2012年12月12日 星期三

Taiwan and China: Two cultures separated by a common language

Huang Guanhua - 黃冠華


- Want to do business in China? First think about the world.

The word in recent years out of the Taiwanese media almost always seems to assume that Taiwan is going to become the so-called "springboard" for the world's large corporations to enter China. The thinking is these business want to enter China, and Taiwan is where they can come to test the waters before they do. If all goes without a hitch, they can take what they've learned in Taiwan and start talking real money in China.

I'm not sure this is particularly enlightened thinking.

My company does personnel evaluations at the end of each year. Everyone ranks all their coworkers, with no exceptions.

Our staff includes people from over ten countries. The evaluations can be completed in Mandarin or English, but the questions are the same. In addition to evaluating those around you, you also have to evaluate yourself.

The biggest reason to have self-evaluations is for people to see if their personal evaluations match up to how others perceive them. It's basically to cut down on people having wildly out-of-sync thoughts about themselves. If you know about your own weaknesses you'll be less likely to make gross errors of judgement from your ignorance.

- Chinese people think they're great, Taiwanese people think they might kinda be doing ok

With executives from Taiwan, China and the US, which two groups do you think would share the most values? I suppose most people would assume this is a silly question, one hardly worth even asking. Of course, Chinese and Taiwanese people are going to be the most similar, right? They've got a common language and both come from the same stock. Americans, on other hand, have a completely different culture, foreign to both China and Taiwan.

Well, this didn't exactly turn out to be the case.

The Americans, (and most of the other staff who weren't from China or Taiwan) who operate in a culture that is constantly stressing self-confidence, predictably rated themselves extremely well in their evaluations. They were similarly confident they made important contributions to the business. If we were to use grades, nearly all of them gave themselves A's. Translating this to bonuses, they clearly expected nothing but the most generous packages.

The Taiwanese, on the other hand, were nothing if not your typical Taiwanese: traditional, humble, and low-key. Most gave themselves a B or a B+. Even the best managers rated themselves this way.

So what about the Chinese? Owing to their gigantic market and rabid competition, the Chinese managers ended up with the same levels of confidence as the Americans. Every single one gave themselves an A or an A+.

- Fight 'em in the streets, fight 'em in the jungle

So at their core, the Americans and Chinese turned out to be the most alike. It was as if the Taiwanese were from a completely foreign culture with its own distinct ways of thinking and acting.

With this in mind, does it make sense for anyone to use their experience in Taiwan to start to do business in China? Are Taiwan's potatoes simply too small to be relevant for the giant markets of China and the US? In China and the US, you've got classic guerilla warfare. The competition between businesses is just as fierce as it is between people looking for work. People are spread out everywhere and the battlelines stretch on for miles. Strategy, tactics and positioning are all like nothing we have in Taiwan. The keys to success in this kind of fighting are your ability to adapt appropriately and think about the bigger picture.

Taiwan, on the other hand, is basically a niche market. Instead of fighting it out in the jungles, we're throwing punches in the streets. We're like a cop movie where you know the crime is going to be solved by the end of the film. Every quick turn, attack or block assumes an enormous weight as it might prove crucial to how the story ends. As a business In Taiwan, you might be sitting pretty in Taipei and be able to earn a pretty penny that way. But everyone knows once you leave the city limits you must as well be facing a different planet. In comparison, you have the situation multiplied by a million in China. There you have to think about every city and every province. You've got to think about the different regions and everything else in between.

- Original recipe vs. catering to the locals

I know you're thinking, "What about all those businesspeople from Taiwan who already went to China and were successful?" If we look hard at the big and successful business in China run by Taiwanese businesspeople, like Want Want and Ting Hsin, we see that they don't resemble anything we have in Taiwan. Calling these Taiwanese businesses means nothing more than the owners were born in Taiwan or that some of the senior and technical staff come from Taiwan.

The idea of replicating a successful business experience from Taiwan in China is just something I've never seen or heard of. Keep in mind that this applies mostly to operations and strategy. With their dedication and professionalism, Taiwanese people are sure to be your greatest asset, wherever they are. That's what you should keep in mind, not the idea of simple and clean replication.

