Turpan village holy site

This green dome is built above a cave that is considered the holiest Muslim site in all of China. The Uyghur people who inhabit Xinjiang (or East Turkestan, as it was known during a brief period of independence during the Chinese civil war) were devout Buddhists before they converted to Islam many centuries ago.

According to legend, the king of Turpan, who was a Buddhist, felt threatened by Islam and sent soldiers to chase down the first three Muslim missionaries that came to the region. They were eventually cornered here and sought refuge in the cave. The soldiers thought they would wait them out, but they were miraculously transformed into doves, and flew out of the cave and over the soldiers heads to freedom.

Today, Chinese Muslims often take pilgrimage here, since it is difficult to obtain permission from the government to travel to Mecca.

Xinjiang Put Out Big Old Fire from Qing Times

Xinjiang Put Out Big Old Fire from Qing Times
An old big fire rampaged since the Qing times (1644-1911) on Mt. Xiaohuang, a coal-field in Xinjiang, has been lately completely put out, and up to now all the five major fire areas in the place have been stamped out.

Xinjiang is richly endowed with coal resources, but it has become in turn a place long plagued by most serious coal-field fires known to the world, with over 10m tons of coal being senselessly burnt away every year.

Under the direction of late Premier Zhou Enlai, a special fire-fighting center was set up in 1958. By now, altogether 17 big fires have been entirely eliminated in the region.

New Photo Galleries

Since I’m about to leave for Taiwan I thought I would finally upload some of the previous travel photosets that I had been meaning to post ever since I created the blog. Click each thumbnail for the corresponding gallery page.

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Beijing, 2004

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While in Beijing I of course had the visit the Great Wall.

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This is a set of photos I took of the outside of an abandoned Beijing Opera house I found in a sidestreet. The decaying hand-painted posters are great, I only wish I could have somehow taken them down and saved them from the inevitable demolition.

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Urumqi, 2003 and 2004

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Turpan, 2004 and 2004

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Almaty, Kazakhstan, 2004

Quick links following up on recent topics

Here’s a few links that I have laying around, mostly related to things that I’ve been discussing over the past week. I’m a little too tired and sick to offer any commentary right now, but feel free to leave your own.

The Daily Show’s comment on the anti-Japan protests in China, in streaming WMV. You know a story is big when the Daily show is making fun of it.

The Economist has a travelogue type article about life in a particular village in rural China.

Despite China’s increasing openness to prying foreign eyes, the dynamics of village life remain hidden away. Although the Chinese media report extensively on rural problems, foreign journalists require government approval to conduct interviews in the countryside (as indeed, in theory, they do for any off-base reporting in China).

In typical Chinese fashion, they only gave the reporter permission to visit one of the more prosperous rural villages, but that aside it’s still an interesting piece.

The Taipei Times is carrying an Associated Press report on how China is using the war on terrorism to supress the Uyghur’s Muslim lifestyle in western Xinjiang province.

Comparing the situation to Tibet, a report by the two groups said Muslims in the Xinjiang region are “concerned for their cultural survival” amid a government-financed influx of settlers from China’s Han ethnic majority.

ESWN translated a section of a very interesting article on how the Chinese government suppresses their own history. Amazingly the author of the article is in Beijing- I hope nothing bad happens to him.

When it comes to viewpoints about warfare and nationalism, the Chinese people are not better than the Japanese. “The winner becomes the emperor while the loser is just a bandit” is an age-old concept of warfare in China. The arrogance of the Han tribe about owning everything under heaven continues to live on today as nationalism. More particularly, the way in which the Chinese Communists have fabricated history and used lies to rule since seizing power is much worse than how the Japanese rightists are revising their history of invasion; the way in which the Chinese Communists have beautify their totalitarian rule is much worse than how the Japanese rightists have beautify militarism. The way by which the Chinese Communists have ruled with lies has created a basis by which Japan can revise its history in order to fool the new generation of Japanese.

This web site seems to be associated with the organization that created the controversial new textbook in Japan. They have a near endless supply of offensive articles written in Japanese, as well as a number in English so poor that they seem to have been translated by a computer. They also host a couple of articles contributed by a fellow with a Germanic sounding name, who manages to combine anti-Semetic and pro-Japanese Imperial sentiment.

The ancient Hebrews, however, have shown a propensity for mass enslavement and slaughter following victory. Since Jews have significant influence over U.S. military and foreign policy, perhaps some of these ancient lessons have been carried over into modern times. It would not be a stretch to suggest that American post-war policies may be an extension of the Jewish experience.

