Since December I’ve been a reading maniac. I studied a bit how to speed read and this year I’ve already read 7 books. My goal was to read 12 books this year, one per month. Not amazing, not shocking but an attainable goal none the less. I have quite diverse interests so each book is more and more interesting and unique.
When returning library books one day in my local library I happened upon the “NEW BOOK” shelf and one book caught my eye. The title appealed to my American nationalism even though I was sure after I read who the author was (a British man) it wouldn’t be that clear of a winner in this contest. The author, Geoff Dyer was somewhat difficult to look up online since there are other accomplished writers with his name but put together with his employer (Financial Times, the creme colored website) one can easily find his writings.
Flipping through the table of contents I found the topics to be right up my alley since I recently finished a Master’s degree in East Asian studies from the University of Leeds. I thought, “This would be a great book to read next but it’s probably not up to date.” Glancing at the copyright page I found that yes, indeed it was up to date, at least as up to date as books can be nowadays. Thanking the library gods who granted me such a forward thinking local library to purchase this book and have it displayed, I quickly took it out and started reading it.
The first part of the book about China’s naval expansion was truly fascinating. Mr. Dyer went into depth on the history, which I love, and the different areas of Southeast Asia that China is getting involved with. The WWII story of Ramree Island off of Burma, which I didn’t know anything about, fascinated many a friend and relative of mine after I relayed the story a number of times. If you don’t know about it I won’t ruin it here but any Hollywood people out there need to adapt that story into a real life horror movie!
The second part about China’s nationalism was also really an excited part. He seamlessly intertwines history with current events along with exclusive conversations with important people in China about these issues. Many times reading through those pages I had remembered reading something about a story online somewhere since I try to keep up with what is going on with China and the news. But the best part about it is he was able to not only inform me what the end result of those stories were but also put them in a larger context which was important.
Finally the third part of his book really challenged my geeky economic side. Over the years I’ve been learning more and more about economics and how countries in east Asia work economically and his explanations about China taking on the dollar was really eye-opening. That information about how Beijing won’t make the RenMinBi a world currency like the dollar is not exactly the kind of information many Americans know or would agree with. But his expertise in this area is reliable.
If you are a person like me who reads news about China and tries to keep up with the discussions going on, then you will love this book as it touches on all the most important issues going on in our world and in that corner of the world. Those issues are: history, economics, politics and nationalism.
Here are other links to reviews of his book and you can purchase his book by clicking on the picture above!
Can China Win the Contest of the Century?: War on the Rocks
In July 2013 I had the privilege of working for the US Department of Defense in their Strategic Languages section and assisted others in teaching the future of America the Chinese language. In other words, I worked at a Chinese Immersion Summer Camp for kids called StarTalk. It was a blast and we did a comic recently about the experience that I thought might need some explanation. So without further ado here is COMIC EXPLAINED: 5 Things Often Said During Chinese Immersion Summer Camp
We’re pretty excited! We’ve published our 2nd Kindle book, another collection of our boy’s bilingual tweets! You can follow us on Twitter @MandMx and follow his tweets now but we’ve made it easier for you! We’ve collected his second year. You see our boy speaks both English and Chinese and some of the stuff he says is funny or interesting or touching. We tweet it out and it’s fun for many out there who are interested in Chinese/English study and also bilingual studies in a bi-cultural family. Here’s from the Amazon page:
“A year’s worth of our son’s bilingual tweets on Twitter. Follow us on @MandMx He speaks both English and Chinese and his bilingual communication is funny and interesting in both Chinese and English. Magnus is an American Cartoonist and Teacher and Ming Xing is a Shanghainese world traveler and Businesswoman.”
We’re pretty excited. Won’t you spread the word and help support this website and the work we do?! Head over and buy the book! It’s at a super cheap price and it’s fun reading. While you’re at it you can also buy our 1st book! Bilingual Chinese/English Tweets 1: An MandMx.com Collection
Here’s our post announcing the first book!
The other day I brainstormed ideas for Christmas songs and movies with a Chinese twist. Twitter makes it easy to post simple ideas so I shared them with the twittersphere. If you can think of anymore, that would be great. Use the HASHTAG #ChineseChristmasClassics
Have you ever wondered about that wacky-looking fruit staring back at you in the market? Or did you want to know how to prepare a seasonal Chinese vegetable, but don’t have the language or culinary skills? This pocket-sized guidebook to fresh produce – with photographs, pronunciation guides, Chinese characters and advice on cooking – will help tourists, foodies and adventurous shoppers navigate the colorful markets of China, Hong Kong and Chinatowns around the world.