- Island culture and Continentalism

So, what have we learned? Success in Taiwan in no way guarantees easy success in China. I can think of almost nothing but examples of people who tried to copy what they did in Taiwan in China and failed. Horribly.

After decades of separation, a common language and common past doesn't mean much. We just don't think the same way anymore. We've got that much-discussed "island culture," round here and they just don't have it there.

For us, the way we think about China needs to be the way we think about the US. But, of course, that will require a certain amout of rebooting as well. We still have tons of Taiwanese people who go to America and treat it like a magical land where they're barely fit to shine people's shoes. And when they step foot in China they feel ten feet tall. They set up shop in China in their own little insular communities and barely speak a word to anyone else, whether it be in their business or personal lives. If we see more failures over there don't say I never said how to stop it.

2012年11月3日 星期六

Unrecoverable Partitions?

The name Shih Tzu comes from the Chinese word for "lion" because this kind of dog was bred to resemble "the lion as depicted in traditional oriental art,"[1] such as the Chinese guardian lions. (There is also the Pekingese breed, called "lion dog" in Chinese). "Shih Tzu" is the Wade-Giles romanization the Chinese characters 獅子, meaning lion; Wade-Giles romanization was in use when the breed was first introduced in America, but in modern times Pinyin romanization is used, rendering it shīzi. The Mandarin Chinese pronunciation is approximately shirr-tsə. The Shih Tzu is also known as the "Xi Shi dog" (西施犬) because Xi Shi was regarded as one of the most beautiful women of ancient China.[2] Shih Tzus were nicknamed the Chrysanthemum Dog in England in the 1930s.[3] The dog may also be called the Tibetan Lion Dog, but whether or not the breed should be referred to as a "Tibetan" or "Chinese" breed is a source of argument, the absolute answer to which "may never be known".[4]


- - -

像外国人起中国名字也是只取其谐音即可,重要的是找个中国姓并富有含义,如汤若望(John Adam Schall von Bell)、南怀仁(Ferdinandus Verbiest)等



I think length is a crucial element as well. Coffee?

Guess I’ll leave en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kung_fu_(term) for another day.

2012年11月2日 星期五

Actual English names for Open小將 and friends: Part 1



the wand of death

Supposed English name: Open-chan.

When's the last time you met someone named Open-chan? Sounds like a fake name to me.

Actual English name: The Colonel.

That’s not a magic wand, it’s a wand of death. And put on some clothes, pervert.

Don’t you find it a little curious that Open小將 has no shadow?




Supposed English name: Lock-chan.

Give me a break. And I suppose we’re supposed to call the Minister of darkness “Fred” if he asks politely enough?

Actual English name: Colonel Mustard.

If 小醬 and 小將 are really arch-enemies, why do their names sound exactly alike? Why are you able to to get a picture of one by merely changing the amount of light and putting on or taking off a giant mustard stain on his hat?

But in all seriousness, if I was a kid I wouldn’t be able to draw a more frightening naked space dog cartoon character if I tried.

Favorite Lock小醬 quote: “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.”

And that's what he sounds like when he's having a good day.



heart of darkness

(Side-note: It took way too long to find a picture of Please美眉 where she is just standing there waiting to give you a hug and not bending over. You will find a picture of a swastika, after lots and lots of porn, before you find one. General pro-tip: do not try searching for pics of 美眉 in Google.)

Supposed English name: Please-chan

Please美眉 (no space!) is known by her friends as Pretty Please.

This is where I type something in and not make a comment about it:

Special Skill: “I love trying cosplay.”

Don’t worry, it’s not promoting antiquated gender roles or the hyper-sexualization of young girls (or worse) because her birthday is 2/14 of year not given. And everyone knows all guys love pink and purple. And, coincidentally, based on rigorous internet research, immortally young girls.

Actual English name: Colonel Kurtz, a.k.a The Heart of Darkness

Please美眉 has the power to use the phrase tee-hee three times in only two sentences. In other languages this dark art translates to her ability to type in the heart symbol (in addition to other symbols) in lieu of actual Chinese characters. Or, to put a positive spin on this, it may just point to some degree of illiteracy.