Anti-eachother propaganda in China and Japan?

I was writing a response to Jing’s much appreciatedcomment on my previous post and it began to meander enough so I thought I would post on the front page instead. For full background, read the original article, and the response to it on the excellent ESWN blog.
[Note: I posted the wrong link at first, I apologize, it has been corrected.]

Very interesting. I generally look at ESWN once in a while, but I hadn’t caught this article yet. Based on what he writes at ESWN (and based on what I’ve read there in the past I have pretty good faith in what he writes) the Japan Times article (actually a translated Kyodo piece, I think it’s worth noting) is either deliberately misleading or very factually misinformed (I would wager on a combination).

I would still like to know more about what the books say. For example, does he only visit the most extreme rightist institutions in Japan, or does he also explain how in reality these views are an extreme minority position these days? Were these books even banned for their own sake or was it really something else he did?

Whatever the case, it is still an obvious fact that anti-Japanese sentiment is encouraged by the Chinese government. When I was traveling in China I don’t believe I met a single native person who didn’t cringe a little bit when I mentioned that I studied Japanese, and when asked they all admitted to “hating Japan.” I remember a conversation with one Chinese man working at a youth hostel where I stayed, and after talking for a while and admitting that he got along very well with almost all of the Japanese guests there and has no dislike them on an individual basis, he still hated the country for some unarticulatable reason.

This attitude is common throughout the country, and clearly a result of education and media and not personal conclusions, because people only ever learn one side of the story. I will gladly admit that there is some level of this in Japan as well, but not nearly to the same degree. For example, Japanese textbooks may inappropriately gloss over attrocities comitted in the past by the Japanese, but they do not teach outright hatred of modern China the same way that the Chinese seem to be taught to hate Japan.

Certainly the museum at Yasukuni shrine exhibits some reprehensible attitudes, but there are right-wing nutcases in every country. (excepting a few like, say, China where the nutcases universally call themselves left-wing instead for obvious reasons) There is anti-Japan sentiment in China, and anti-China sentiment in Japan, but the former case seems to have far more encouragement from the government and the media (which is of course all controlled by the government to some degree), and therefore far more of a majority opinion. I am also not saying that there is not enourmous racism in Japan, but it tends to be more universalist in nature (uck, that almost sounds positive!), and not the result of a longterm propaganda campaign against a specific political enemy.

ESWN writes that “Yu Jie as an example of a public intellectual pressuring the Chinese government to become more forceful against the revival of Japanese militarism.” I have no argument at all with working to prevent the revival of Japanese militarism, but China (and North Korea) have a decades old policy of using that as an excuse to maintain Japan as a potential threat to continue to justify their long-corrupted revolutionary demagogy, to fan the flames of their own nationalism.

As a footnote, all of the Uyghur I spoke to in the far west province of Xinjiang had very different attitudes. While they probably learn about the evils of WW2 just like any other student in the country, they seemed to be of the universal opinion that hating the Chinese for what they are still doing to to the Uyghur up this very day is a far more pressing issue. The professional guides who tend to receive a lot of Japanese tourists in Turpan all agreed that the portrayal of modern Japan in the Chinese media was quite unfair, and also said that they found the tourists from Japan far more agreeable than the domestic ones, who are often blatantly rude and racist to the local Uyghur people. (One of them, who spoke fluent Japanese and no English, mentioned he was particularly fond of young, single Japanese women, but this is another matter entirely, which would probably receive rather more popular support from the average Chinese man on the street.)

Chinese Currency and the Black Market

Note, this entry was written as a comment posted on this thread over at Coming Anarchy. It’s only tangentially related to the discussion on US Foreign Debt over there, but I thought it was good enough so I should post it here as well.

Saru: You said, “In order to keep the RMB pegged to the dollar, the Chinese central bank must intervene in the currency markets to counter upward or downward pressure on the RMB against the dollar.”

It’s important to remember that the primary way that China controls the exchange value of the RMB, as compared to how other countries attempt to control their own currency, is by strictly regulating the export of RMB. You may remember how when we were in China and exchanged foreign currency for RMB we were issued a receipt? Upon leaving China again, without that receipt we would have been completely unable to sell back any excess RMB we had, and if we were carrying a large amount of Chinese currency, we would have gotten into serious trouble as customs. Chinese law only allows for the export of amount of currency that they consider to bepocket change, and they regulate this so carefully that even Chinese tourists going abroad are only licensed to exchange a fairly limited amount of funds.

