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Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Beijing 2008: A Painting and its Meaning


I stumbled across this intriguing picture on Facebook, of all places. The image was posted by a certain Joel Ng, who appears to be living in Brunei, again of all places. And this what he said by way of accompaniment: “Amazing thought-provoking painting “Beijing 2008” by Chinese-Canadian artist Liu Yi. The woman with the tattoos on her back is China. On the left, focused intensely on the game, is Japan. The one with the shirt and head cocked to the side is America. Lying provocatively on the floor is Russia. And the little girl standing to the side is Taiwan. This painting, named Beijing 2008, has been the subject of much discussion in the west as well as on the internet. What’s interesting is that this painting is called Beijing 2008, yet it depicts four women playing mahjong, and conceals a wealth of meaning within . . . China’s visible set of tiles “East Wind” has a dual meaning. First, it signifies China’s revival as a world power. Second, it signifies the military might and weaponry that China possesses has already been placed on the table. On one hand, China appears to be in a good position, but we cannot see the rest of her hand. Additionally, she is also handling some hidden tiles below the table. America looks confident, but is glancing at Taiwan, trying to read something off of Taiwan’s expression, and at the same time seems to be hinting something at Taiwan. Russia appears to be disinterested in the game, but this is far from the truth. One foot hooks coyly at America, while her hand passes a hidden tile to China, both countries can be said to be exchanging benefits in secret. Japan is all seriousness while staring at her own set of tiles, and is oblivious to the actions of the others in her self-focused state. Taiwan wears a traditional red slip, symbolizing that she is the true heir of Chinese culture and civilization. In one hand she has a bowl of fruit, and in the other, a paring knife. Her expression as she stares at China is full of anger, sadness, and hatred, but to no avail; unless she enters the game, no matter who ends up as the victor, she is doomed to a fate of serving fruit. Outside the riverbank is darkened by storm clouds, suggesting the high tension between the two nations is dangerously explosive. The painting hanging on the wall is also very meaningful; Mao’s face, but with Chiang Kai Shek’s bald head, and Sun Yat-Sen’s mustache”.a

Beijing 2008

Ng continues that the “four women’s state of undress represent the situation in each country. China is naked on top, clothed with a skirt and underwear on the bottom. America wears a bra and a light jacket, but is naked on the bottom. Russia has only her underwear left. Japan has nothing left. At first glance, America appears to be most composed and seems to be the best position, as all the others are in various states of nakedness. However, while America may look radiant, her vulnerability has already been exposed. China and Russia may look naked, yet their key private parts remain hidden. If the stakes of this game is that the loser strips off a piece of clothing, then if China loses, she will be in the same state as Russia (similar to when the USSR dissolved). If America loses, she also ends up in the same state as Russia. If Russia loses, she loses all. Japan has already lost everything. Russia seems to be a mere ‘filler’ player, but in fact is exchanging tiles with China. The real ‘filler’ player is Japan, for Japan has nothing more to lose, and if she loses just once more she is immediately out of the game. America may look like she is in the best position, but in fact is in a lot of danger, if she loses this round, she will give up her position as a world power. Russia is the most sinister, playing along with both sides, much like when China was de-occupied, she leaned towards the USSR and then towards America; as she did not have the ability to survive on her own, she had to weave between both sides in order to survive and develop. There are too many of China’s tiles that we cannot see. Perhaps suggesting that China has several hidden aces? Additionally China is also exchanging tiles with Russia, while America can only guess from Taiwan’s expression of what actions have transpired between Russia and China. Japan on the other hand is completely oblivious, still focused solely on her own set of tiles. Taiwan stares coldly at the game from aside. She sees everything that the players at the table are doing, she understands everything that is going on. But she doesn’t have the means or permission to join the game, she isn’t even given the right to speak. Even if she has a dearth of complaints, she cannot voice it to anyone, all she can do is to be a good page girl, and bring fresh fruit to the victor. The final victor lies between China and America, this much is apparent. But look closely; while America is capable, they are playing Chinese Mahjong, not Western Poker. Playing by the rules of China, how much chance at victory does America really have?”.b And that is question, particularly now that America’s nominal figurehead is a buffoon like the Drumpf, who seems to be bumbling through life as much anything else. In fact, the artist also has a Facebook page, and I imagine that enterprising or merely curious onlookers might want to query Lui Liu.c Still, I would say that Joel Ng has done an excellent job at unraveling the various layers of meaning and decoding the iconography as well as iconology of the work.


aJoel Ng’s post in ’21SilkRd’ Facebook (01 July 2019). https://www.facebook.com/groups/947867908642430/permalink/2287003388062202/.

b Joel Ng’s post in ’21SilkRd’.

c“Lui Liu. @luiliupainter” Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/luiliupainter/.