Select quotes come from here: www.open-chan.com/

Part 2 coming in the future because the past is hard to to get to.

2012年10月15日 星期一

2012年8月8日 星期三

想想台灣 Thinking Taiwan

蔡英文 – Tsai Ing-wen (Cài Yīngwén)

原文: http://www.thinkingtaiwan.com/public/welcome/site_info

With the presidential race over, many have asked what I plan to do next. For them I always have but one answer: think hard about Taiwan. Most respond to this with more than a little curiosity and skepticism. What exactly, they ask, is thinking hard about Taiwan?

Walking along the street one day, I saw a young motorist stopped at a red light reach down from their motorcycle, pick up an empty plastic bottle and put it in a nearby trash can, all done without a second thought. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but I was completely moved. Rest assured, this wasn’t the first time they had done something like this. It was clearly the type of action they had built into their life. And it’s the little things like this, added up, that make Taiwan just a little bit more pleasant. That person probably wasn’t thinking about very much when they picked up that bottle, but from my point of view, they were doing precisely what I call thinking about Taiwan.

Another time, I was watching television and saw a young sports fan that went around to events in full Techno Prince Nezha (電音三太子)gear with a Taiwanese flag draped across his back to show his support. He wanted to remind everyone that there’s wonderful country they might not know about called The Republic of China, which they may know as Taiwan. Some might say this type of thing can’t really compete with an official government campaign, but if you ask me, that young fan was thinking about Taiwan.

I’m also acquainted with a few seniors who, despite being retired, are still interested in doing something for their country. They’ve taken up as their cause some less privileged students who leave school every day without any family to walk with them, arriving at a home without so much as a desk they can use for their homework. These seniors work hard to find the resources and people that could make a difference in the lives of these children as they grow up. All across the far-flung and remote areas of Taiwan they’ve set up after-school centers to give these kids a place to go; a place where they’ll see that since this country hasn’t given up on them, they aren’t allowed to give up on themselves either.

These dedicated seniors are what I mean by thinking about Taiwan.

Speaking from experience, thinking about Taiwan actually feels great. Our politics, however, full of distractions on one side and a sense of helplessness on the other, has mutated this simple act into something dark and needlessly complex. Thinking implies more than a yearning. Thinking about Taiwan means putting our country at the front and center of your mind. With Taiwan on your mind you can begin to consider and tackle our country’s most pressing needs. And this thinking needs to be covering not only the broadest scope, but also exploring the depths of our problems as thoroughly as possible. In the past, we believed the government would always find a way to help us with this thinking, but in recent years we’ve seen with our own eyes that this faith was perhaps ill-founded.

If no one will come to help us think, we must begin to think for ourselves. We must roll up our sleeves and come to our own conclusions. This is what I call thinking about Taiwan.

It is a mystery to no one that Taiwan is a country with no shortage of problems. Domestically, the issues deserving of our immediate attention are myriad. With our present set of economic troubles, our top priority is discovering what new models will fuel our future development. At the same time, we must never shirk our duty to ensure our equal and just society co-exists alongside this growth, without getting in its way.

Our democratic framework is too not without its flaws. The never-ending partisan rivalry has created a situation whereby consensus-based solutions are never arrived at. To make matters worse, the final, unprejudiced arbitrator of our government, the judicial system, similarly fails in their goal of inspiring public confidence. Our democracy is like a jigsaw puzzle missing a crucial piece. People talk past each other, holding fast only to their own beliefs. The result is that our communal sense of trust deteriorates just a little more each and every day. If we continue along this path, it will surely be the end of us.

