Friday Links: Why China can’t create Gangnam Style, Chinese reactions to the US presidential debate, and the nastiest squid-ink hot dog

White people put on armbands and play the part of assholes, via Ministry of Tofu

This is just a normal weekend, like any other — a final rest before the workweek resumes. But these links aren’t normal — they quite possibly form our best Links edition to date.

“Kung Fu Panda problem” rears its head again. “So, should we expect a Chinese Gangnam soon? Don’t count on it. ‘PSY is a satirist, making fun, and having fun,’ said John Delury, an expert on China and Korea who teaches international relations at Yonsei University in Seoul. ‘Korea tends to have more irony and satire in its comedy than China, and there aren’t the impediments to exporting things that question or poke fun of Korean society, politics, etc. And I think somehow people all over the world feel invited to join in, despite a huge cultural difference, when someone from a foreign place is making a bit of fun of themselves. That’s inviting. But China, especially acting in its official, soft-power capacity, is only comfortable exporting things that show off the greatness of its ancient civilization or economic development. That’s not terribly inviting.’” [Evan Osnos, The New Yorker]

Corollary: As highlighted in the article, this cartoon via China Digital Times:

The weirdest name I’ve encountered remains “Refrigerator.” “DevilWhaleChlorophyllViolanteTreacle – you name it, Hong Kong probably has someone who goes by it. The former British colony is obsessed with weird English names. // Unusual appellations have been found on people of all kinds. The secretary for justice is Rimsky Yuen and the previous secretary for food and health was York Chow. Among celebrities, there is a Fanny Sit, Moses Chan, and Dodo Cheng. Models? We have a Vibeke, Bambi, Dada, and Vonnie. But lawyers take the prize. There is a Magnum, John Baptist, Ludwig, Ignatius, Bunny and four — yes, four — Benedicts.” [The Atlantic]

Corollary: HKSAR Blog.

Diaoyu Islands again, this time from a Japanese scholar in response to this [sic]: “I do not evaluate here Mr. Han-yi Shaw’s selection and interpretation of documents from the nineteenth century and before, because they are irrelevant to the estoppel over the most recently recognized border. // However, for the sake of argument, if Mr. Shaw’s interpretation were entirely correct, than the People’s Republic of China (and less explicitly, the Republic of China on Taiwan) has legally disowned the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands by mistake, through sheer lack of interest in the islands before 1970.” [Takayuki Nishi, On the Ground, NY Times]

Trending on Weibo: “Taiwan Visa Exception,” jealousy. “The greatest distance on earth is that I celebrate national day on October 1, and you celebrate it on October 10. The greatest distance on earth is that, carrying my dark red passport, it is so difficult for me to obtain a visa, yet you can travel to over 120 countries effortlessly with your dark green passport. The greatest distance on earth is that we speak the same language, but have different expressions, different joys and different sorrows, different fates.” [Weibo user @假装在纽约, trans. Tea Leaf Nation]

Corollary: Link found in above TLN post: “Anger-fuelled disputes of this kind are not unlike getting drunk on cheap liquor- we become intoxicated very quickly; our voices grow loud and our words rash. Our behaviour can turn violent, and our way of thinking, although usually so calm and logical, becomes simplified, relying on our base instincts. We start to fixate on our innermost feelings and desires, repeating ourselves over and over, without allowing any room for logical thought.” [Haruki Murakami, Asahi Shinbun Digital, trans. Rocket News 24]

Holy fuck. “A pregnant woman, surnamed Liu, was attacked in Shenzhen on Tuesday by a couple who claimed to have lost their iPad in her store. Ms Liu later suffered a miscarriage due to a kick to the stomach delivered by one of the angry iPad owners.” [Shanghaiist]

How are Chinese netizens responding to the presidential debate? “While Chinese netizens seem to be following the election avidly, many were cynical about it and critical of both candidates. Some were impressed by Obama but said he seemed to have lost his edge since his election in 2008. A user named zongfeng wrote, ‘When Obama answered questions he had prepared, he was extremely smooth and unconstrained but when answering ones he wasn’t ready he very obviously lost points.’ Another by the name Xisi said, ‘Obama’s debating is as bad as the New York Jets’ offense.’ // Others criticized Romney’s attacks on the president. After Romney accused Obama of taking the US on the wrong economic path, a user by the name Bo Bang said, ‘If I were a voter I would care more about what he can do and not his criticisms of what others haven’t done.’ Others called Romney disingenuous. One blogger wrote, ‘At the end of every debate Romney gives this infuriating smile. Could you be a little more natural?’” [Euny Hong, Quartz]

