Dispatches From Xinjiang: The Blind Voice Of The New Silk Road

Voice of the silk road
This week is the screening of the seventh segment of the first round of The Voice of the Silk Road – a show that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs watch every Friday night at 8 pm local time on Xinjiang TV Channel 9. People like the contest because they can watch their favorite performers joke around with each other; they can see people they know perform or imagine themselves performing in their place. Uyghurs see themselves trying on a performance mode popularized by mainstream English and Chinese-language versions of the show, but instead of English or Chinese pop ballads and American and (largely) Han stories of unrecognized talent, on this show they see the reverse. They largely see Uyghur folk songs, classical muqam and pop music; and they mostly hear Uyghur stories of personal triumph.

The Beautiful Faces Of North Korea

Mangyongdae Theatre, North Korea
The amazing folks over at the North Korea news and analysis website NK News are back with the second edition of their (hopefully annual) NK News Calendar, with pictures by award-winning photographer Eric Lafforgue. You can buy the calendar here -- and get $5 off by entering beijingcream as the coupon code.

Sindicator, APEC Special: In Case You Missed It…

Sindicator - APEC featured image
Our beloved China, the new social-political-economic butterfly on the scene, wowed at APEC before jetting off for the ASEAN East Asia Summit and the G20 Summit. Hosting APEC for the first time since 2011, Beijing did things 大气, spending $6 billion on a lakeside campus, a new elevated expressway, and a no-costs-spared spectacular opening complete with fireworks. But how did they really do?

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Uyghur Flamenco And “World Citizenship”

Uyghur Flamenco featured image
On any given weekend in China you can find a Uyghur band playing flamenco. It has not always been this way. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that a young man from Qarghiliq in Kashgar prefecture discovered Turkish variations of Spanish flamenco. Over the next decade that man, Arken Abdulla, along with other early flamenco guitarists such as Qehirman and Tursun (see the above video), introduced flamenco to the Uyghur world.

Dispatches From Xinjiang: The Uyghur Migrant Food Network

Dispatches From Xinjiang - The Uyghur Migrant Food Network 1
When young people come to Ürümchi to work or study they are often supported by a network of people from their home village. They rely on relatives and friends to help them find jobs and get on their feet. But there is one thing their hosts cannot provide: food from back home. It's perhaps for this reason that young Uyghurs have developed a food shipping system that brings the tastes of the countryside into the city.

No Subway Line 2 Halloween Party This Year, Because You Could Be Arrested

Anthony Tao's homemade Optimus Prime costume in Hong Kong subway
Happy Halloween, everybody. For those of you wondering, the some-years-strong Beijing tradition of dressing up and riding Subway Line 2 on the weekend before Halloween will come to a close this year. Authorities are worried about the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, so they don't want their public transportation clogged with beer-guzzling foreigners doing weird shit and attracting crowds.

China’s Bill O’Reilly, Sima Nan, Is Now Pro-Free Speech, Anti-Moron

Sima Nan, Zhou Xiaoping, and Fang Zhouzi featured image
Until this week, the social critic Sima Nan was best known for getting his head stuck in an escalator at Dulles Airport. That moment was particularly precious because Nan, a devoted neo-Maoist, had just posted another of his anti-America screeds on Sina Weibo before flying to DC. But China’s most famous wumao is now back in the news for a more impressive reason: as an impassioned defender of free speech.

Dispatches From Xinjiang: The Uyghur Blockbuster “Money On The Road”

Money on the Road featured
A few weeks ago, just in time for the long ten-day break for National Day holiday and Qurban, the Uyghur comedian Abdukerim Abliz released his first full-length Uyghur language feature film (with Chinese and English subtitles). The comedy Money on the Road (Money Found on the Way in Chinese) features an ensemble of stars, including a cameo by the famous singer Abdulla. It follows the misadventures of three Uyghur farmers who come to the city as migrant workers to participate in Ürümchi’s urban renewal.

I Nearly Lost A Testicle In A Beijing Hospital

Painful ball hospital introduction to Beijing
I knelt at the top of the hospital escalator, partly from exhaustion, mostly out of surrender. My moans and cries recalled childhood Halloween nights spent puking up entire plastic jack-o-lanterns of candy. My tears blurred reality. Loud, distracted, exotic shapes and figures brushed past me, unimpressed by my misery, misery unlike any I'd felt before. This wasn't how I imagined my first week in China would go.

Refrigerator, Rambo Top Our List Of Favorite Chinese-Chosen English Names

Hello My Name is Refrigerator
CCTV recently published an article called "Tips for Chinese choosing an English name," which is frankly exactly the type of piece I think CCTV should be publishing more of. It features delightful sentences such as, "Many Chinese like to pick names that are in fact, not names," and, "Meanwhile, Dong and Wang is used as slang for male genitalia. So avoid anything like ‘Bunny Wang’ at all times." It got us thinking: what are the best Chinese-chosen English names we know?

Dispatches From Xinjiang: Sheep, Sangza And Happiness: Xinjiang Celebrates Eid al-Adha

Dispatches from Xinjiang - Eating Sheep featured image
On the last day of the four-day celebration of the biggest Uyghur holiday of the year, Qurban Heyt, or Eid al-Adha, it rained hard and cold. By the next morning a light dusting of snow covered the tops of the mountains overlooking the city. Like many holidays of sacrifice and harvest, this "Feast of the Sacrifice" signals the end of the season of growth and the beginning of the long hard winter. People were already beginning to sell long underwear in the walkway at the intersection of Solidarity and Victory Road next to the Grand Bazaar, and in a week, the heat would be turned on across the city.

Hong Kong Protests Surge Amid Growing Tension, Falling And Rising Barricades

Occupy Central 10.13.14a
On Monday morning, Hong Kong media reported that the barricades around Admiralty would be removed after two-plus weeks of bulwarking pro-democracy protesters in their concrete campground near government offices. The evidence was right there on the tele: moving pictures of police clearing the roads! And so, after lunch, I found myself in a friend's dad's car going from Wan Chai in the direction of our final destination in the western Mid-levels. We had just gotten onto Queensway and could see Pacific Place, a luxury complex of business and commerce, when we encountered... a barricade.

Watch: Hong Kongers Skirmish As Occupy Central Barricades Removed

Hong Kong Occupy Central students block road 3
Many of the barricades near Occupy Central began coming down this morning, but not without resistance. I took the above video at 1:40 pm today on Queensway in Admiralty, just below Hong Kong's police headquarters, a few blocks from the main protest grounds. A group of older men, apparently frustrated that the two-week Occupy Central protests have blocked their streets, rip down the barricades while others chant, "Open the roads." Some quick-thinking Occupy protesters immediately plant themselves in the middle of the street for an impromptu sit-in.

Did Ken Livingstone Crony and Anti-Occupy Spokesman John Ross “Censor” the Global Times?

John Ross
When John Ross,“former director of London’s Economic and Business Policy to ex-Mayor Ken Livingstone and current Senior Fellow with the Chongyang Institute” at Renmin University, was approached by Chinese tabloid Global Times (GT) for a profile about foreign China Watchers, he was, no doubt, expecting a nice soap-job.

Watching The Hong Kong Protests Inside China Central Television

Watching HK protests on CCTV
I work for a sub-branch of CCTV geared toward international video news, and we have several TV screens in the office that run 24-hour feeds of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Al Jazeera and others – ostensibly to keep up with the competition. But I returned from our canteen this past Sunday evening to find six or seven of my Chinese colleagues glued to a screen showing a live-feed from CNN.