Religion Today: Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea


‘Worshippers begin a nine-day journey to honour the goddess Mazu in Taiwan. Julie Noce reports. Published on Apr 9, 2016’.

The goddess Mazu you say . . . a dedicated website explains thusly: “Mazu, or Mat-Su, Chinese Goddess of the Sea, is the story of an extraordinary girl who became a goddess. The Goddess Mazu’s stories even come to us in an unusual way. Usually we have to search the works of poets and philosophers, historians and anthropologists, when wishing to explore the myths of the legendary ladies we call goddesses. But ancient government edicts, court documents, Taoist scriptures, and even shipping logs provide the stories of the young girl and the goddess she became. Mazu . . . a goddess, even after a millennium has passed . . . arguably the most worshipped in the world with over 1,500 active temples and 100 million devotees”.[1] Or, the most popular goddess or deity you’ve never heard of . . .


Mazu is a goddess in the Taoist pantheon . . . the psychologist David Ho explains that “Taoism [, (i)ndigenous to China,] represents the Chinese counterculture . . .Taoists disdain the Confucian affinity to social convention, hierarchical organization, and governmental rule by the scholar class. To them, the good life is the simple life, spontaneous, in harmony with nature, unencumbered by societal regulation, and free from the desire to achieve social ascendancy-in short, a life lived in accordance with the Tao [or the way, in Mandarin Chinese]. Taoists are thus champions of individuality and individual freedom”.[2] The religious scholar Dr Livia Kohn “summarizes the ethical principles of Taoism and the Taoist community [in her book 2004 Cosmos and Community]. She explains that from childhood, the Taoist learns societal norms in accordance with specific morals, values, behaviors, disciplines, and responsibilities to those in the community (Kohn, 2004, p. 13). The individual, as part of the community, believes that all things exist in harmony with nature. If things go wrong for the individual or the community, it is because of an imbalance between the energies of Yin-Yang. To restore balance, the Taoist must stop trying to control nature. Consequently, all blockages in the natural flow of life are restored when nature is allowed to regain its equilibrium. When the Taoist tries dominating nature, his selfish desires are at work. The consequences of selfish desires may be disastrous to the individual and the community. According to Taoist ethics, all of nature is a manifestation of the Tao [or the way, in Mandarin Chinese], and is therefore sacred. If the Taoist defies these ethical understandings, the community and nature will suffer, and there will be setbacks ( p. 13). Fortunately, these set-backs are temporary, and nature will triumph in the end”.[3]


Dr Kohn opines that the “common view of [T]aoism is that it encourages people to live with detachment and calm, resting in nonaction and smiling at the vicissitudes of the world. Most people assume that [T]aoists are separate from the human community, not antisocial or asocial but rather supra‑social and often simply different. [T]aoists neither criticize society nor support it by working for social change, but go along with the flow of the cosmos as it moves through them. They are not much concerned with rules and the proprieties of conduct, which they leave to th Confucians in the Chinese tradition”.[4] She then adds insightfully that “[c]ontrary to this common view, [T]aoists through the ages have developed various forms of community and proposed numerous sets of behavioral guidelines and texts on ethical considerations”.[5] Turning to the goddess Mazu, specifically, the authors Yeh (Sam) Shih Shuo, Chris Ryan and Ge (Maggie) Liu explain that “Taiwan inherited many of its cultural traditions from different parts of Mainland China. However, because it avoided the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and the patterns of pre- and post-Communist thought associated with that period and the Mainland, Taiwan retained many of those traditions unaffected by Communist beliefs. Consequently Buddhist and Taoist beliefs have retained significant importance in Taiwanese thought, and the country is notable for the number of temples that are scattered throughout it. Both religions were introduced to Taiwan between the end of the Ming and early Qing Dynasties (approximately 1559–1618)”.[6] The authors continue that a “belief in Mazu is defined officially as a Folk Religion in Taiwan, but has close connexions with Taoism. Two essential texts of Taoism are the Daode Jing, which the Stanford on line Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006) describes as ‘terse and poetic’, and the Zhuangzi prolix, described by the same source as ‘funny, elusive and filled with fantasy dialogues.’ The complexity of Taoism, or reflections on the nature of dao (way), is that it has no specific normative precept or theory, but rather is paradoxical, nonassertive, and naturalistic and comprises mystical statements of modes of life. It significantly influenced both Confucian and Buddhist thought, and by its nature was well able to absorb local gods based upon naturalistic observation and good works. Thus the relationship with belief in Mazu as a holy mother of the sea, protector from harm, provider of care, and source of precepts of a good life based on care for others was easily established”.[7]



