Thursday, April 29, 2010


Yang Huanyi, the last user of Nushu, the ancient, secret language of Chinese women, as quoted in her New York Times obituary, October 7, 2004.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Seeking the Soul of China: XYZ

I will generalize that Chinese have a reputation for being reserved and tactful.  And to know XYZ, my co-auditor below, is to know reserve and tact.  However, some situations call for direct, forceful communication.

Fang Lijun's  paintings are enormously powerful--to me. I asked XYZ what she thought of them. There is no misunderstanding her here. 

This is not about taste in art.  As XYZ explains, it is about politics in art.  She refers to Fang Lijun's "whole generation's political frustration."  There are generational politics in China just as there are in America: the Baby Boom generation's conflict with Generations X and Y for example.  This is the Tianamen generation (Fang) vs Generation XYZ.  

Tianamen killed the soul of Fang Lijun and his generation. That is what my friend is referring to here.  Fang's paintings do indeed show the "abandonment" of life, the "hopeless fate" of Chinese society that he sees.  Indeed, there is a madness on the faces of some of the people Fang paints that reminds me of the same look of madness that the Gao brothers paint. 

The Tianamen generation is not admired by young people in China.  They are not considered martyrs. Chai Ling is controversial even in America. They are considered to have been trouble-makers who should have compromised with the government to avoid the massacre.  Generation XYZ did not have its soul killed by Tianamen and they will not have it killed by Fang Lijun.  As XYZ says, she and her generation are not going to give up their belief in a better China, nor in their own ability to "build and create" it.  

March 3, 2010


I dislike Fang's paintings. Though it is true that he has expressed a feeling of vanity as most critics says, I do believe his paintings just show his abandonment of his own life, due to the whole generation's political frustration. He is mocking himself rather than laughing at the seriousness in political affairs. First, he lost his beliefs, then he makes a claim that other people's life styles are also funny, meaningless, and the society seems to be set by such a hopeless fate that there will be neither improvement in public areas nor in private lives, just opposite to my view of contempary China.
In my opinion, human beings do have the ability to build and create. The prevalent paintings in Chinese contempary art use a mask that has disabled common people for sticking to their true faces and has humiliated those people who persist fighting for something, either more righteous society or internal integrity and loneliness. No more such paintings.

Note: XYZ’ writing, previously scattered over several posts, is presented together here in one. Future writing by her will appear in this single post also.

For the first three decades of the People’s Republic, Chinese lived under an orthodox communist command economy. Obedience is a marker to a part of China’s soul and goes back to the teachings of Confucius. So the commands of the communist economic planners were obeyed. Then Deng Xiaoping abruptly changed the economy to fascio-capitalism and individual Chinese found themselves on their own.
The plight of “The Ants Tribe” that XYZ writes about is a familiar one to those used to living under capitalism but it is new to Chinese. XYZ is referring here not only to the current generation of educated, unemployed or underemployed young people but also to the book “Ants Tribe,” by Lian Si a Beijing professor in business and economics, that was published in September 2009 and describes for Chinese this new, unsettling phenomenon.

In her January 10 email XYZ expressed skepticism that job creation by the government alone was the solution to the plight of the Ants Tribe. “But does it,” she wrote, “ease the spiritual situation of young people?” I asked her to expand on that and this was her response,

“…young people no longer believe what they do is worth their lifetime. From the surface, they are fixed up in the society, just as screws in the machine.”
The reference is to the legend of Lei Feng and individual inconsequence to the larger cause of the common good. In the same paragraph XYZ goes on to describe an estrangement between the Ants Tribe generation and the Chinese government. More importantly, that estrangement is over the founding ideal of the People's Republic. The "common good" is not providing meaningful lives for the Ants Tribe generation as it did for the revolutionary generation.

January 25:

Hi, Benjamin,

Students in China are on their winter vacation now. Last week we finished all the works in the painting studio before leaving Beijing. Then I went to my hometown to take some photos of desolate factories built after 1949 and before 1979, which can be recognized from the exposed structures that show architecture of the period. They carried the memories of the old generation and represented the change of life style. Just think that once in China it was the world of blue work clothes, and the factory are holy place.
I found I touched a complex issue in my email, Benjamin, and I am surprised you can understand as a foreigner and you are always interested in China’s occurrences, while the old residents in the old country neglect or cannot seize the essence. To begin, I try to explain the ambiguous places in the article.
First, for the case of WWW, she grew up in a poor, single-parent family in country, and enrolled in a university located in city. Two reasons accounted for her suicide. The direct one was the university authority ruthlessly refused to help accommodate her mother according to their regulation, which led to her desperation, as she cannot let her mother sleep on the streets. All the money the daughter and mother earned by part-time jobs was not enough to rent a room in the city. And the deep reason lied in her inability to find a job. As a child, she dreamed to be a lawyer and believed in justice, but she could do nothing but suicide when she was thirty years old.
Second, the Ant Tribe emerges in big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, but it is composed of students from all over China. They leave their hometowns as migrant workers do. The difference is, migrant workers are from undeveloped villages, while these students from ordinary families in towns and counties.
Third, for your question “what is this spiritual situation”, I think the spiritual situation can be described as a dilemma. That is, the young people no longer believe what they do is worth their lifetime. From the surface, they are fixed up in the society, just as screws in the machine. But unlike their father and grandfather, they generally consider the collectivism as political rhetoric. Deep in their mind is to realize their individual value. However, they must surrender to the pretended dominate ideology if they intend to find a job supplied by the government (good jobs are monopolized by government). Ironically, that job failed to supply them a meaning.
Finally, I translate the “Dignitary Capitalism” directly from Chinese. It refers to a form of combination of political power and capital.Different from the bribery and corruption, the owner of capital and governor of political power now share the same interests or they even belong to one family. It is not strange that public policy always take sides with certain powerful interest group, such as state-owned companies in various areas.
So in comparison with the experience of revolutionary generation, they thought they served their country and their ideal, which disillusioned them, the young generation does not have the illusion. One of my friends tells me his parents, who usually complained their lives because they underwent political movements during the Cultural Revolution, now admit that the road of their son is tough too.

January 11: Benjamin Harris to XYZ.

This is very important what you have written. You have a keen eye for social issues and that is what I observed in the short time we conversed in Beijing. I remember our conversation in the cafe vividly and wrote about it in "Beijing Diary" as one of the most memorable conversations I had in China. Your writing is very good. This in no way beyond your English ability.
I will summarize my understanding of what you have written:
The majority view is that more jobs and more paths to more jobs are what are needed. And you see that too: bored and restless post-graduates with no jobs or unrewarding jobs, and most tragically, suicide among young people. But even with the evidence of what material success in the new economy can bring--residence in one of the exclusive downtown Beijing high-rises, etc.--you see a "spiritual" problem: the powerful and the modest no longer walk the same streets (or "rub shoulders" in the English saying), economic power means political power and vice versa. And, there is what you mentioned in your earlier email: "I am chilled by the real capitalism that my father and grandfather fought in their daydreams."
How would you explain the spiritual situation that you refer to, and how does the experience of the revolutionary generation--your father and grandfather--effect the spirit?

January 10, 2010:

I asked XYZ to expand on her Christmas email (December 29 post). Her response, slightly edited, is reprinted below.


I feel happy to exchange my ideas with you and tell the main concern of mine. Maybe you are interested in some facts.
Do you still remember I was proud of my country when we talked in the cafe? You wanted to know why. I explained, then, unlike in India, the poor and the rich in China were not separated distinctly. As in Beijing, the residential districts of high class adjoin the old apartments in bad conditions. Therefore, imagining that people might meet every morning on the same road, it helps creat a sense of mutual life. And the crucial is the possibility for ordinary people to become rich or improve their livings. The ladder, such as education and good jobs in the traditional way, seems always there. That means a lot. Owing to this social mechanism, my boyfriend makes his way to fulfil himself.
But things now are different. An increasing public begins to question the deeply believed wisdom going that knowledge changes fortune, because they have witnessed so many college graduates and post-graduates failed in the job seeking. The significance can be tesitified in two aspects. First, when I went to the countrysides to teach, I found the school dropouts due to lack of belief in education prevalent over the villages and towns where poverty has been beated. Secondly, as was frequently reported, another suicide committed by a post-graduate student shocked me extremely. In this year, the students with high education and low revenue are formally named as the Ants Tribe, denoting that they are smart, gregarious and powerless, just as ants.
I always focus on the young people in China. I follow them from campuses to workplaces, and wonder how their energies die out in society after a short brilliance in their twenties. Then I detect that they are more depressed than ever. The majority view attributes it to the depreciation of diploma, as a result of expanding enrollment of colleges and universities, and to solve the problem, the only thing needed is to supply more jobs. Undoubtedly, Chinese government is competent in producing jobs from the internal, for example, village officials, a solution to unemployment supported by public finances. But does it ease the spiritial situation of young people? There is something beyond the obvious.
We all know that Chinese government has put a 4 thousand billion plan to stimulate the economy, mainly concentrating on investments in infrastructures. Consequently, the state-owned companies and local governments benefit from projects and budgets, while the overflowed money makes the price of real estate rocket. Some scholars observed the tendency toward combination of political power and capital in economical realm. Wu Jinglian, a well-known economist, called on the public to caution against the Dignitary Capitalism. Given the context that the whole country lays full emphasis on nationalized businesses, every small enterprise and every single person know they could never profit if they were not relying on the government.
To most graduates, civil service examination has been indispensable, because if one intends to pursue a comfortable life, secure himself/herself in financial crisis or afford to an apartment in big cities, there are only three desirable choices, the public servants, the state-owned huge companies, and famous foreign companies.
The question is, how can we expect independent thoughts if we all live a dependent life in one form or another at the mercy of power and system much more overwhelming us? How does the society support the individual values and dreams? That is why I say our young generation is materially spoiled, socially fixed and spiritually desolate. Fortunately, we are able to contemplate our confusion.
ps: If you are interested in some cases, the bad things I mentioned, maybe I can find some next time.