By keeping virtually all Renmenbi inside China the government manages to keep an independent market for their currency from developing. I’m sure you also remember the black market currency traders that we used in Urumqi? They are the direct result of China’s currency policy. Because RMB cannot be exported or traded by private citizens, Chinese businessmen (apparently especially in the Shenzhen area, according to what we were told) who want to invest abroad, or make large foreign purchases, may have to acquire foreign currency indirectly.

For the others, I’ll tell the story briefly. When Saru and I (and Younghusband as well, but he didn’t actually make it on the bus to Almaty with us) were at the international bus station in Urumqi we were greeted outside the building, in a neighborhood where the signs were more likely to be writtein in a Cyrillic-script language than in the local Chinese or Arabic alphabet using Urumqi language, by a throng of dark coated men of dubious nationalities standing around the crowded parking lot fanning huge stacks of RMB in the open air. Seeing a pair of confused white boys, they immediately jumped into business mode and started offering to buy our US$ in a variety of incomprehensible languages. Although I didn’t have many dollars on me (having come from Japan, and already been in China for three weeks besides) I did exchange the little I had left, as did Saru. Since we were going to Kazakhstan later that day, I also asked around and found one fellow who had some Kazhak Tenge in his wallet and was grudginly willing to sell them to in exchange for more Chinese RMB.

Later on we got an explanation from our Uyghur friend who had been helping us arrange our transportation. Black market currency traders like the ones we met operate throughout market areas along the Chinese borders, where foreign currency is more easily avaliable, and then buy US$ at a better exchange rate than the bank. It might seem like a money losing proposition, but then once they have accumulated a decent amount of money (about $1 million) they hire a courier to take it to the rich areas of Eastern China. The usual method is to pay a commericial airline pilot to carry the money with him as he makes his ordinary flight, in exchange for a sizable fee of about $5000. When the money reaches the East, it is bought by businessmen at far higher rates than the official market value, because as I mentioned before, this is only way for them to acquire large volumes of foreign currency without a difficult to obtain government license.

As a footnote, when we got to Almaty I was astonished to see little currency trading stands all over the place, sometimes within only a couple of blocks of each other in the busier areas. Each one had a slightly different selection of advertised currencies, but they all took Dollars, Euros, and Rubels plus a few others. There were none that took Chinese RMB.

Back to Japan

Since the last update Ashle, I and both Chads took a plane to Urumqi, met up with Ablajan (who was the guide of Chris and I last year) and went with him to Turpan and back, then Ashle and I left the Chads in Xinjiang while we took a 24 hour bus ride to Kazakhastan, spent a week in Almaty, and flew back first to Urumqi and then to Beijing. Now all three of the them have left Japan, Ashle and one Chad back to Japan (although Ashle is leaving there for the US shortly) and the other Chad back to Canada while I finish my time here in China. Before they left we went on a trip to the Great Wall, and after they left I finally went to the Forbidden City by myself yesterday. I’m taking a sleeper train to Shanghai tonight and then on the 30th boarding the Osaka bound ferry.

I have a lot of journals, information and photos to post, but that’ll all wait until I get back to Japan when I’ll start doing so gradually. It’s been a good trip, but I’m tired and feeling about ready to go home.

China/Kazakhstan Free Trade Zone

While walking around Beijing today I picked up an issue of a smallish English language paper called “Beijing Today(今日北京)”. There were several interesting articles, but considering my upcoming intinerary this one particularly caught my eye:

China and Kazakhstan Extablish Free Trade Zone

Yu Shanshan 03/05/2004

The Ministry of Commerce confirmed Sunday that China’s first free trade zone will be established along the border with Kazakhstan.

  The China-Kazakhstan free border-trade zone will lie between Yili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture, in Xinjiang, and Alma-ata, Kazakhstan.
Jia Yisheng, secretary of the CPC committee in Horgos, Xinjiang, told China News Agency last Tuesday that the two sides have agreed to build a Sino-Kazakhstan world trade center in the 200 hectares between Horgos and Kazakhstan. China has offered 130 hectares while Kazakhstan has contributed 70 hectares for the free trade zone.

  According to Jia, the Chinese side is mapping out a plan for the free trade zone, and the scheme of Sino-Kazakhstan free trade zone put forward by China has received a positive response from Kazakhstan. Under the plan, the zone would allow for zero tariffs and the free flow of people and goods.

You can read the full text of the article here on their web site.