Dispatches From Xinjiang: Perhat, Part 2 – A Gracious Uyghur Rock Star

Uyghur rock star Perhat - Dispatches from Xinjiang Beijing Cream
The Uyghur rock star Perhat has a lot of fans in Ürümchi. Walking around college campuses, it's not unusual to hear Han students humming from the chorus of “How Can You Let Me Be So Sad” – the song Perhat popularized on The Voice of China back in August. And Uyghur students are in awe of how he has become so famous so quickly. They say things like, “Wow, now Perhat is hanging out with rock stars like Wang Feng who sold out the Bird’s Nest in Beijing; just a few months ago I said hello to him when I saw him buying stuff at the corner store.” Read more »

Can You Pass The Chinese Driving Test? See For Yourself

Chinese Driving Test 1
Driving in China can be a pain, for reasons I hardly need to list here (but will, since Web Logs were created for just this sort of venting) -- traffic, severe traffic, traffic caused by fights between traffic cops, traffic regulations, traffic accidents.... Luckily, China's Ministry of Public Security has an extensive test to prepare this country's would-be drivers for the stress, frustration, and Weltschmerz of the road... Read more »

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Why Do Uyghurs Speak English So Well?

Dispatches from Xinjiang - Uyghurs and English
Ever since Kasim Abdurehim, the founder of the private English school Atlan, took third place in a national English-speaking contest in 2004, Uyghurs have found their way into the final rounds of almost every major English speaking competition in China. This year was no exception. Although Uyghurs represent less than one percent of China’s population, they consistently beat Han contestants from the best schools in the country. Read more »

Dispatches From Xinjiang: The Art Of The China-Eurasia Expo

Dispatches From Xinjiang - The Art Of The China-Eurasia Expo 1
It was a busy week in Ürümchi: musicals, archeology exhibits, art shows, a ComiCon festival, and thousands of visitors from outside the “autonomous” region. Special bus lines were put in place; millions of potted flowers were carefully arranged in sculpted dune patterns; and street corners were plastered with giant red billboards that featured -- a la the Shanghai Expo 2010 -- a dancing cartoon named Heavenly Horse Star (Tianma Xingqi), the slogan “Opening-up and Cooperating for the Building of the Silk Road Economic Belt,” and the logo for the fourth China-Eurasia Trade Expo. Read more »

Astrill Down, Everyone Frustrated

Astrill down
It's a decent day. Outdoors, I mean. We shouldn't be doing this. We shouldn't be checking our WeChat groups as friends report what portals are working and which are not -- "Sweden 2 is okay" ... "...and, not any more!" -- we shouldn't be obsessively clicking refresh on our gmail tab as if the government has decided just in the previous five seconds to unblock the service, and we shouldn't be cooped up in cubicles or monstrosities of home-office complexes twiddling our thumbs like simian slaves of a machine that won't even let us work. We should all go to the park and play Frisbee. Read more »

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Baseball In Xinjiang And The Film “Diamond In The Dunes”

Baseball in Xinjiang - Diamond in the Dust
The new documentary film Diamond in the Dunes, directed by Christopher Rufo, tells the coming-of-age story of a Uyghur man named Parhat as he finds his way through college. It shows us how he and his Uyghur and Han classmates at Xinjiang University develop a passion for a game, for abilities and skills that don’t rely on ethnicity or Chinese business connections. It shows us how the citywide riots of 2009 shaped their life-paths and how they found ways to move forward despite the difficulties of their circumstances. Read more »

Foreigners Told: Stay Off The Drugs – And Twitter?

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New details have emerged about last weekend’s drug raid in Beijing, which allegedly saw five foreigners deported and a similar number of Chinese detained – sending local Twitter users into collective shock. A comprehensive report on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website by correspondent Stephen McDonell explains how he’d headed down to dirty dawg bar Dos... Read more » Read more »

Sindicator, Ep.04: Chai-Na, Development By Destruction

Sindicator - Chai-na
Chairman Mao once said, "Without destruction there is not construction. The destruction is the criticism, the revolution. The destruction comes first, it of course brings the construction.” In recent years this quote has been taken literally, and the character 拆 (chāi), which means to "tear down," adorns the entrances of many-a-doomed domiciles. The phenomenon has evolved so that the Chinese have nicknamed their country 拆那 (chāinà - get it?), referring to the daily razings that make way for growth. Read more »

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Uyghur Rock Star Perhat On The Voice Of China

Uyghur Rock Star Perhat Voice of China
It's been two weeks since the Uyghur rock star Perhat Khaliq took on The Voice of China, and the Uyghur Internet is still buzzing about the way he delivered his songs of loss and longing to a national audience. Perhat surprised everyone with the painful tension in his voice. Strumming an acoustic guitar, he started his song in a low, almost spoken-word register that slowly evolved into a full roar. Read more »

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Celebrating Roza In A Time Of Fear

Xinjiang - Celebrating Eid in a Time of Fear 2
On Friday, the first of August, we woke up to the sound of an explosion in the alley. It was a deep resonate boom: not a firecracker, not a gunshot. It was a window-rattling explosion. We knew immediately what it meant: mangled bodies, screaming women, terrified children, a suicide bomber. But when I leaned out the window, I saw a young man with a fire extinguisher putting out a few small fires next to a mangled three-wheel cart. Read more »

Dispatches From Xinjiang: The Rise Of Buddhism In The Far West

Buddha Xinjiang 2
The giant 41-meter Buddha faces due west. It seems to embrace the construction on the other side of Bright Red Mountain on the northeast periphery of Ürümchi. Behind him, the constant ring of hammers and the roar of Bingtuan Construction Engineering Company trucks rise from the still-unfinished wing of the new Hilton hotel and the alien-looking international expo center. Every few minutes the low industrial roar is punctuated by the “dong” of a giant bell. Chants of A-mi-tuo-fo are carried intermittently on the breeze. Read more »

This Actually Happened: The ‘Night of “Expats In Chinese Film And TV” Awards’

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Good day, mortals. Enjoy the weekend? Unless you were at the inaugural Expats in Chinese Film and TV Awards, not as much as these players. Described by one excited attendee as “the stupidest, most Z-list thing ever… a fake award ceremony with fake red carpet,” the “expat Oscars” (as no one is calling it) was hosted by this nubile pair: Read more »

Dispatches From Xinjiang: “Encounter On The Silk Road” At The Xinjiang Art Biennale

Encounter on the Silk Road 10
A lot of people turned out for the final day of the Xinjiang Art Biennale on July 20 at the International Expo Center. The massive complex, situated next to a giant Buddha and Hilton Hotel in the city's northeast, echoed with the sounds of an original score by Philip Glass called “Encounter on the Silk Road.” Indeed, exhibition was heavy on spectacle. Giant video screens, paintings, and sculptures drew the largely Han crowd into massive spaces lit by natural light. Smartphone cameras were often raised at the mesmerizing objects, which called the viewer to contemplate Xinjiang as “a land of many colors.” Read more »

Rui’s Anatomy: Black Behavior At The Heart Of TV Scandal

The finger is now being pointed at Rui Chenggang
The arrest of another journalist in China is normally cause for concern: as the news is shared across social networks, tweets of sympathy accumulate, human rights groups and lawyers protest, and diplomats may even issue statements of public concern. But the detention of economics anchor Rui Chenggang (pictured), reportedly “dragged” from his offices by investigators just hours before his show was due to go live, has prompted almost the opposite – the overwhelming response, as the NY Times’s Ed Wong noted, has been one of schadenfreude (xingzai lehuo, “feel happy about someone’s disaster”). Read more »