In the future, our relationship with China is obviously something we will also have to think hard about. Many have the distinct impression that China is a place full of unknowns. They also believe China believes in nothing if not the rejection of our sovereignty. At the same time as we, with no illusions, see ourselves increasingly dependent on China, we must also think hard about our long-term strategy of dealing with China. To do this we must better understand China itself. We must free ourselves from the constraints of the narrow framework established in past discussions of Cross-Strait Relations. We must see the problem with fresh eyes and with new ideas informing our understanding. We must see how the rest of the world sees China and how China sees the rest of the world, including us. Finally, we must deepen our understanding of both the people and the government of China, while not neglecting the many businesses operating in China founded by our fellow citizens.

As a separate issue, we must think hard about Taiwan’s place in the world and how changes in the international community will come to affect Taiwan. From the European debt crisis and the 2008 financial crisis, to the American presidential election, China’s economic slowdown, a recession among the BRIC countries and the Arab Spring, these events all around the world have a unique meaning for Taiwan. It is our duty to think hard about what that meaning is.

And of course, we have our own social welfare issues to think hard about. Our social safety net as it stands now is incomplete. Those at the margins of our society lack the care and dignity they deserve. Looking forward, if our systems are not rigorously and carefully planned out, if we don’t determine the best policies and programs, our nation’s finances will be depleted without delivering services with a level of quality we can all stand behind. At the same time, we must learn how best to empower the greater society in this plan, harnessing our communities as an additional branch of government to work with us on issues such as health care, social services, employment and business within a united framework.

Last, but not least, we must think hard about our culture. What exactly do we create? What is it that makes Taiwan special?

When I tell people about the online forum I’ve started, I’m usually urged to think twice. I’m told that with information everywhere around us, no one’s looking to get flooded with even more information. Then people insist that things online have to be fun and relaxing, otherwise they face certain death. Believe me, this is nothing I haven’t heard before. And despite this, I’m optimistic. I’ve always believed that there’s a real yearning for rational discussion in Taiwan. I believe that between all the gossiping and joking around online there’s still plenty of space waiting to be found by us.

This space is for our thoughts. It is for our hopes and dreams. Thinking Taiwan isn’t just an online forum, I want it to become a movement: a movement built on welcoming, strong, serious and critical thinking.

To start a serious online discussion forum in this day and age may be naïve, but I’m willing to give it a try for my country. How long has it been since you’ve thought hard about Taiwan? Come on in and share your ideas. Let’s think about Taiwan together.

2012年6月10日 星期日

And the racism. The Untranslatables: Plastic Cups edition, volume fin



Believe me, there’s no typo on my end.


Why is this edition: fin? Well, a long time ago I had to stop reading Language Log because it turned into Mark Liberman posting every day, “OMG! Did you see this totally unimportant thing in the newspaper where the word order made a funny?” or “OMG, Dinosaur comics did this thing with the language and omg!” That kind of stuff seemed to leak onto other writers (in addition to dominating the site) and it put me in such a bad mood that I cut it out of my diet.

So, to avoid doing stuff I don’t like, we go out today with a bang. And believe me, you’ll want that after reading this doozy, (assuming you’re still alive after racist McTypo above:



If you are fighting back the desire to jump off a building after reading that, I’m sorry. I really am.

2012年6月9日 星期六

The Untranslatables: Plastic Cups edition, volume 2

男賓止步 (猜一字)?

A: 嫗




Luckily, I brought a portable crash cart with me.

2012年6月8日 星期五

Crisis on Infinite Earths, Clash of Civilizations

美臀: Fine ass

stay classy, san diego



Some say the best part of cultural differences is the food, but I’m pretty sure it’s the sexism.

2012年6月7日 星期四

The Untranslatables: Plastic Cups edition

第十一本書 (猜一句成語)?

答案:BOOK 11 (不可思議)


Absolute zero cold. Every time I run across one of these my heart literally stops dead in its tracks from the body blow that are these “jokes.”

I’m not quite decided on why they’re untranslatable. Is it because they’re so bad that translating them poses a health risk to the reader? To the translator? Is it possible that in translating them they would dissolve into nothing? Something like this,

English: Why did the chicken cross the road?


To get to the other side.





中: 為...雞為... ... 靠.


The closest I can think of is this, where the really great jokes start at 4:15.


“Four-hundred and eight over rice.”

