Friday, May 23, 2008

Its jail time for a stupid young girl in China

Repression of free speech is necessary in China. I can already see the self-righteous anger building up in the mind of any American that reads that sentence. "WHAT???? Free speech is a basic human right!!" Actually, I agree. Every time I see a violation of free speech, I have to fight the knee-jerk American reaction of outrage. In fact, in order to read my own blog I must use a proxy because blogspot is often blocked in China. Even though I am against repression of free speech, I think that it is a necessary evil in China. Do you really think it would be possible to run a country of 1.3 billion people, maintain breakneck 10% annual economic growth, and sustain social stability if the government let everyone freely speak their minds? Nothing would ever be accomplished and there would be constant protests and riots. The population is simply too large and a large percentage of it is uneducated. To keep order and maintain economic growth, China needs nationwide consensus...even if means forcing unity down the throat of the people through monopolized media and censorship.

Having said that, I think that today's events regarding a young girl in the city of Shenyang are going a bit too far.

Tonight, while I was watching an episode of Frasier, my wife and her mother (she has come to visit and send us off next week) were watching a video on the internet. They were laughing hysterically and I thought for sure that they were watching a comedy, but when I came over to check it out they were just watching a video of a girl giving a monologue. As I am sure you know, there was a horrible earthquake in Sichuan province on May 12th. This past Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were declared official mourning days in China. Across the country there was a blanket moratorium on public entertainment. Movies on the internet were blocked. Movie theaters were closed. Every TV channel was covering the earthquake 24 hours per day. Online games were closed down. A girl named Gao Qianhui was not happy about her entertainment being taken away, so she made a totally inappropriate video:

Here are some highlights. Maybe the translations aren't 100% correct, but I think they are pretty close:
-"God, stupid old lady trapped under a building for over 100 aren't dead yet?"
-"You guys in Sichuan are being punished for bad Karma. See what happens when you boycott French goods?"
-"The aftershocks were caused by all the people in Sichuan farting so much."
-"Maybe your eyes were destroyed by the earthquake, but I can still see. I want my entertainment back."
-"You guys in Sichuan always come up north to beg. Now you are just using this opportunity to suck some more money up."

This girl, out of frustration due to the fact that her entertainment was taken from her, made a completely tasteless attempt at being funny. She uses dark humor and sarcasm to create something that people laugh at when they really shouldn't be laughing. As you can see, the girl next to her is about to die laughing.

I think what she did was totally wrong, and I can understand why people would be mad. What she did would be the equivalent of some club queen, angry that her favorite clubs downtown are closed because of 9/11, cracking jokes about people jumping out of the twin towers and making fun of the firemen that died.

Yes, this girl did a horrible thing. Yes, many Chinese people are justifiably outraged. These alone aren't newsworthy items. Why am I bothering to mention her in my blog? Because she is going to jail! She is being brought up on charges, including destroying national stability. Huh? Some foolish young girl makes a stupid video and she is destroying national stability? Young people say stupid things every day, that doesn't mean that they should go to jail. I'm guessing that Gao Qianhui is going to disappear in the Chinese political prison system simply because she made a few tasteless jokes. Crazy, huh? Chinese netizens seem to agree with this course of action, but I can't help but wonder how many people disagree but are too scared to publicly say anything. My wife and her mother are included in this group. After they finished laughing at what Gao Qianhui said, they agreed that what she said wasn't nice, but they saw her for what she is: a stupid girl that said a stupid thing, not a threat to national stability.

Most of the time, I don't even realize that I live in a communist country. I go about my life and this fact doesn't really affect me. It's when things like this happen that I get a reminder that I'm not in the US anymore.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Foreign Specimens in China Part Four-"The Party Kids"

Note: This is part 4 of a series. Click here for part 1, part 2, and part 3.

In China, there are laws concerning the conditions under which a person from a foreign country can teach English. Technically, one needs to have a college degree (not necessarily in English) and two years of working experience before being able to teach. As with many laws in China, the further you get from Beijing, the less these laws are enforced. Out where I am, it seems like the local authorities completely ignore the section of the law that pertains to foreign teachers. It is quite common to see 18 or 19 year olds that are here in China not to study, but to teach. These kids consider a one year contract to teach as a one year license to party. Given China's lack of drinking laws and the fact that 18 year olds can be shameless punks (I know, I used to be one.), this leads to the creation of the fourth species of foreigners in China-the "Party Kids".

In the US, many 18 year olds take advantage of their newfound liberation from parental oppression by doing as much damage to their liver as possible. However, laws keep the teenagers somewhat bridled in. The minimum drinking age, public drinking laws, and the barring of admittance into bars and clubs do a somewhat decent job of restricting teenage partying to small events that take place in the privacy of someone's home after a "cool" older friend buys a couple of 6-packs. Financial restrictions also keep a lid on the festivities. Most 18 or 19 year olds are broke, so they can't afford to go out on the town that often. China doesn't have any drinking laws, but the culture keeps Chinese teenagers from going crazy. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, Chinese teenagers are more childlike and innocent than American teenagers. Put a few 18 year olds from America, Canada, Australia, etc. in a place with no drinking laws, give them enough money to support a 5 day a week drinking habit, and what do you get? The "Party Kids." As if teenagers don't feel invincible enough, living in China only exacerbates the problem. Relatively high salary and the attention given to foreigners combine to create little pimply-faced gods. Not only can these punks easily get their hands on alcohol, but they can also drink it in public AND have a crowd ooohhing and ahhhing at them while they do it. Because of their foreign status, the "Party Kids" can get away with stuff that would never fly in their home countries.

