Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Michael Spence

August 12, 2016

is the vice chancellor of the University of Sydney.

It’s been just a bit comical seeing his public road-to-Damascus moment about the “bamboo ceiling” – now that following his remarriage after the tragic early death of his first wife he has a child who might possibly come up against it one day.

Today Spence is reported complaining about the immorality of subsidising the costs of medical tuition for Australian students with the profit from international fee-paying students.  He says:

Australian universities “tax the poor families of Sichuan to subsidise the education of kids who went to Kings to become doctors and charge people a lot of money.”

That seems a bit colourful to me.  Plenty of medical students come from James Ruse rather than from Kings.

There is a university system in China, for which entry is competitive but which you can reasonably say is open to poor students of high ability.  General view in China would be that Australia is where the (relatively) dumb and rich ones come, and as to who the rich are and how they are rich there are plenty more views about that.  According to those views, maybe you could describe the origin of their wealth as a “tax” on the poor in a very loose sense.

Most Chinese would be astounded to learn that the Chinese students studying in Australia came from “the poor families of Sichuan.”

Feelings high in Yunnan

November 3, 2013


In Australia, our new government sedulously dissuades us from any environmental effort, particularly when it comes to global warming, by the contrary example of the Chinese.

I first went to China in 1998. Since then, I have noticed some “environmental” developments.

Public rubbish bins now routinely have a “recyclable” and “non-recyclable” receptacle. True, this distinction is almost universally ignored, but to the extent that it is observed it may make things just a little easier for the free-lancers who go from bin to bin retrieving the recyclable objects (especially plastic water bottles) and putting them into enormous sacks on their bicycles.

Styrofoam takeaway food containers and chopsticks used to gather in practically every windbreak of any sort in any public place. I can’t work out how but you don’t seem to see them or at least so many.

In urban areas, at least, the motor bike has been supplanted by the electric bicycle (though electric bicycles have probable replaced quite a lot of ordinary bicycles as well).

And you now have to pay for a plastic bag at the Supermarket (a measure also adopted in Australia in the ACT though not yet in NSW). You can buy a slightly more robust one than they used to give away. It doesn’t cost much, but the Chinese are a frugal people.

Unarmed with my own bag I went shopping this year on the main street of Dali old town(Sifangjie, a common name for a main street in these parts). I have kept the bag I bought as a souvenir.

The bag identifies the shop and its slogan, reproduced at the head of this post, which places an appropriate (especially for China) emphasis on its goods being well-priced.


It’s only today that I really paid any attention to the other side of the bag:


And again, looking a little more closely:


That’s right: 钓鱼岛 – that’s the Diaoyu Islands (to the Chinese, Senkaku to the Japanese) – are Chinese!

Those are the islands which are currently the focus of heightened feelings between Japan and China.

I’d be surprised if Japanese supermarket bags are festooned with equivalent slogans.

See also here.

This way to the shadow agglomeration pond

September 22, 2013


More from my trip behind the great firewall. The Chinese are big on these.


Apparently there is a spot (this is the Chongsheng temple near Dali, Yunnan Province) where the points of the three pagodas can come together. I couldn’t even manage to get a proper picture of all three: it is hard to find a good spot.


The fruit on the left were new to me:


This plant seemed vaguely familiar:



though a tea brewed from it (in the spirit of science: we had to try) yielded no discernible result.

One day somebody who can start to sell drinking yoghurt in Australia in the Chinese style should surely make a fortune. This is the more expensive (of two brands) widely available in this part of Yunnan:


That’s yak milk yoghurt.

Seen in Shanghai

October 3, 2011

For Neil.

Just next to the Shanghai Conservatory (of music, that is):

The lumber room

September 17, 2010

I have travelled to Shanghai to see the Cologne Ring Cycle, conducted by Markus Stenz.  Last night was Das Rheingold

The performances are at the Shanghai Grand Theatre, which is, as its name proclaims, grand.

I am staying in a small room at the back of D’s mother’s quite modest apartment in the former British concession area of Shanghai. The apartment itself comprises the ground floor room at the back of the house plus an additional lean-to bathroom which has been added after the house was divided into separate dwellings. Kitchens for the two ground-floor flats are in a common area in the stair-well. My room, which is opposite the original back outside loo, was probably originally a servant’s room. At present it is nearly full of some family furniture and there is just room for my bed and access to a few drawers of a dresser to stow my things.