In the clip we do get a kids “Superman” joke, which is close to some of the stuff that slays me, and I’ll certainly get it up here if my heart is able to restart itself after reading it next time.

I remember reading some “joke” books when I was a kid where all the “jokes” would be these one line puns that almost tried to NOT be funny. I remember thinking, “that’s not a joke, that’s just two things that rhyme. Why is this in a book? This isn’t anything!” I was about 10.

2012年5月29日 星期二


- 楊銳

(5, by the way.)



(5, by the way.)

For those not a fan of the magnificent 楊銳 translation machine, here’s a less literal translation:

Fucking “foreigners,” fucking “foreigners,” fucking “foreigners,” something offensive about women, fucking “foreigners,” fucking “foreigners,” GPS, fucking “foreigners,” another offensive thing about women, fucking “foreigners” and fucking “foreigners.”


When they finally do come for you it will be with a suit and a tie, not a gun and a uniform.

2012年5月21日 星期一

Properly translating the important parts of politics


1.What the fuck!

2. What’s wrong with you?

3. You’ve got to be kidding me.

4. You’re unbelievable.

2012年4月14日 星期六

Literal Translation and Dead Translation

Recently, no small number of individuals have been attacking the idea of literal translation. They don’t claim that literal translations are actually incomprehensible; instead, they say that the translations are merely difficult to get through. Even if we grant that literal translations are more difficult to get through than other types of translation, they certainly aren’t impossible to understand. There’s a word for translations that are actually incomprehensible and it’s not literal translation; it’s dead translation.

Roughly speaking, literal translation is writing that doesn’t recklessly differ from the original. More specifically, it means translation that attempts to maintain the tone and style of the original. Aside from the negative admonition against reckless adaptation, the positive implication of that first definition above is that care must be taken with regards to sentences as a whole. Words in Western languages can differ greatly between actual usage and their dictionary definitions. The meaning of a word can change based on conditions, while a dictionary would merely note its basic meaning. Dictionaries are incapable of noting all these conditions-based changes. Because of this, appropriate translations must be made based on the meaning of a word in its context. Inserting a dictionary definition in your translation instead, is simply dead translating. While a word chosen this way won’t recklessly differ from a dictionary definition, it will not match the source text. Even if we stop looking at the question of a translated word matching the source text, dead translations still aren’t very good. With dead translation the words still find themselves lacking proper arrangement. And it is this kind of translation that is truly incomprehensible. For less discerning readers, these dead translations are perceived to be failed literal translations. That criticism, however, is wholly without merit. The basis of literal translation is solid. It is translators, originally seeking to produce literal translations, but ultimately failing, and producing dead translations, who are to blame for this common occurrence. The only other explanation is that some imagine literal translation to be some trivial task and don’t take their work very seriously, producing the kind of work that leaves readers scratching their heads. There are no positive steps to be taken at this point to solve the problem; the best we can do is call for translators to stop taking the task of literal translation so lightly.


茅盾 -《小說月報》第13卷第8期


死譯 could have just as easily been 笨譯 or 蠢譯. I think “dumb” translation is maybe a better term in English in any of the cases. “book” translation would be good if it didn’t imply the translation of actual books. Maybe “rule” translation.

2012年3月13日 星期二

Taiwan’s female magazine titles properly translated: Volume 2



Ladies on top

(runners-up: Women Livin’ Large, We the shit)

For all of you who guessed “My cold, dead, deer-in-the-headlights look is supposed to make me look sexy MONTHLY”, there’s lot’s more magazines to go through. Have no fears.

2012年3月12日 星期一

Taiwan’s female magazine titles properly translated: Volume 1

ladies makin' bank


Ladies makin’ bank

(runners-up: Women gettin’ cash money, Paper-chasin’ for the fairer sex)

2012年2月14日 星期二

Research? We don’t need no stinkin’ research!


“It’s clear that a lot of money has been spent on this. For example, many entries are accompanied by well-documented, precise explanations by distinguished lexicographers. Ha! Just kidding! Many entries are really accompanied by videos — some two hundred of them — of cutesy puppets gabbing about cross-strait differences in Mandarin expressions.”