[1] “Mazu , Chinese Goddess of the Sea” Goddess Gift. http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/chinese-goddess-mazu.htm.

[2] David Y. F. Ho, “Selfhood and Identity in Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism: Contrasts With the West” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 25, 2 (1995), pp. 115-39,

[3] “Taoist Ethics by Robert Waxman” Robert Waxman. http://www.robwaxman.com/id3.html.

[4] Dr Livia Kohn, COSMOS AND COMMUNITY. The Ethical Dimension of Daoism (Three Pines Press, 2004), p. 1.

[5] Dr Livia Kohn, COSMOS AND COMMUNITY, p. 1.

[6] Yeh (Sam) Shih Shuo, Chris Ryan and Ge (Maggie) Liu, “Taoism, temples and tourists: The case of Mazu pilgrimage” Tourism Management, 30 (2009), pp. 581–588.

[7] Yeh (Sam) Shih Shuo, Chris Ryan and Ge (Maggie) Liu, “Taoism, temples and tourists”.

Uighurs in Syria: Some Conspiracy Theories


According to John Hayward, writing on the conservative news and opinion website Breitbart, the Arab news broadcaster “Al Arabiya [has reported that] Syrians were surprised to find the number of Uighurs in their midst increasing dramatically over the past year. The new arrivals are very different from the older, much smaller Uighur contingent, which was largely allied with al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, and has played an important role in Nusra’s military gains, at a heavy cost in casualties. Al Arabiya notes the Uighur fighters are viewed more favorably by Syrian civilians than the Islamist gang’s regular forces because they are not involved in shaking the locals down for money or imposing Islamic law. There are said to be thousands of Uighurs in the northern Idlib province of Syria now, and they look a lot more like settlers, with their families in tow. Some of them are quoted in the article declaring they made a one-way trip to Idlib, selling their homes in China and along the Afghan-Pakistan border to make the perilous journey. Uighur settlers are receiving assistance from the Turkistan Islamic Party, the Nusra Front affiliate that employed many earlier Uighur arrivals as fighters “.[1]

al Arabiya

Al Arabiya’s Mohanad Hage Ali then writes that a “Syrian militant source in close contact with Uighur fighters believes they are in Syria to stay. The Uighur fighters speak of a treacherous journey from their home province and the Pakistan-Afghan borders to Syria, according to the source, who cites conversations with the militants . . . And unlike many other groups and foreign fighters, “they don’t hide their faces, although this carries a huge risk back home. They don’t plan to return,” says the militant . The Uighur families have allegedly settled in abandoned towns, previously inhabited by minorities, especially Alawites who fled in fear of persecution, according to two journalists from Idlib”.[2]


Uighurs re-settling in Syria, with the Turkistan Islamic Party (previously known as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement) operating as a channel to Jabhat al-Nusra . . . this is a situation that is screaming for a Turkish connection. After all, Turkey’s Grey Wolves are the ultimate champions of Eastern Turkistan as the Chinese province of Xinjiang was previously known. Many Uighurs have fled to Turkey and opened shop there. Still, somebody like Hayward totally ignores any Turkish angle, maintaining that “[t]wo theories are advanced about the Uighur migration into Syria, and they are not mutually incompatible. One idea is that China, which has a checkered history with the Uighur minority, is driving them into Syria to get rid of them, backing a Pakistani campaign against Uighur militants along the Afghanistan border. The other theory is that the Uighurs are China’s unwitting proxy army in Syria, or may serve as a pretext for moving regular Chinese military forces into the theater”.[3]


[1] John Hayward, “Chinese Uighur Settlers Flow into Syria, Replacing War Refugees” Breitbart (03 MArch 2016).http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/03/03/chinese-uighur-settlers-flow-into-syria-replacing-war-refugees/.

