Welcome one and all to the debut of a new (ir)regular feature here on Lost Laowai, entitled Fact or Fiction. The premise is very simple, each edition I will be joined by a Guest and we will briefly discuss some of the hottest topics in the laowai world. Myself and my guest will respond to each topic with either FACT or FICTION. This concept was borrowed by one of my favourite sites on the internets, 411mania.
Anyway, enough explanation let’s get down to business….
My first guest is someone that you all know very well. He is the creator of this very site which you are all visiting, as well as The Hao Hao Report, and his very popular blog The Humanaught — he is of course Mr. Ryan McLaughlin. Today he and I will be talking about the Great Firewall, Obama, alcohol and parades.
1. You will be able to access Twitter without a VPN sometime in 2010.
I think that the Great Firewall is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I was hopeful when it was loosened a bit right after the June Anniversary, but they clamped down again right after the July riots. I was expecting it to loosen again after the October Anniversary but that should have probably happened by now. I think if anything we are more likely to see some new Web 2.0 thing to play before the PRC notices.
Like that little bit of food that gets stuck in the back of your mouth, it feels like it’s never going to come free until it does. Elation follows. I never thought Wikipedia was going to get unblocked, and then it was. Same with BBC’s news site. YouTube was, and then wasn’t. Blogger and WordPress.com were and then weren’t. Flickr had its switch thrown a couple times, and is now accessible. I think the reason Twitter’s not unblocked already is simply because, unlike us Tweeks, the brass in Zhongnanhai don’t give a fuck about whether it’s unblocked. They’ll give it back when they feel like it, or remember to, and if anyone complains, that’s another 6 months without it (and hell, Wikipedia too).
It looks like we are off to a disagreeable start. We are 0 for 1.
2. The Shanghai Expo will be considered a success.
The Beijing Olympics were considered a rousing success so there is no reason to think that the Chinese can’t deliver big time on the world stage. I think the event will generate a lot of money for the city. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the more people that come to China the more people’s perception of this country will change. This I think is what the Chinese are really after. They want to show the world how much they have changed and that they belong as a major player on the world stage.
Can anyone name an expo that was a success? Hell, can anyone even name an expo? The only reason the event even registers in my weathered and worn brain is that my youth was spent rooting against Canada’s only other MLB team, which had the misfortune of having a team name not even a manager could love. I think, like any average Montreal Expos game, the Shanghai Expo will go on too long, be mostly empty, and be forgotten even before it’s over, possibly even before it begins. That is, by everyone but the poor Shanghairen relocated to make way for it.
Sure we disagree, but how can anyone get mad at a Montreal Expos reference? We are 0 for 2.
3. Obama’s recent visit to China was overrated.
While this is not in the Nixon in ’72 level of importance, it is still a big deal. Anytime the US President comes to the PRC it is still a very big deal. Lest we forget that it wasn’t that long ago that the Chinese were considered Godless Commies in the US. For better or worse Obama needs China far more than China needs Obama. He has done a lot of talk about establishing international consensus on issues like the economy, global security and climate change. If he is going to absolutely need China’s help on all of those things as the G2 gets more and more official.
That Obama made it through his China visit without awkwardly walking into a massively ornate locked door is a minor miracle. Granted, I think whatever Barry-Oh does is a bit overrated, but I feel Obama’s trip to China was important and significant. More than anything, Obama’s presidency is going to work to re-legitimize America to the rest of the world as the Super-Duper Power it is, and coming to China and flashing his humbleness to the world’s largest and most sensitive nation is a smart move all around. Now, if he can make it through the rest of his term without accidentally bombing a Chinese embassy, he’ll undoubtedly be remembered as a Friend of China™ for 10,000 years.
And here we have our first time agreement. We are 1 for 3. Now it’s time to switch the order just to spice things up.
4. Matt’s recent post was right: Foreigners drink too much in China
Matt nailed it. But to be fair, the Chinese aren’t sitting idly by watching the laowai take the Alkie Cup without a fight. I think there’s just something about this country that makes it all a bit easier to handle with your buzz on. China, in so many ways, reminds me of what I imagine the Wild West was like — general lawlessness, an over-emphasis and reliance on blood ties, danger around every corner, beasts of burden marching down the street, dirt, and a helluva lot of booze.
And I’d like to add: Fact, Fact, FACT!!!! As I said in the comment section in Matt’s post that there aren’t too many things like to casually fill your leisure time like movie theatres or sporting events, so boredom tends to set in. Boredom can be a terrible thing to fight and alcohol can give some temporary rest to that one.
And we have another agreement. Not a shock for two guys who have raised many a glass together. 2 for 4.
5. China will make significant concessions at the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Conference.
I admit, this is more wishful than anything. I’ve been saying for years (almost exactly four of them in fact) that China is in a fantastic spot to lead the charge on the climate change issue. The problem (until now I hope) has been that the politics of it all has had China crying “poor me” so hard that it wasn’t able to stop and realize the more powerful nation needs to stand up and make a commitment. China’s neck and neck with the US for popular kid on the playground, and could score huge points globally if they lay down some serious commitments in Copenhagen. Will it happen, we’ll find out soon enough. I’m hopeful, but not naive. She’s still a massive machine that experience has shown tends to favour her endless LED-tricked out roadways over the plight of polar bears and coal miners.
As much as I would love to say Fact to this, I just don’t see it really happening. As much as China wants to gain some political clout, they will get a hell of a lot more down the line if they have more resources to share. I think that if one thing China will make some serious gains from the conference, probably in the form of Green Technology from the US and EU. Make no mistake about it, China still has a long way to go to catch up to the US economically and they won’t do anything that will slow their ascent without a fight.
The streak is over and we are back to disagreeing. 2 for 5.
6. The 60th Anniversary Parade was awesome.
Oh, it was awe and then some, it was just complete fiction. It had more military porn than your average Chinese children’s book. With the history and cultural identity that exists in this country, there’s sure to be much more dick wagging down the road. But I return to my last answer — and my hope that China will realize she’s large ‘n’ in change, and doesn’t need to play silly schoolyard games to show her might. The most revered Chinese throughout history have tended to be silent, wise and understated; I hope that I live long enough to see the day when the country, and not just the best of her people, develops these same characteristics.
Oh come on buddy, how was it not awesome? I never had the privilege of watching a Soviet Era military parade so it was great to experience the closest thing that we could get to in this day and age. As much as it seemed like military propaganda, the day was still a cause for celebration for a lot of people.
And so concludes our first edition. 2 for 6.
Agree with Glen, Ryan? A bit of both? Let us know about it! Also, if you have any ideas for new topics or guests, let us know!