- http://pinyin.info/news/2012/new-database-of-cross-strait-differences-in-mandarin-goes-online/

2012年1月10日 星期二

Mark follows up on 大山

Mark has had a good amount of time to think about why people hate his character (and maybe him.) But even in his responses he bends towards politico-speak (I’d say typical Chinese couching, but really every culture does this.)



Reason 4:

4) Political/Cultural – People wish Dashan had more of an edge;

No. Dashan is like a bucket of mush (which actually does have an edge, just go with it.) To wish that he had more of an edge is like wishing 新聞聯播 had more of an edge. They’re both the very opposite of the entire concept of an edge. To ask them to be “edgy” would be to miss the point entirely. It’s fine that the state news propaganda machine is the entire opposite of edgy. I mean it’s not “fine,” it’s just something we’ve come to accept from an authoritarian state that doesn’t believe in freedom of speech. And I don’t mean “accept” in a sense other than we hate it with a passion indescribable in words as it goes against the core assumptions of our civilization and our individual beliefs.

It’s not being a puppet or profiting off it that offends people. It’s being a puppet for evil that people resent. You can’t perform for the people in China and be big. You have to perform through the government to the people. That’s a sacrifice almost no one besides Dashan seems willing to make. And if they did, they’d get reamed out just as hard as he has through the years.

American (read: multinational companies) go through the ringer in the media for their cooperation with China. People remember and HATE, I repeat HATE and resent to their graves!, companies like Microsoft and Yahoo for turning over the names of individuals and their information that the Chinese government demanded. Google’s decision to enter the Chinese market has been a gigantic news story for years! Every major online service created by Americans (and some other countries in the West, like Skype, which originated in Estonia) has either been ridiculed, hacked, had surveillance software inserted into or around it, blocked, 山寨’ed, or worse. Never before has the contempt for Western (oftentimes American) progress and ideas been more obvious and rampant. You cannot consistently, freely, legally, and without fear of reprisal (without circumvention methods) access Youtube, Facebook, Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr? and a host of other sites and services on the Internet in China. (As these are the core of our modern internet life, there is scarcely a more obvious rejection of all that the West stands for, is, and means to the people there.) Most foreigners living in China make their sacrifices to a government somewhat indirectly: they work for a company that has made a pact to work with China, they teach for a school, etc. Dashan has had to make a direct deal with censors at all levels (explicitly or implicitly) and at the same time has become a face, not a company, for them to exploit. No one denies his talent or accomplishments and all that. Everyone is sure Mark is a swell guy. What people cannot forgive is his how anyone could do all this in public for so long and not feel bad about it. We shamed people like Michael Jordan for not commenting about Nike sweatshops. Apple CAN NEVER EVER MENTION that all their beautiful disposable crap is made by people in China. That’s how far the shame and resentment goes. And they don’t mention it just because it represents outsourcing to cheap countries. They don’t mention it because China IS a repressive country that doesn’t believe in labor standards, human rights, and lots of things we take as first principles in the West, or at least in America, even if it’s merely all talk.

(Unlike the companies exploiting Chinese workers or land or the people just teaching or whatever, 大山’s career is PREMISED on the central denial of the freedom of culture, speech, thought, etc. He is/was the officially sanctioned culture “freely available” to all, the physical embodiment of censorship and its effects, offered up as the “acceptable” foreign element in contrast to all the truly free and thought-provoking culture/thought/ideas officially persona non grata in the halls of power or any halls the powers that be happen to ever find out about.) And it is this dearth of a free and open culture more than anything else in a China today without rampant killing and violence, that people find so utterly depressing and soul-sucking when they are encountered with real-life Chinese people. That and all the other shitty things the government still does.

In a free society you used to make the excuse that you were “merely a performer” before people fully grasped the power (and responsibilities) these performers had (or should have.) In a non-free society (China is undeniably a non-free society) the “merely a performer” argument has no force. All performers perform at the pleasure of the state. There is no “apolitical” in an authoritarian society. The apathetic, “apolitical” types are merely upholders of the status quo.