The "Party Kids'" behavior can be downright appalling. I'm not even going to mention what they do in the confines of a bar or dance club, as these are places designed for debauchery. The problem lies in the fact that these kids don't keep their bar behavior in the bar, they bring the party to the streets with a vengeance. In the city where I live there is a pedestrian street lined with stores and restaurants. In the middle of this street there is an open air area that serves food as well as beer. The atmosphere in this place should be family-orientated, as families that do their shopping on the pedestrian street stop in this area for a bite to eat, bringing their children. The "Party Kids" like to turn what should be a family friendly area into a raunchy redneck bar. On one occasion, my wife and I saw a group of them bring out a guitar and drunkenly SCREAM out songs as a group. Of course, this piqued the curiosity of the locals and many people passing by were stopping to stare and take pictures. Fueled by the extra attention that they would not have received in their own home country, the "Party Kids" proceeded to sing louder. (Note: This species of foreigner is closely related to the "Attention Seeker") Another time, my wife and I managed to catch the spectacle of a "pissing contest". No, I don't mean that we saw an argument, I mean that we saw an actual urination contest out in the open air. The "Party Kids" were standing on tables, peeing into pitchers to see who could produce the most urine. So classy....Much to my embarrassment, the Chinese people were all staring.

Whenever I see these kids galavanting around, ruining the image of foreigners, I want to snap their necks. However, if I did so, I would be a huge hypocrite. When I was 18, I was a stupid punk as well. If I were 18 in China, I might have participated in the very same idiotic activities that the "Party Kids" engage in. Kids will be kids. Even though kids will be kids, these kids prompt Chinese people to tell me, "Foreigners are all crazy," or ask me, "Why are the foreigners in China of such low quality?" The "Party Kids" probably don't realize, or care, that they represent the WHOLE foreign world in the eyes of the Chinese. Until every city in China begins to enforce the laws concerning foreign teachers, the "Party Kids" will continue to flourish.

"Party Kids", we salute you.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Random thought--Media

In China, the government controls the media. Everyone knows this; it's not exactly a secret. It is also very obvious to any outsider that the Chinese government utilizes the media to push its agenda, glorify China, and demonize America and the west. Ask an American about the portrayal of America in the Chinese media or the Chinese media in general and he or she will most likely, without even thinking, quickly blurt out something along the lines of:

"It's all brainwashing bullshit!"
"The Chinese government is just trying to control the people!"
"It's so obvious that the media in China is biased. The Chinese people can't see this?"
"They are just trying to make China look good and America look bad. So unfair!"
"What the hell is this crap they call news? At least American news is balanced and free from government influence!"
"It is in the government's interest for the Chinese people to fear the west. That's why the news is the way it is in China."

Wow...those poor Chinese people! Constantly subjected to manipulated news! Ok, now think for a moment. When was the last time you saw an American media story that put China in a positive light? I am not talking about the many articles that extol the virtues of investing in China; I am talking about a report that actually praises China for something other than its economic growth. (Actually, even most stories or articles that praise Chinese economic growth predictably mix in a jab or two concerning the environment or corruption, citing these factors as reasons that the growth can't possibly be sustainable.) Can't think of any? Maybe one or two? Ok, now try to think of media reports that criticize China or lead people to believe that the Chinese are out to get us. Oh, that one's easy...Contaminated food...Hidden military expenditures...Corruption...Pollution...Human rights...Computer espionage...etc...etc...etc...

Why is this the case? No can debate the fact that the above topics are newsworthy, but is there really NOTHING positive to report about China? Of course, there are positive things happening in China, it's just that the American media conveniently forgets to mention them. When it comes to China coverage, is our "free and liberal" media really all that different than the communist state-controlled media in China? Americans are quick to label Chinese media as government-controlled, propaganda nonsense and are just as quick to hold up the American media as a paradigm of unbiased and fair reporting. Where is the "fair and balanced" coverage of China? Apparently, the American media can dish out the propaganda just as well as the commies can.

What it all boils down to is that when a Chinese person bases his or her opinion of America on the one sided news that he or she is exposed to, that person is considered "brainwashed", but when an American bases his or her opinion of China on the one sided news that he or she is exposed to, that person is considered "informed". Kind of hypocritical, isn't it?

Just something to think of as you take in the never ending media reports concerning the "yellow peril"...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Helpful MBA links

For any future MBA applicants reading this, here is a list of links that I found useful during my GMAT and application days.

First of all, I would start by checking out GMATclub. If I were to choose one website for GMAT preparation and help with the MBA application process, it would be this one. In addition to helpful study guides, it also has a forum where people share their GMAT and MBA application experiences.

After taking the GMAT, you need to begin to really focus on which school you want to attend. Besides reading a school's website and getting in touch with students and alumni, another way to research MBA programs is to read student blogs.

A list of student blogs
A list of applicant blogs
A list of alumni blogs
The Clear Admit blog
Admissions 411-Not really a blog, but a collection of MBA admissions stats

I would say that writing the application essays is the hardest part of the application process. Even if you have a 780 GMAT score, if your essays don't make you stand out you will probably be rejected. GMATclub is chock full of suggestions concerning application essays, but to get you started here is a free guide to writing application essays.

If you are lucky enough to be selected for an MBA interview, here are a few interview resources:
A list of common MBA interview questions
A collection of interview experiences for each MBA program

So, there you go. I hope you find these links as useful as I did. Good luck!