. Albert.

 

Dress is casual, you can wear jeans,

All types of folks, oldsters and teens,

They pack ‘em all in like a bunch of sardines,

Ten bucks per plate at St. Albert.

 

A whole bunch of friends and a table of food,

Piano music playing to set the mood,

They even serve Baptists, they don’t exclude,

Thanks be to God, and St. Albert.

Related Post: Friday Fish Fry