Again, I quote 大山:

“So I work within cultural norms. This spills over into the political realm, because, to be honest, Chinese cultural acceptance of foreign political criticism is almost nil. In short, I don’t have to worry about what government censors might say because Chinese audiences would never let me get that far anyway.”

Yes, that’s the sacrifice, the submission you get from working for MAINSTREAM audiences. Plenty of Chinese audiences would be happy to see you, perhaps those very same people, but never in the mainstream when mainstream is defined by what the government allows. I’d argue your cultural force, self-respect, and respect from your audience would all go up if over the past 20 years you had been operating outside of the pre-set mainstream means. Maybe that was impossible 20 years ago, but it certainly isn’t now. There’s a reason nobody watches (well, they watch, but they don’t often like or respect) horrible Chinese TV anymore and all the cool kids download or stream foreign movies and TV shows or just play video games. The kind of nonsense that the government has been pushing, that you’ve been a core part of, is what has turned people off. When that was the only thing people could watch some watched it. Now people know better.

"I could make a short public statement like that of Christian Bale recently or Björk a few years ago. It’s very easy to do and ensures you get very good coverage in the Western media. You go home and everyone thinks you are a person of moral conviction who stood up to the great Chinese monster. But the fact is that these kinds of statements elicit almost no sympathy whatsoever from ordinary Chinese citizens. They simply are not culturally acceptable to the broad Chinese audience. And it’s very difficult to see what impact they have other than to further convince ordinary Chinese people that China is misunderstood and that the Western world is antagonistic towards China and resentful of China’s development. What use is that?”

You’re right. Idiots who know nothing about China, who go and say one thing about how China is evil after learning about it for 2 months or whatever are useless. You know who’s kind of statement wouldn’t be useless? Yours. Someone who they understand, have sympathy with, respect, etc. If you wrote some impassioned book or article or held a conference it would mean something. You probably would never work in China again. And who is more qualified to make sure the arguments and comments are not misunderstood than you?

Furthermore, the Western world IS antagonistic towards China. China does not respect human rights and dignity. It does NOT sign onto the core definitions of what makes a society not-evil in the 21st century as defined by not only the US and the UN, but nearly all countries in the world. What countries in 2012 don’t have elections? Seriously.

But you yourself already know this. No one is resentful, in any serious way, of China’s development. All countries cheat a little in economics. Japan did, the U.S. does all the time. The only reasons there is true resentment towards China is their stance on the treatment of individuals. Period.

And no, I’m not signing up for Quora to read the other responses. I find their model to be the repulsive anti-Wikipedia model: volunteers contribute free content which Quora monetizes and returns none of the money to the volunteers. Sounds like Google to me, actually, except I don’t have to “login” to use Google.


Judging from the beginning of the Quora question, I could tell it was going to be bad:

He seems like a nice guy. Does he secretly eat children or something?

Mommy, Hu Jintao seems like such a nice guy in the pictures, why do people hate him?

Dumb-ass question.

Dashan builds off a stereotype that centers around “foreigner speaks our language!” People nowadays would prefer to be treated as people, not some crazy thing that speaks Chinese! In fact, I’m not sure anyone ever preferred to be treated as an oddity. Dashan does nothing to help this stereotype. His whole performance is centered around fish-out-of-water, oh look, you live here and speak our language and understand our culture. Great, how about you just deal with him and us as a people with real ideas and thoughts and differences. When you come to America (or go to other countries) you’re just some person, period. But that’s the difference between a true multicultural culture, other countries in the world and whatever 55 different 少數民族 means.

THINK HARDER! Or don’t post at all if you’ve already thought harder and can’t say it for whatever reason.

Too harsh?

OK, back for more.

In America, if not other places, we’ve come to expect a lot of celebrities over recent years. We want them to be socially conscious, we want them to have causes. If they don’t, we call them people like Kim Kardashian. But even there, in the bottom recesses of our sextape-turned-socialitish celebrity culture, we at least see intimations of caring about the world. Maybe it’s only PETA or it’s some insincere commitment to “the troops” but the idea that any celebrity of any standing would be immune from “caring about the world” is almost unthinkable in American in 2012. Even the UN has recognized this with its “cultural ambassadors” like Angelina Jolie and George Clooney going around the world being the people Nicholas Kristoff always wished he could be (and probably doing more for the cause than he ever did, which is still sadly not very much.)