One more presidential debate link. “Multiple Chinese state-run media have covered the presidential debate. ‘Romney Says If Elected He Would Crack Down on China’s “Cheating’ Behavior,”’ reads one headline by People’s Daily, the Communist mouthpiece. ‘In the first debate, Obama did not mention China, whereas Romney played the China card three times and took a tough stand, claiming that if elected, he won’t borrow a cent from China,’ says the lede of another news article reprinted in several popular internet portals. All Chinese news stories highlighted the fact that in the debate, the word ‘China’ was heard three times from Romney’s mouth.” [Ministry of Tofu]

Did you know the Garden of Eden was in China? Ahem. “They are the work of Tse Tsan-tai (1872-1938), a Chinese revolutionary, newspaperman and Christian propagandist. Born in Sydney and baptised James Yee, Tse moved to Hong Kong whence he started agitating for the Qing dynasty on the mainland to be replaced by a democratic republic. The plot failed to come to fruition, and Tse had more success co-founding the South China Morning Postin 1903. // In 1914, Tse wrote The Creation, the Garden of Eden and the Origin of the Chinese,in which he attempted to prove, based on the geographical description in the Bible, that the Garden of Eden was located in China.” [Big Think]

The Chinese in the UK interlude, featuring Gangnam Style:


David Blaine’s electricity stunt can be viewed in Beijing, though unclear where exactly (let us know if you know). [NY Daily News]

Get ready for the .中国 domain, frustration. [Shanghaiist]

Since I’ve come to China I’m constantly having sex and relationships with multiple women, drinking too much alcohol, and neglecting my health. Please help me stop doing this.” [hatingmyselfinchina, Reddit]

Finally, finally…

Worse than this. Much worse than this[Isidor's Fugue]

    5 Responses to “Friday Links: Why China can’t create Gangnam Style, Chinese reactions to the US presidential debate, and the nastiest squid-ink hot dog”

    1. Jess

      You only ever hear politically correct answers to the Evan Osnos question. It’s the censorship; it’s the system’s fault. The more blatant answer is that Chinese pop music producers are, as a whole, largely inept.

      Then again, we only make the comparison between China and Korea because of geography and race. Based on wealth, nobody asks why Ecuador or East Timor aren’t cranking out viral pop hits.

      I’d also put a large, bolded question mark on the suggestion that China “cranks out more singers and dancers in a single city than Korea does nationwide.” I don’t think that’s true at all.

      Also, why not put the egg ‘inside’ the hot dog bun?

      • The Tao

        Isn’t the question, “Why are they inept?”? I’d say “the system” is very much the problem (including censorship, etc.), though no one really has any good ideas about how to effectively change it.

        When your eggs are plastic and the bun is black, I don’t have a joke here except to say the picture makes me want to puke.

        • Jess

          I suppose they’re inept because China is a country with a musical history so far removed from modern pop music that nobody knows how to make it well (yet). Vocal harmonies, a staple of pop music, are almost completely absent because people don’t know how to harmonise; it’s never really been a “thing” in Chinese music. (Which is how you get vocal “arrangements” like this:
          Nor do they properly understand how to use hooks or chord progressions. Compared to the big Korean companies, whose founders all studied in the US, Chinese producers just don’t know how to do it.

          One major flaw of the “system,” though, is that the usual state organs harvest the talented singers, dancers and musicians away from pop music. Last week, I went backstage of a performance by the China National Ethnic Song and Dance Ensemble in Melbourne. The show was all very “traditional” in that CCTV way, as you’d expect. But, backstage, the performers were all in T-shirts and jeans, playing with their iPhones. Tall, good looking, talented. They would have made good popstars…had they actually been in the pop industry. (It kind of makes me wish I had a blog so I could write about that experience).

          But while Korean entertainment companies run parallel in practices with the Chinese state sports administration, training them from childhood and whatnot, Chinese companies have to wait until aspiring singers in their 20s come third in television singing contests before signing them. The level of artist development ridiculously is low. And because nobody is buying music, most of the profits in the industry come from live performances, which means it goes to the artist, not the companies. The companies then can’t justify spending $250,000 on the next album because they won’t get it back. The Korean system works because the companies get all the money, and the artists get none. But at least the companies treat their artists as products and improve on them.

          Oh, and don’t get me started on this Chinese obsession with self-composed music. Congratulations, you’ve reached the same level of musical development as a high school garage band! For most of them, it’s rarely ever good. I blame Jay Chou for that one.


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