It certainly puts even the shakily-founded splendour of Valhalla or the extravagance of a trip to Shanghai to see an opera in perspective.

I had hoped to post a picture, but the Chinese internet has not proved co-operative. [Postscript: obviously there has been a kind of Glasnost since my first composition.]

Chinese internets permitting, I shall post something more concerning the performances themselves and [with a seemly discretion] fellow bloggers met here anon.

Olympics – a different view from Beijing or just outside it

September 24, 2008

I don’t usually do “you must read this” posts, but this article from the New Yorker by Peter Hessler (courtesy ESWN) really impressed me.

Not only is it acute, but (as you would expect from both the New Yorker and Hessler) it is very well written.

What I particularly like is the narrative/dramatic [which do I mean? what the hell] structure of the article.

Hessler starts near the Great Wall somewhere not far out of Beijing with the rather homespun security precautions which have been made near the house which he routinely rents there. He then flashes back to his flight into China on the same flight as the US cycling team (the ones who caused the trouble by wearing their masks) before returning to the village view of a bicycle race – a bit like the view of the sermon on the mount from the back of the crowd in Life of Brian. He persuades his local friends to make the big trip into town to the games with him. Cue Act II.

There, after another brief flashback to his trip to Beijing in 2001 at the time that Beijing was bidding for the games, Hessler focuses on the Chinese spectators. Hessler zooms in on Chang Aimei, a peasant whose son, Chang Yongxiang, is representing China in the Greco-Roman wrestling. This is only the second time Chang Aimei has seen his son wrestle – the Chinese system takes its recruits away from their families at an early age. He watches from right up the back so as not to put his son off. He passes the exciting news blow by blow (OK, throw by throw) to family and friends via his mobile phone. These are the final paragraphs:

It was early in the day, and the athletes were working their way through the rounds. At the Olympics, Chinese men had never done better than bronze in wrestling; nobody had ever made the finals. In Chang Yongxiang’s second match of the morning, he defeated a Peruvian to qualify for the semis. When it came time for his next competition, I made my way to the far corner of the arena. His father was still there, sitting alone.

Chang Yongxiang was matched against a Belarusan named Aleh Mikhalovich. The crowd had grown louder all morning, and now they chanted, “China, go! China, go!” The Belarusan threw Chang out of the ring almost immediately, scoring four points, and won the first period. But then Chang seemed to gather himself. He was stocky, with thick thighs and a square jaw. He had bristly black hair and after every clinch he shook his head like a bull. He evened the match with the second period. Now the spectators were on their feet; the school group from Changping screamed and banged their thunder sticks.

Behind them, Chang Aimei remained seated. His legs were crossed, as if he were relaxing after a day’s labor, and his belongings were neatly stacked on his lap: towel, flags, pamphlets. He had not moved a muscle since the match began. His eyes were fixed on the distant mat, and he said nothing. But I could hear him breathing—steady, steady, steady. In the third period, the Belarusan took the initial point. Deeper now, deeper now. The match continued with Chang Yongxiang in the lower position; he escaped and scored a point. Inhale—almost a gasp. Another point, and then it was over, and the referee was raising Chang Yongxiang’s arm.

Eventually, Chang lost to a Georgian, taking the silver medal. But on the day of the semifinal he left the ring triumphant, already the most successful Chinese Greco-Roman wrestler in history. At the top of the arena, safely out of sight, Chang Aimei still looked relaxed. He was silent until he took out the cell phone. “Wei!” he shouted. “He just won again!”

Brilliant! But there’s a lot more to the piece than that and I’d urge you to take a look for yourself.

Qu v Kuang, Jones v Dunkel

September 1, 2008

In case you haven’t noticed, I have embarked on a series under the category “Case of the week.”

This week’s case concerns a battle between Ms Qu and her mother, Ms Kuang, over ownership of a house in Taren Point. The house was initially bought in Ms Qu’s name. Subsequently, Ms Kuang executed a transfer (signing that transfer in Ms Qu’s name) of the house to herself.