We understand that celebrities have great power. And nowadays we believe that power comes with great responsibility. Our sports and entertainment stars become our politicians and key movers on issues that matter to our societies. It is the blandness and one-dimensionalness of “personalities” in China that feels so retrograde and, frankly, wool-pulled-over-the eyes/constantly distract them with endless entertainment news (and particularly of people who never say anything about anything not related to stupid tabloid shit) that engenders such resentment and just flat out ignoring of mainstream Chinese TV, Music, Journalistic and Film culture. People who are from there kind of get a pass, since they are from there. But people who aren’t, who are smart enough to know what’s going on, don’t get a pass.

via http://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2012/01/10/dashan-on-why-foreigners-hate-dashan

For a slightly less extended commentary on 大山 please see the comments of this page:


I know, I shouldn’t have posted this.

2012年1月3日 星期二

Sorry, but it’s Zhang Ailing, not Eileen Chang

“At the age of 10, Chang's mother renamed her Ailing, a transliteration of Eileen, in preparation for her entrance into an English school.”


Sorry, still no.

You’re not who you say you are. You are who others say you are. If you write your entire corpus of merit in Chinese, your “Englishicized” name is not the name of record. At least not in this era anymore. There is an eternal tradition of using the names of writers and others of merit in the name of their own language. Only in a few selected cases do we find this kind of nonsense.

It was and is still very important to many to have the moniker of a “western name.” That’s fine. You can have it. You can use it for yourself. You can even force your family and friends to use it. You can even try to force strangers to use it as well. But you’re certainly not Eileen. And even if you are Eileen, your work certainly wasn’t written by someone named Eileen. And when we’re preparing something for translation, we’re looking at the name of the author of the work, not the little emblem you have close to your heart which has nothing to do with your work, but rather some sociological and psychological or silly issues you or your mother needed to work out.

Names emerge from group inclusion. If your work doesn’t belong to that same group, your name doesn’t apply to that work either. Especially when that work specifically belongs to and is written exclusively to and for another group for which you already have an existing name that applies.

It would seem easy to blame the missionaries here. Check. And Hong Kong. No, because the blame in that case really falls to the British. But the real issue here is from shitty publishing entities exoticizing and otherizing things because they were racist that way. But their crappiness is certainly added to by their own ignorance and pushback by their source material creators who viewed cross-cultural activities through their own lens, disregarding the customs of cultural transfer of the target culture. If someone tells you their name is Eileen and asks you translate their name that way you politely decline. Yes, that is English, but it is English in the context of a different culture. Cross-cultural English to English translation is nothing new. But in this case it’s even worse than that. Leaving trousers untranslated is nothing compared to this. We’re not even pretending that Eileen was a name that meant anything to her in the context of the Chinese society and work. It was an entirely independent thing. To attach it to her writing translated into English would be to miss the point entirely.

Ken Oe walking around in New York forcing all his English-speaking friends to call him Ken while writing his material in Japanese for a Japanese audience who knows him exclusively by Kenzaburo does not get to dictate that his translated material will be listed as written by “Ken Oe.” Think about it. Even if we would have put up with shit like that 50 or 100 years ago or a while ago doesn’t mean we should stand for it for a second.

Al Huxley.

Fred Nietzsche

Pete Dostoevsky

Group membership. Think about it. It applies to work and to people. People, despite clever sayings to the contrary, are not their work. People are people. Work is work. I’m not saying that people or work can’t have multiple existences and identities, (in fact translation is about creating such an existence/identity) but that this not necessarily be true in every case. And before deciding such membership exists careful consideration must be undertaken.

And we go back and change things that are crap. The Mao Tse-tung era is over for many, many good reasons.


"I self-identify as African American - that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed.” – Barack Obama, 2009