[2] Mohanad Hage Ali, ” China’s proxy war in Syria: Revealing the role of Uighur fighters Al Arabiya (02 March 2016). http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/analysis/2016/03/02/China-s-proxy-war-in-Syria-Revealing-the-role-of-Uighur-fighters-.html.

[3] John Hayward, “Chinese Uighur Settlers Flow into Syria, Replacing War Refugees”.

Counting the Cost – Black Monday: The great fall of China

‘This week, China, the world’s second largest economy suffered massive financial losses when trillions of dollars were wiped from the country’s stock markets. On Monday, Chinese stocks suffered their steepest fall in one day, with Shanghai’s main share index closing down at 8.49 percent. Dubbed ‘Black Monday,’ the effects were felt globally, with indices nosediving one after the other. Before Monday’s rout, more than $3.2 trillion had already been wiped off China’s stock market after investors, worried about slow growth, embarked on a selling frenzy. Chinese authorities have intervened by supporting stock prices, but despite spending some $200bn to stimulate the economy, Beijing has failed to stem the crisis. On Counting the Cost, we have always said that stock movements don’t tell the real story, and that the link between markets and the real economy is broken. On this week’s episode, we speak to Steve Tsang, a professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, to discuss how China’s economy is divorced from the real economy. Since China’s devaluation of the yuan earlier this month, an estimated $5 trillion has been wiped off global stock markets. Jolting financial markets, emerging and developing nations have been the hardest hit and have seen their currencies fall to multi-year lows. Albert Essien, the CEO of the pan-African bank EcoBank joins the programme to discuss the impact on African economies. Published on Aug 30, 2015′.

China Uncensored

‘China Uncensored is China news like the Daily Show or Colbert Report is US news. It’s a little funny, a little scary, and pretty darn entertaining. Chris Chappell’s launches his war on the CCP with a sarcastic take on China’s government abuse with the latest news’.

10 Signs China’s Military Is Weaker Than You Think

‘Sure China has the largest standing army in the world, with 2.3 million people, a military budget of 120 billion dollars, and experimental spider tanks. But it turns out that China’s People’s Liberation Army might not be as powerful as you think. And here are 10 reasons why (27 May 2015)’.

12 Craziest-Looking Chinese Buildings

‘”Weird architecture” is something even Chinese leader Xi Jinping is rallying against. From Beijing to Shanghai, bizarre buildings have popped up all over China and you won’t believe some of the designs they’ve come up with. Some of these you’ll have to see to believe. On this episode of China Uncensored, 12 of the craziest buildings in China (10 June 2015)’.

China’s Secret War Against the US

‘For over a decade, China—and by China I mean the Communist Party of China—has been engaged in a full scale war with the United States. But the average American has no idea. Because China never declared war. And China hasn’t fired a single bullet. Nonetheless, the Communist Party of China is engaged in a full-scale, multi-billion-dollar war with the United States, and it threatens every American worker and taxpayer (19 June 2015)’.

The Stream: Unrest in China’s Xinjiang region or China’s Wild West

‘On The Stream: What’s at the heart of mounting tensions between the Chinese government and ethnic Uighurs? (19 Jan 2015′.

APEC 2014: President Xi Jinping

‘Chinese President Xi Jinping has delivered a keynote speech at the APEC CEO Summit in Beijing. Xi said that the Asia-Pacific region has entered a golden phase of development. He called for initiating Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) along with open economic integration in the region. He also stressed that building an open economic system in the Asia-Pacific is crucial and that only reformers and innovators will emerge stronger and win in the new round of global growth (9 November 2014)’.

The U.S. and China: Rivalry and Cooperation Galore???

‘The Pentagon is warning that China’s investments in its own military are threatening the US’ superiority. Although the US spends vastly more on its armed forces than all other nations, China is rapidly catching up with new technologies and advanced hardware. RT’s Alexey Yaroshevsky takes a look (11 November 2014)’.

And then there is this: ‘The growing U.S. national debt is problematic. And it’s no secret that China owns a lot of it. How much U.S. debt has China purchased? (11 November 2014)’.