One thing which the judgment does not make very clear is a principle which applies in cases like this which is not perhaps generally appreciated. This is that, generally speaking, the crucial moment where contributions to paying for a house count is the moment when the money is borrowed from the bank or otherwise rustled together in order to buy it. In particular, it doesn’t normally matter who actually pays off the mortgage afterwards (though that might give such a person the right to be repaid and, if necessary, to have the house sold in order to get their money back). Any proportionate shares in the house will usually be worked out on the proportions of the purchase price contributed at the outset, including contributions made by borrowing money from the bank.

In that respect, this case is not particularly novel. What is more interesting to me, having even just a little acquaintance with PRC (ie, Chinese) immigrants to Australia, is the background narrative. (See also my post on Jin v Yang.)

Both mother and daughter were originally from the PRC. Ms Kuang, the mother, appears to have come to Australia at some stage. The chronology is patchy in the judgment but she must have arrived by the early 1990s. In other words, she formed part of the wave of PRC immigration which coincided with and was indeed assisted by Australia’s Tiananmen-associated reception of Chinese at this time.

Ms Qu, her daughter, remained in China where she was brought up by her paternal grandparents. (This in itself is typical of Chinese families’ tendency to patrilineality.) She formed a de facto relationship with Mr Liu and later married him. Mr Liu’s family had a number of business enterprises and was apparently quite wealthy.

In 1995, Ms Kuang travelled back to China. This is about the time that Tiananmen immigrants were first able to return to China as a result of the consolidation of their visa status to permanent resident. Ms Qu obtained a visa to come to Australia at this time After this, she travelled to Australia a number of times. The judge doesn’t say this, but I expect one reason was to secure and to retain her permanent residence here.

As well as Ms Qu, Ms Kuang and Ms Qu’s father had a son, Daniel. He is evidently some years younger than Ms Qu, because in 1998 he was still in primary school whereas in that year Ms Qu came to Australia with Mr Liu for the birth of her (first) daughter.

Ms Kuang divorced Ms Qu’s father in 1992 and married Barry Hancock. A pattern appears to have emerged in about 1995 that Ms Kuang made requests to Ms Qu for amounts of money which were provided by Mr Liu’s family. This in itself involved some complicated dealings, as the money had to be got out of China in cash. This was usually done by passing the cash to a cousin of Mr Liu who then took it to Hong Kong, whence it could be transferred through the banking system.

In January 1998 Ms Qiu and Mr Liu came to Australia for the birth of their first child. They stayed at first in Auburn with Ms Kuang and Mr Hancock (It appears that Ms Kuang owned this house). All four of them went to look at the Taren Point house. The accounts they offered as to the reasons for this were at odds: Ms Kuang said that the only purpose of the purchase was to support a visa application for Mr Liu; Ms Qu said that she wanted to live there. There was a proposal that the purchase be made jointly by Qu, Kuang and Hancock, and a further alternative proposal that the purchase be by Ms Qu alone supported by a guarantee by Ms Kuang secured over the Auburn property. Ultimately, neither of these was proceeded with: the property was purchased in Ms Qu’s name alone for $430K. Of the 10% deposit, $16K was paid by a cheque from Barry Hancock. Money was provided by Mr Liu or his family in China at this time which Ms Qu said went towards the remainder of the deposit and other expenses associated with the purchase. Ms Kuang said this was also for her daughter’s medical expenses and for her and Mr Liu’s other living expenses.

Mr Liu’s family also came to Australia for the birth, after which he, Ms Qu and they moved into the Taren Point property. This cannot have been for long, because in May 1998 Ms Qu and Mr Liu returned to China with their daughter. After this, the house at Taren Point was rented out.

In October 1998, Ms Kuang purchased a business, Lily’s Supermarket. She did so in Ms Qu’s name. To do so, she refinanced the mortgage over the Taren Point property and took a fresh mortgage from Westpac which included about $57K to pay for stock of the business. Ms Qu said that she was unaware of this refinancing (the documentation apparently having been signed by Ms Kuang in Ms Qu’s name) although she was aware of the purchase of the supermarket by her mother in her name, for which she lent her $60K. She claimed that the reason for the purchase in this fashion was that her mother was in receipt of social security payments that she did not want to jeopardise.

