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China Changed My Life (Heart Disease)

September 9, 2016

china1-1Ten years ago today I landed in China with Ashley, Eric, Gail, Liz, Alex, Jeff, Narelle and a few others on a trip that changed my life. It’s hard to put into words exactly how that change came about. In fact I was unaware of the change until the last day when we are sitting in Shanghai waiting to fly out, and using the spare time to reflect on what we had seen and done up the Yellow River. I was asked what impact the trip had had and initially resisted the idea that there had been any deep impact at all. But even as I nurtured that thought another realisation crashed in and I understood I had been completely disarmed by the people I had met, especially those deep in the minority communities of the old city of Xian.   Read more

Salute the Tank Driver

June 3, 2009

tiananmentank290.jpgRemembrances of events can be two edged. Was it really twenty years since Tiananmen? Hard to believe all right. Twenty years ago those of us in the various “China watchers” groups in governments around the world were starting to think that the winds of change in China were spring rather than winter zephyrs, and that the government was serious about changing its spots. Read more

Sex Selective Abortion Favours Males

April 24, 2009

china-birth-ratios.jpgThe number of boys being born in China is higher than the number of girls. By a long shot. It is a statistic complicated by and exacerbated by China’s single child policy and by sex selective abortion.  According to the British Medical Journal the average ratio of male to female births can be as high as 146. Sadly sex selective abortion, banned by the government, apparently accounts for all of the excess males. And the statistics particularly skew against the girls in second and third order births – as parents strive to produce that son, pregnancies are terminated when they discover a girl is on the way.  What does that mean in real number terms? Read more

Cultivating Defence Minister Fitzsgibbons

March 26, 2009

liang290.jpgAround here there is a whole lot of huffing and puffing about the Defence Minister who is in hot water because he rents his residence from a powerful and influential Chinese national – a businesswoman who once had lots of hands on business activities in Australia, less so now. Not divulging this contact is the source of some of the heat the Minister is now receiving though a little of that is being dissipated by the debate about the rights and wrongs of the intelligence and security community investigating that relationship. It should not leave me feeling so but I am always surprised at how naive our populace is about these things. To help get some perspective on this little brouhaha flip the scenario. Read more

1421 (to be repeated?)

March 22, 2009

type052b_luyang_01.jpgThe style is a little didactic but the account (1421) by a former British naval officer (didactic therefore explained) of his search for evidence that the Chinese bounced around the globe in their massive ships and fleets in the early fifteenth century is surprisingly compelling. His proposition seems to have survived wide peer review which is perhaps the acid test for such disruptive claims. That being the case I read with incredulity the likely wrecks of Chinese junks off the Australian coast, evidence of Chinese settlements on  the US New England coast and pervasive evidence of their settlements along California and down into South American. Under the leadership of Admiral Zheng He  the Chinese were sent around the globe on missions of trade, diplomacy and exploration. And not in tiny vessels or in small numbers but in 400 foot ships, hundreds of hulls and tens of thousands of sailors and others. Read more

Grief in the Rubble

May 26, 2008

chinaquakeschoolbags.jpgAn echo in my ear when the towers came down in New York was an American woman on the news, completely mystified, asking why do “they hate us so much?” The question resonated over the incident and in the press over the next few weeks and months. Read more

Sweetwater Flower Girl

January 22, 2008

afghaneyes.jpgThat is what her name means in Pashto, the language of the Pashtuns. It is a more poetic and uplifting post title than the more dramatic one I was concocting. Here she is, her face staring down from a poster twenty feet high in the Forbidden Palace, Beijing. Read more

The Camera Trap

January 19, 2008

chinalunchgroup290x200.jpgIf you have ever had a video camera fixed to your eye at an airshow, or at the car race track you will understand what I mean by the camera trap – so fixated are you on capturing the moment (to be stored forgotten in your camera) that you miss the real experience. When filming or photographing people that loss is even more profound. That is what happened here. Read more

Hidden Piper in Xian

November 24, 2007

It is a not uncommon cliche of those who observe China that these are a people comfortable being in close proximity with each other. They live right on top of each other and being comfortable around other human beings is something that is part of the their DNA it seems. Certainly they have a sense of personal space which is VERY different to our Australian culture, which likes to put wide open spaces between us, even between those who live in our capital cities. (Want to see a bunch of Australians at their most uncomfortable? Insist they crowd into an elevator or commuter train!)

But that does not mean the Chinese don’t appreciate their space. They seek it out in all sorts of ways and at different times of the day. In Xian I was in the habit of getting out as early as I sensibly could, to walk around the old Muslim quarter, eating their doughy breakfasts with them and wandering through Lianhu Park as they went through their exercise rituals. One morning I heard the clear, haunting sound of a flute carrying across the park and initially assumed it was being piped across a sound system. But as I walked around the lake I realised the sound was coming from a bushy knoll. When I climbed through the bushes and across a handful of rocks I found this flautist (I think that is what he is) playing his music. In his own space. A few like me had come to investigate the sound, and a couple sat and tapped along, keeping time with their feet. Everyone else ignored him and he had his own place and space in the middle of one of the most ancient and well lived-in cities on the planet. It was a magic time and place for me as well.

Here he is in the video, lost in his own music and creating a special place for the rest of us in the park and under the bushes on the knoll. At the end of the piece (I regret not filming more of it) he signed to me that the music was about a train – I fancy the sound of a horn can be heard in there somewhere. Travel in China is all about these special moments.

Confused Chinese Pirates

November 12, 2007

In the spirit of the craziness that can come out of China, witting or otherwise (movie titles and packing instructions) the following is hillarious. At first glance this DVD cover looks pretty normal. But take a close look at the back cover. The pirate graphics specialist has grabbed text from a variety of places to compile the back cover. Reference to “Arnold” (“back better than ever”) to start with – I can only guess this refers to the Californian Governator. In the text we start with reference to Michael’s movie but it soon morphs into a review of “Laws of Attraction” and the credits are nicked from “Shanghai Surprise”. All those English characters look alike so it kind of makes sense. The brazen plagiarism is breathtaking but the publish and be damned approach underpins some of the humour in this. Of course the irony of the “What Controvosy?” header would be lost on the pirates. And no, don’t ask me where I got my hands on this DVD but thanks JP for bringing it to my attention. (Clicking on the image should get you a better view).

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