December 29, 2009:

"Thank you Benjamin, and Happy New Year to you and Carmen and your family. :)
I really wish a happy new year to the world, you know, the frustrated Copenhagen, and I am chilled by the real capitalism that my father and grandfather fought in their daydreams. Too many sad things in China this year, bad signs.
So I wish bright happinesses to those fragile families and hope those exhausted bodies awake and feel peace. Sorry I say too much...It's really good to share the festival with you."

Monday, April 12, 2010

dateSun, Apr 11, 2010 at 9:09 AM
subjectRe: Contact us immediately: Your final payment

hide details 9:09 AM (4 minutes ago)
Mr. Jason Wagner

Dear Mr. Wagner,

I just saw your email below and wanted to notify you that I did not request that Millions of United States Dollars initially approved to me be transferred to another account. 

I also did not collaborate with Messers Jacobs enterprises to divert any funds. I strongly suspect that Messers Jacobs enterprises is involved in one of those elaborate global Scams to which you refer. 

I am responding just a couple days outside your four day reply period because Google sent your email directly to my Spam folder.  Swine Google.  I strongly suspect Google is involved with Messers Jacobs enterprises in this particular Global scam.  However I can assure you in that I am not dead.

My full name is Benjamin Harris.
My phone number is 1874-HOT-SEXX ($2.95 per minute).
That's my fax number too.
I don't have a cell phone number but I'll go to Walgreen's right now and get one if you want.
My address is 2430 K Street, Penthouse Suite, Washington D.C., 20132.
I am CEO of Leisure Entertainment Inc. 
I am 54 years old and am divorced (twice, but one doesn't count because I got it annulled).

My preferred method of payment would be hand-deliviery of cash (in United States dollars).  I can meet your representative at my local airport.  I will be holding a sign, "INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND" so that he, I would prefer a she, can recognize me.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Benjamin Harris

Reply E-mail:
Release No. 93/27
Attn: Beneficiary

A confirmed bank transaction , Smtp 101 credit advice Reference 0260019870065 involving Millions of United States Dollars initially approved to you as the beneficiary is suspected to have been diverted by someone we discovered during our investigation to false claims.

In a letter directed to our office for verification, the new beneficiary Messers Jacob Enterprises stated that the original owner of funds is dead. We have decided to verify this claim after instructing the sender bank to hold the transfer. Based on elaborate global Scams going on we have decided to contact you with available information that is contained in the payment file as stored in the computer which was hacked sometime ago leading to loose of data.
Our questions is; Did you instruct, sign any application for any change of beneficiary bank
name dated 18TH OF March , 2010 requesting any bank to transfer the total sum to another account. If no please let is know what happened immediately...

If after four work days, no response is received from you, it will be assumed that you are dead and as such authorization for transfer will be granted on behalf of Messers Jacobs enterprises to receive your fund in the stated account. No one will be liable for any reason if you later turn to apply for claim on the same funds as this will be seen that you have collaborated with Jacob to divert the funds.

In any case you deny this claims, kindly write responding immediately with
the information below

(1) Your full name. (2) Phone, fax and mobile numbers. (3) company name, position and address. (4) profession, age and marital status.

You should also state how you want your fund paid to you without further delay if you are still alive. Send your response to
my email address:
Mr. Jason Wagner.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Can Someone Go to the Airport for me?

Dr.mike jones
Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 1:25 AM

hide details Mar 30 (12 days ago)

Warning: This message may not be from whom it claims to be. Beware of following any links in it or of providing the sender with any personal information.  Learn more
 Att. Benaficiary.

Am here by to inform you that your partner has paid your transferring charge of  $450.00 so the diplomat conveying your consignment box worth of $7.5million us dollar leave here two days ago and he misplace your address and he his currently standared at your airport, So you are advice to reconfirm your information to the Diplomat immediately to enable him deleiver your consignment box to your door step without any further  delay,
So the information to reconfirm to him is as follw:

(1)Your Full Name=============
(2)Mobile Phone Number========
(3)Current Home Address========
(4)Fax Number================
(7)Nearest Airport=============
(8)A Copy Of Your I D For Identification.