In 1999, Ms Kuang and Barry Hancock were divorced.

At this point in Justice Gzell’s judgment, the chronology is harder to establish. What is clear is that the status of the Taren Point property and the funds provided by Mr Liu or his family became more critical as a result of marital difficulties between him and Ms Qu. It is easiest just to quote a big chunk of the judgment:

36 Ms Kuang requested Ms Qu to provide a power of attorney so that she could transfer Lily’s Supermarket to herself. Ms Qu went to a notary in Guangzhou who advised her that the power of attorney allowed her mother to do anything. The notary prepared a document in Chinese limiting the power of attorney to the management of the business of Lily’s Supermarket. Ms Kuang was not satisfied with that document and requested her daughter come to Australia to execute a power of attorney before a solicitor. This was done. The power of attorney in general terms without the limitation of the Chinese document was executed by Ms Qu.
37 Ms Qu said she requested information about the Taren Point property from her mother without success. Ms Qu said she would have no choice but to sell the property. Mr Liu recalled Ms Kuang discussing a plan of developing the Taren Point property with a two storey building but nothing eventuated [Ms Kuang claimed she had obtained her daughter’s approval for this]. Shortly before his divorce from Ms Qu he tried to sell the Taren Point property to a friend but Ms Kuang refused to hand over documentation. Ms Qu also said that she had difficulty with her mother in placing the property for sale.
38 In about 2001 Ms Qu and Mr Liu had agreed to separate. In about April 2002 she moved back to Sydney with her daughter while her husband remained in China. In about July 2002, Mr Liu came to Australia to formalise their divorce. It was agreed that Ms Qu should keep the Taren Point property and he would keep the property in China. Mr Liu had an argument with Ms Kuang about her refusal to provide documentation with respect to the Taren Point property. The argument ended with him pounding his head with a crystal vase.
39 After the argument Ms Kuang paid Mr Liu $30,000 and asked him to leave. Ms Kuang said that she had a discussion with her daughter in which Ms Qu said they needed money to help Mr Liu’s family and they should sell the Taren Point property. Ms Kuang said she would not do that as she wanted to live in the house when she retired but she would organise money to pay them back.
40 Ms Qu signed a contract to buy a property at Homebush. Ms Kuang repaid the $60,000 lent to acquire Lily’s Supermarket by paying the deposit on the townhouse to the real estate agent and the balance to Ms Qu. A Don Grassick who sat in court during the whole of the trial provided Ms Qu with a further cheque for $20,000. He did not give evidence and his part in events was not explained.
41 In Ms Qu’s name, Ms Kuang executed a transfer of the Taren Point property to herself. She was asked why she did not use the power of attorney and said because she had transferred Lily’s Supermarket into her own name without the power of attorney she did the same with the Taren Point property. Her purported signature of Ms Qu was witnessed by Mr Hancock. The signature of Ms Kuang as transferee was witnessed by Mr Grassick.
42 Ms Qu said she became suspicious in about March 2005 and conducted an internet title search of the Taren Point property. She said it was then that she first became aware that the property had been transferred into her mother’s name. She said she did not authorise the transfer and did not give permission for the forging of her signature. Nor did she authorise her mother to refinance the property. Ms Kuang said she did not tell her daughter that she was going to transfer the property into her name before she did so nor afterwards. She said she understood that the property had been released to her upon the payment of $30,000 to Mr Liu and $80,000 to Ms Qu.
43 In October 2004, Ms Kuang borrowed $800,000 from ING Bank secured on the Taren Point property.

