Shanghai Bishop Jin Luxian’s Legacy

This mostly dormant blog was started in 2007 with almost no agenda beyond plans to expand on my just-published profile of Shanghai’s Catholic bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian in the July/August 2007 issue of the Atlantic. I did that, and over the years I kept up with Jin – though I didn’t publish anything much beyond what the Atlantic piece contained.

Meanwhile, over the weekend I received the very sad news that Jin had passed away at 96. At that advanced age, no death can be called unexpected. But Jin was a man of unusual intellectual and physical vigor (he was traveling internationally, carrying his own bags, as recently as his 88th year), and it came as a bit of a surprise to me, and to many others who knew him, even though he’d been ailing for some time. He was just that kind of man – full of life, thoughtful, and – it can now be said – very, very funny.

On the occasion of his passing, I’ve written a short remembrance and biography that tells the tale of how I acquired Jin’s first passport in an online auction. Matt Schiavenza at the Atlantic’s new China channel was kind enough to publish it, here. As a very minor supplement to the piece, entitled, “Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian’s Legacy for Religious Freedom in China,” here is the first page of the passport, as described over at the Atlantic.

page2 001

 

RIP

China’s Titanic Nude Scene

In truth, there are only a couple of things I know for sure about China. One, if you’re in a big city, you’re never more than two blocks from a great meal; two, the stop lights are voluntary; and three, Titanic is huge.

Thus, it came as no surprise to anyone here that – over the weekend – the 3d version of the film earned US$67 million over the weekend, the best opening ever for a film in China, and a sum that exceeds the total Chinese theatrical gross for the original release of the film. It’s that big. However, despite the 3d enhancement, Chinese viewers couldn’t help but notice that the film was reduced in one significant respect: Kate Winslet’s nude scene was censored out of the film. The reaction, online and off, was notable and – in some respects – hysterical.

And that, dear readers, is the subject of my column this week over at Bloomberg View.  You’ll find it here.

In China, you’re more likely to beat the hell out of your doctor, than sue him.

On Thursday China Daily reported that 17,000 violent incidents took place in Chinese hospital in 2010, affecting roughly 70 percent of all public hospitals in China. What’s a “violent incident?” By and large, it’s an act of aggression by a patient, or a patient’s family, against a medical practitioner.

This week I take a deeper look into this issue in my column for Bloomberg World View.

The occasion is both sad and bizarre. Last Friday, a young medical internist in Harbin was murdered in his hospital by a disgruntled patient looking to avenge what he alleged was mistreatment by hospital staff. Hours later, an online poll was posted by People’s Daily Online (since deleted), asking netizens how they felt about the murder. Of those who answered, 65% said they were pleased. The poll was taken down, but the debate had just begun: why would anybody express happiness at a murder? The answer, for many, is that the murder served as a proxy for widespread dissatisfaction with China’s troubled health care system.

It’s an interesting topic, and you can find my take on it here.

[UPDATED: 4.3: This morning, Tom, the author of the very good  Seeing Red in China blog, writes to note that he might be one of the only foreign doctors currently working in a public Chinese hospital. Among other topics he’s discussed, he points me in the direction of three very interesting posts on patient-doctor violence that I’m very happy to recommend to my readers. They are:

Well worth considering.

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Late last week, long-time reader Jay left this comment on an older post:  “Why are you not accepting comments anymore? I tend not to read blogs that don’t want a two-way conversation or welcome the possibility of feedback.”

It’s a fair question that I probably should have addressed sooner. As long-time readers have surely noticed, I’ve significantly pared the amount of time that I devote to this blog. This is largely due to my ongoing book project (due soon). What blogging happens here is mostly concerned with my Bloomberg columns, and since those are published (and paid for) at Bloomberg, I think it’s only fair that any comments on those pieces are published at Bloomberg – and not here. Thus, I don’t open those posts to comments.

But that’s not the only reason. Over the last 18 months or so I’ve found that the comments left here were of an increasingly strident bent that advanced either racist and/or nationalist opinions that I’m simply not interested in hosting. Likewise, I’m not interested in becoming a comment/flame war moderator, either. So, rather than put myself in the position of having to allow only the comments that I don’t find offensive or stupid, I’ve taken the easier route and just shut down the discussion entirely. I may change my mind once the book is done, but until then, this seems like the best option. Apologies and much respect to those of you who left many hundreds of decent and thoughtful comments over the years. In all sincerity, I hope you’ll take them to Bloomberg World View until I come up with a better solution.