So contact him via his email address,
Contact person, Name Diplomantjohn obi Email Address ( So contact him to deleiver your consignment box fist thing tommorrow morning,
So get back to us immediately you contact him to make sure that your fund has getting to you, Remember the diplomat does not know the content of that consignment box is money, We registerd it as a family value to avoid hitch during the deleivery so known seconstances should you let him know the content of that consignment box to avoid lost of your fund.
Dr.mike jones
The Director of Fedex Courier Company Benin Republic.

$7.5 million!  Or, to be precise, "$7.5million us dollar."  And a diplomat is the courier. This must be legitimate.  Well, a  "diplomant." Hey, he's from Benin, which I think is a clothing company, so "Dr. Mike Jones" can't spell too good, BIG DEAL.  

I'm not the only one who gets things like this, right?  I mean, "Diplomantjohn" is waiting at the airport? Alright, I'll rush right over there and hold up a sign, "DIPLOMANTJOHN."  

Actually Diplomantjohn is stranded, ("standared") at the airport.  But I'm to confirm what my "nearest airport" is?  And the diplomant is to hand-deliver the "consignment box to my door step?"   I hope he's at my airport or he's gonna have a helluva time making that "deliveiry."

"We registerd it as a family value to avoid hitch during the deleivery so known seconstances should you let him know the content of that consignment box to avoid lost of your fund."   

Anybody who knows what the hell that sentence means send Dr. Mike Jones your bank account number, don't forget the routing number, immediately.

"fist thing tomorrow morning?"
"reconfirm to him as follw?"

Now, w-h-o  i-n  t-h-e  w-o-r-l-d  would fall for something like this?  More to the point, who would send something like this assuming that someone would fall for it? 

Ahh, it's from, which is a domain name in the PRC.  Hey, Dr. Mike Jones, I have a Great Leap Forward I'd like to sell you.  What I want you to do is tell Diplomantjohn to find two metal garbage can tops at the airport and start banging them together real hard, you know to scare the sparrows.  That way I'll know it's him.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Seeking the Soul: Weimin Mo.

These paintings are by the Chinese-American artist Weimin Mo. What struck me were the eyes.  When I clicked on the thumbnails portrait after portrait opened with the eyes painted expressively. These works are reprinted here with Mr.Mo’s permission.

The subject of this portrait has a strength of character in the eyes that is confirmed by a strong chin, cheekbones, and nose.  

If this guy isn't American then the species doesn’t exist.  His “shades” are casually parked on his head, his nose is sunburnt, he looks like a lifeguard.  And in his eyes is the look of a typical young, American, male who is uncomfortable at being painted.  He is not the “artsy” type.

This woman shows in her eyes the weariness of age that her white hair betrays.  

This painting is my favorite because the subject appears to me to have the most complex character and Mr. Mo’s skill as the artist in bringing out that complexity is called upon more. She looks at Mr. Mo head-on, squarely.  She is the only one of the six people in this group to do that.  The others look away or turn their faces slightly, in modesty and discomfort as with “the lifeguard,” in weariness as with "the elder."  There is no false modesty in this woman.  She is confident and strong, almost intimidating.  She is also the only one in this group who is depicted in full-body.  Her arms are open--not inviting but unafraid--and her legs are casually positioned.  Goodness gracious. Make that intimidating, not "almost."  What an arresting portrait.

                     A distinguished older gentleman smoking his pipe while reading. A classic portrait.

This young woman has the opposite look of the female "CEO" in number four above: she glances to the side as if startled.

The saying goes, “the eyes are the windows to the soul," and I have been seeking the soul.  Mr. Weimin Mo has captured the soul of these people. The Impressionistic style and colors make these paintings pleasing to the eye too.  These are just six of Mr. Mo's paintings that I chose as illustrative of his portfolio. Those interested in purchasing or seeing more examples may contact the artist directly at

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Politics & Justice in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office. Saving Private Rundle

Private Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, 147th Messkit Repair Division.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Red Legacy in China

The Gao Brothers remember the Red Legacy in China

"Interview." L-R: bin Laden, Kim, Lenin (background), Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, Castro, Hussein, Stalin.

Red Legacy in China

Chinese slave laborers (circa 1950's).

Friday, April 02, 2010

Red Legacy in China

Today is the opening day of the conference at Harvard pictured on cover. This photograph shows Maoist acolytes reading from the "Little Red Book," the compilation of quotations from Mao put together by his Defense Minister Lin Biao. There are two framed photographs visible at lower right, the one leaning from lower right to upper left is "Chairman Mao Goes to Anyuan," the photographic theme for the Harvard conference.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Red Legacy in China

Wang Jinyao remembers the Red Legacy in China.

Red Legacy in China

Poster steel-worker, Great Leap Forward.

Real-life steel worker, Great Leap Forward.