Meanwhile, the Prez (aka Barack Obama) has been on the move again, as reported by the New York Times: “President Obama arrived [in China] on Monday morning [, 10 November 2014]  for a three-day visit that will capture the complexities of the United States-China relationship: the tensions of a rising power confronting an established one, as well as the promise that the world’s two largest economies could find common cause on issues like climate change”.[1]  And he met Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, 12 November. Before hand, the President Xi said the following, as reported by Xinhua: “China would like to work with the United States to implement the principle of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect, cooperation and common prosperity and make new type of major-country relations between the two countries produce more benefits to people in the two countries and the world,” adding significantly, “I will make joint efforts with President Obama”.[2]

[1] Mark Landler, “Obama Arrives in China on Trip With Complex Agenda” The New York Times (09 November 2014). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/10/world/asia/obama-arrives-in-china-on-trip-with-complex-agenda.html?_r=0.

[2] “Xi talks with Obama, pledges commitment to new-type of major-country relations” Xinhua (12 November 2014). http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/891403.shtml.

Climate Week NYC 2014

‘U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces U.S. plan to help fund new World Bank program to counter climate change (22 September 2014)’.

Also on Monday, 22 September, the Washington Post‘s Adam Taylor declares that this “week, the United Nations will host a huge and well-publicized one-day summit on climate change. The public is likely to be watching it closely: It comes just days after thousands of people in New York and around the world took to the streets, demanding more political action to help fight global warming. The climate summit’s organizer, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, took part in the New York march, and for Tuesday’s event, he is promising to bring together some of the most powerful people in the world with a common purpose. “I have invited leaders from government, business, finance and civil society to present their vision, make bold announcements and forge new partnerships that will support the transformative change the world needs,” he wrote in a blog post on the summit for the Huffington Post. It’s certainly true that the climate summit has an impressive guest list: More than 120 world leaders are heading to the United Nations in New York for the event, including President Obama and many big names from the private sphere. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio will give one of the opening speeches. But as impressive as that guest list is, what’s more interesting is who is missing. Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are skipping the event. In empirical terms, it’s hard to think of two more important leaders in the world right now: Together they lead more than 2.5 billion people, more than a third of the world’s population”.[1]



[1] Adam Taylor, “U.N. climate summit is high-profile, but some of world’s most important leaders will skip it” The Washington Post (22 September 2014). http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/09/22/u-n-climate-summit-is-high-profile-but-some-of-worlds-most-important-leaders-will-skip-it/.

Chinese Whispers: A Case of the Plague

On 22 July 2014, the news agency Agence France-Presse reports from Beijing that a “Chinese city has been sealed off and 151 people have been placed in quarantine since last week after a man died of bubonic plague, state media said. The 30,000 residents of Yumen, in the north-western province of Gansu, are not being allowed to leave, and police at roadblocks on the perimeter of the city are telling motorists to find alternative routes, China Central Television (CCTV) said. A 38-year-old man died last Wednesday [ 16 July 2014] , the report said, after he had been in contact with a dead marmot, a small furry animal related to the squirrel. No further plague cases have been reported. CCTV said officials were not allowing anyone to leave. The China Daily newspaper said four quarantine sectors had been set up in the city”. [1]

The AFP report explains that the “Bubonic plague is a bacterial infection best known for the Black Death, a virulent epidemic that killed tens of millions of people in 14th-century Europe. Primarily an animal illness, it is extremely rare in humans. The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) says modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague, but that without prompt treatment the disease can cause serious illness or death”.[2] Dr. Paul S. Meade, MD, who specialises in Anatomic & Clinical Pathology, states that the “Plague (Bubonic, Pneumonic, Septicemic)” is transmitted “[u]sually through the bite of infected rodent fleas. Less common exposures include handling infected animal tissues (hunters, wildlife personnel), inhalation of infectious droplets from cats or dogs with plague, and rarely, contact with a pneumonic plague patient . . . [and that the disease is e]ndemic in rural areas in central and southern Africa, central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the northeastern part of South America, and parts of the southwestern United States”.[3] In other words, these Chinese whispers represent nothing but a storm in a tea cup and much ado about nothing . . .


[1] “Chinese city sealed off after bubonic plague death”AFP (22 July 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/22/chinese-city-yumen-sealed-bubonic-plague-death.

[2] “Chinese city sealed off after bubonic plague death”.

[3] Paul S. Meade, “Plague (Bubonic, Pneumonic, Septicemic)” CDC. http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2014/chapter-3-infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/plague-bubonic-pneumonic-septicemic.