His Honour held that the property belonged to Ms Qu, and that she was entitled to have the mortgage discharged and the property transferred back to her, subject to payment to Ms Kuang of the amount (to be determined by an Associate Justice) which she actually had paid herself in discharging the first mortgage and in meeting the mortgage repayments and any outgoings. This basically involved his accepting Ms Qu’s account of the circumstances in which the property was originally purchased. This extract from the judgment gives an idea of its flavour:

44 It was put to Ms Qu that by agreeing to the Lily’s Supermarket business being put in her name she was assisting her mother’s dishonesty in maintaining her claim to social security benefits. Ms Qu replied that she had no choice, she had to obey. That answer impressed me. Her mother was a determined woman who exhibited a domineering attitude in the witness box. In one of her letters to her mother Ms Qu said she was not able to convince her as she was always in the wrong, that her mother knew very well how to protect herself and would not consider her children even for a bit. She had prepared topics to speak about with her mother but once she saw her she “swallowed her words”. I can well appreciate these sentiments.
45 Of particular significance in the resolution of this difficult case is the expenditure of monies provided by Mr Liu and his family for the renovation and installation of furniture and effects at the Taren Point property. If the property belonged to Ms Kuang why would Mr Liu’s parents spend monies on it? I accept the submission that it was more likely that the property was being prepared for Ms Qu and her newborn daughter to live in as her property. Again, if the property was Ms Kuang’s, why did Mr Liu and Ms Qu continue to send monies via Mr Kit for the mortgage repayments?
46 The subsequent events are of little assistance in resolving the issue. They do establish, however, that Ms Qu was correct in stating that her mother knew very well how to protect herself. Her transferring the Lily’s Supermarket business and the Taren Point property into her own name by forging her daughter’s signature demonstrated a ruthlessness on her part.

I’m not entirely sure how somebody can be domineering in the witness box and how this can be distinguished from simple vehemence. However, there was another factor.

Ms Qu’s case was corroborated by Mr Liu. Gzell J commented that Mr Liu “had no interest in giving evidence for his ex-wife.” This might be technically correct, though I think it makes rather light of Mr Liu’s previous involvement and his likely desire to see that his daughter, now living with his ex-wife, benefited from the money he said was provided by his family.

More intriguingly, Daniel (remember him? Ms Kuang’s son and Ms Qu’s younger brother), who never went to a selective school even though Ms Kuang claimed this was the reason she wanted to buy the Taren Point property, and who left school part way through year 11 to play representative basketball in Taipei, gave evidence for Ms Qu. Daniel said that when his mother had declared an intention to retire to the Taren Point house, he had said to her “Isn’t that house belong to sister? Is she willing to give it to you?” to which his mother said: “Why not?” His Honour had no reason to disbelieve this evidence. “Cross-examination of him[Daniel] was perfunctory and he was not cross-examined on what he said to his mother about Taren Point being his sister’s house or her response.”

The clincher seems to have been that none of the people who were involved on Ms Kuang’s side who might have been expected to have given evidence of matters they were involved in gave evidence. As his Honour said, Mr Hancock did not give evidence. He was in gaol but no attempt was made to have him brought to court. Mr Grassick, who sat in court during the whole of the trial, did not give evidence.

His Honour drew an adverse inference from the lack of evidence from Mr Hancock and Mr Grassick under the principle in Jones v Dunkel (1959) 101 CLR 298.

Is anybody still reading?

Anyway, I found it interesting.

奥运会 – Olympic Games – A view from China

August 26, 2008

This is the peroration from a Chinese blog post: Random Thoughts Following the Olympic Games Starts. If you scroll down on the link you can see the full text in English.

The successful opening of the Beijing Olympic Games pushed a new China image to the world. It is strong but mild and non-aggresive. I trust that any viewer who had watched the performance on the opening ceremony or anyone who recently visited China would have his own judgement for such a China, who previously did not introduced itself to the outside world in such a manner and what’s more, with a differential fall between the reality and what was previously smeared up in the West. For the Chinese, the Western press, once regarded here by some as objective and just, showed off its hostile and malicious sides.

The hosting of the Olympic games hosted here makes us to take a second look at ourselves, who we are, what we can, where our potential is, and where we are going. From the precise tic-toc arrangement of the performances at the ceremony and our achievement in preparing and servicing the game, we become increasingly clear and confident of our capabilities, of what we could achieve through our mutual effort. The anti-China forces gave a stimulus to the Chinese to embrace closer to ourselves and failed to alienate us. This must be quite out of their expectation.

It is a fact China keeps becoming powerful. We don’t have to deny that we have grown up higher. The lyrics in the Hymn to the Country cannot be more true: Praise to our country, from today she goes strong and prosperous … through so much hardships we finally won our liberty. The heroic people has stood up !” It is such a blessing for the people in our current generations to live through and witness the progress of our country, from weak to strong.