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And finally, since we’re on the topic of blogs that don’t allow comment, allow me to recommend a new China one – rectified.name – published by several of the most distinguished China (blog) hands up in Beijing. Some of the contributors are likely known to my readers already – Jeremiah Jenne, Will Moss, Brendan O’Kane – and some are not. In any case, it’s a group blog, which means – among other things – posting has proven to be frequent, interesting, and diverse. So by all means, go have a look: recitified.name.

 

Appearing with Mara Hvistendahl at Shanghai Lit Festival – SUNDAY the 18th

On Sunday I’m going to have the distinct honor of moderating my friend Mara Hvistendahl‘s appearance at the Shanghai International Literary Festival. The hour-long session will start at 15:00 at M on the Bund. My understanding is that it’s been sold out, but apparently mypiao has a few tickets available for those who show up in person. So by all means, show up in person!

The occasion of the appearance is Mara’s critically acclaimed 2011 book, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. It’s an extraordinary piece of reporting that’s had a profound influence on the public debate over the ethics of sex-selective abortion, and, well, the consequences of a world full of men. Back in May, I interviewed Mara for Shanghai Scrap, and I strongly recommend it, still. We’ll touch on some of those topics, and more. We’ll also contemplate how two graduates of the same suburban Minneapolis high school (albeit several years apart) manage to find themselves appearing together at the Shanghai Lit Fest. Hope to see you there.

At Bloomberg: Bear Bile Brouhaha

Bear bile. Before last week, I don’t think that I’d ever had a conversation about the substance – much less written about it. But that was before I heard about Guizhentang, a Chinese pharmaceutical firm that extracts the substance from the gall bladders of 470 bears that it keeps at its Fujian farm. The extraction process is anything but pleasant (unpleasant video, here), and that’s one reason – really, the main reason – that Chinese netizens have been up in arms since the company announced it was going for an IPO back on February 1. The resulting discussion touches on China’s nascent animal rights movement (a subject I covered, once before, for Foreign Policy in 2010), and the evolving role of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Chinese culture. This week, my column over at Bloomberg World View covers this debate, and you can read it here.

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When you’re done with my column, I urge you to head over to That’s Shanghai to read Tricia Wang‘s extraordinarily good “Dumplings for Sale,” a meticulously reported and moving account of a migrant family that sets up a small business selling dumplings from a cart in a suburban Shanghai neighborhood. I can’t recommend it enough.

Jeremy Lin and the question of race.

On Valentine’s Day the washed-up American boxer Floyd Mayweather logged into twitter to announce: “Jeremy Lin is a good player but all the hype is because he’s Asian. Black players do what he does every night and don’t get the same praise.” To put it lightly, the tweet was not received well by US commentators, with many holding it up as an example of attention-seeking race-baiting.

To be honest, however, that was not my first reaction. Rather, I was struck by how well it fit into China’s two-week old dialogue on Lin and race. That dialogue mostly takes place on twitter-like microblogs, but in the last few days it’s started to move onto some influential editorial pages here. It’s my experience that Americans unfamiliar with the frank manner in which Chinese talk about race can be taken aback by it; and, indeed, the current Chinese dialogue on Lin and race can be squirm-worthy for many Americans. But it’s also very important, and very worthwhile, if you’re at all interested in how China views itself, and the world.

So, without further ado, my current column for Bloomberg World View: Basketball-Crazy China Ponders Meaning of Jeremy Lin’s Race.

As it happens, I’m not the only person thinking about Jeremy Lin and race today. James Fallows has an interesting post up at the Atlantic in which he disputes that creeping tendency of some to ascribe Lin’s success to being Asian. It’s worth noting, I think, that Fallows’ position is one that’s increasingly popular in China, as Chinese take note that the only difference between them and American-raised Lin is that … he’s American raised. I recommend the piece!

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Finally, and totally unrelated, I wanted to note how fond I am of Lucinda Williams’ newly released cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tryin’ to Get to Heaven.” The recorded version is on the new tribute/benefit record, “Chimes of Freedom.” If you want to sample before you buy, there’s a marvelous live version over on youtube that I just can’t get enough of. So great.