However my hope would be that, such a strong comeback of this nation will not blind our eyes in our direction towards an even higher civilization and prosperity, it will not foster self-conceited, self-involved, petty-minded nationalism. Instead we will become to be a mature world power. Even a strong military force in reserve doesn’t need to be exerted to guarantee our prosperity. Soft power should be given priority in our seek for identity in the international community. In other words, to be strong is not to destroy, but to have the power to destroy and not to destroy. In another respect, we shouldn’t mind too much what the Western world think of us. It would be utterly wrong to project their reactions to our path of development, or to adjust our path whenever they protest. It has never been so clear to us that, the more we care about their response, the more they will use our weakness to manipulate us. We should have the confidence suitable for a big nation like ours, and to smile through our course to an even better nation, while those anti-China forces become desperate and unwanted.

China, go ! With the might how you could move yourself through the Olympics. Go !

There’s quite a lot of food for thought there. As I have already implicitly suggested, you need to read the full text to get the full argument.


April 3, 2008

Nothing cheerful I can say about this.

Hu Jia, about whom I have timidly written before, has been imprisoned for three-and-a-half years for “inciting subversion of state power.” 

Somewhere recently some jovial vice premier made some quip about how a Chinese person could go up to a policeman and say all sorts of things without being arrested.  It’s a joke that cuts both ways, because it really assumes that it would be the most natural thing in the world for the police to make the arrest.  But in any event, that’s pretty much what Hu Jia did and they pretty much locked him up.

Obviously, he has been put away to encourage (or in this case, discourage) the others. Which is why I find particularly annoying paragraphs like this, written for a Chinese-diaspora audience by a fellow called Barry Sautman, who commented on the “hooligan” characteristics of the rioters (or call them what you will) in Tibet and said:

The recent actions in Tibetan areas differ from the broad-based demonstrations of “people power” movements in several parts of the world in the last few decades. They hardly show the overwhelming Tibetan anti-Chinese consensus portrayed in the international media. The highest media estimate of Tibetans who participated in protests is 20,000 — by Steve Chao, the Beijing Bureau Chief of Canadian Television News, i.e. one of every 300 Tibetans. Compare that to the 1986 protests against the Marcos dictatorship by about three million — one out of every 19 Filipinos.

I’m not a hard-core independent Tibetist (even the Dalai Lama isn’t, after all) but it’s not difficult to see why the people on the street are only the people with nothing to lose, or that they vent a resentment which is more widespread than their numbers alone suggest.  It’s tip of the iceberg territory.

There is nothing much that Hu Jia says which seems remarkable – at least to us.  It’s different in China, of course.  Hu could shut up and get on with his life in a more low-key way.  Most of us do.  But he won’t.  He’s not reasonable or practical or sensible.  People like that can really get up authorities’ noses.  Not just in China, but everywhere, though it is easier for us to see the mote in their eye in that regard before the logs in our own. 

Peculiar usage

March 5, 2008

From the SMH’s coverage of a hostage crisis in Xi’an China, Aussies taken hostage (emphasis added):

Local Xian newspaper Hua Shang Bo reported on its website that hijacker Xia Tao, from Xian, held up the bus yesterday morning in the middle of Xian’s central Belltower Square.

He said he had an explosive device.

Police agreed to Tao’s requests to negotiate with him after he threatened to blow up the centre of the city.

He eventually released nine tourists but held the NSW woman and a translator hostage for an unknown period of time.

Chinese authorities, led by the Xian Public Security Bureau, later stormed the bus and secured the woman’s release.

Police reportedly then gave Tao another vehicle and allowed him to drive to the airport. He was executed by a sniper as he travelled to the airport three hours after the hijacking began.

The paper said security forces were pleased with the speedy resolution of the incident.

Excuse me, executed?  Try just plain killed.  But undoubtedly a speedy resolution


OK, it was a rush early version of the story, probably based on the Chinese report carelessly (or callously) translated.  A later report says:

At 12.52, as he approached a toll station near the airport, members of the bureau called out to the man to get out of the car before shooting and killing him.

Looked at another way though, maybe “executed” is the right word.