-This whole series of “Scenic Musical Journeys” looks really good! But we’re biased to Shanghai! Watch the Trailer here.
The city of Shanghai, China’s most important port, owes some of its prosperity to the so-called unequal treatises forced on China during the 19th century. The place had its origin as a settlement during the Tang dynasty (618-906 C.E.), but the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 ceded Hong Kong to the British and made possible the development of foreign trade through the five ‘treaty ports’, of which Shanghai became the most important. The growth of Shanghai into an international trading centre and the concessions made to various foreign countries explain the interesting mixture of architectural styles, continued today with the high-rise buildings of recent years. The music chosen for this tour of Shanghai is played on traditional Chinese instruments. Performing the music are the wind and string ensembles known as ‘silk and bamboo’, from their silk strings and bamboo pipes, and ensembles that also include percussion. Instruments given prominence include the dizi, heard first in Moonlight Autumn Night by the Lake, a transverse bamboo flute, and the yangqin, a Chinese dulcimer whose strings are struck with two bamboo sticks. Traditional Chinese music, like Chinese painting, is largely representational, its character indicated in its titles, although these may sometimes be drawn from opera or from poems.
-Huge game in China, relatively unknown in the west… until now? Watch the trailer here.
Weiqi Wonders: Conversations About the Game of Go in China
Known as “Go” in English, Weiqi is a Chinese board game that has cultural associations ranging from Confucian nobility to military strategies. In talking about this game people reveal themselves, their society, and their views of other cultures.
Explore a different side of China through interviews with teachers, university students, senior citizens, amateurs and professionals.
-Haunting… watch the trailer here.
Aftershock by Feng Xiaogang
Tangshan, 1976. Two seven-year-old twins are buried under the rubble of the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century. The rescue team explains to their mother that freeing either child will almost certainly result in the death of the other. Forced to make the most difficult decision of her life, she finally chooses to save her son. Though left behind as dead, the little girl miraculously survives, unbeknownst to her brother and mother. AFTERSHOCK follows the family on their separate journeys over the course of the next 32 years, as they build lives forever shadowed by the traumatic experience of the earthquake, and eventually face each other and the decisions of the past.
The acclaimed epic that broke all box-office records in China, AFTERSHOCK Featuring an all-star cast including Jingchu Zhang (Rush Hour 3) and Daoming Chen (Hero), AFTERSHOCK shines with its powerful exploration of how one moment can change a family s life forever.
From the Disney World Cinema Collection, High School Musical China captures all the excitement, drama, music and dance of the original U.S. film with unique Chinese characters and extraordinary adventures. A new student at an international college in Shanghai meets a gifted young man, with whom she shares a secret passion for singing. Without her parents’ support, she and her new group of friends enter an inter-school singing competition and discover their true calling and the value of friendship. Anything is possible when you follow your dreams!
-Looks low budget. See the trailer here.
It’s time I chose a direction and the Far East is as good as any,” shrugs David Braddock (James Snyder, Sheís the Man), exactly the kind of aimlessness that has his parents worried about their newly minted college grad. Pressured to travel to Shanghai on behalf of the troubled family business, the party’s over and David is reluctantly thrust into a country strangely unaltered by the modern world. His translator (popular Chinese actress Fei Fei Sun), a beautiful young girl as directed as he is directionless, attempts to help the struggling David. Problem is no one seems to take him seriously there either! But ñ despite the language barrier, cultural differences, culinary shock and a near international incident – romance blossoms. David returns a changed man, but the family business is in worse jeopardy than before. Determined, David returns to Chinato see things through both professionally and personally. Will this fish-out-of-water finally find his way?
-I’ve seen it and it’s AWESOME! See the video and trailer here.
Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos as an astonishing 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday. This mass exodus is the largest human migration on the planet – an epic spectacle that reveals a country tragically caught between its rural past and industrial future.
Working over several years in classic verité style Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan (with the producers of the hit documentary Up the Yangtze) travels with one couple who have embarked on this annual trek for almost two decades. Like so many of China s rural poor, Zhang Changhua and Chen Suqin left behind their two infant children for grueling factory jobs. Their daughter Qin – now a restless teenager – both bitterly resents their absence and longs for her own freedom away from school, much to the utter devastation of her parents.
Emotionally powerful and starkly beautiful, the multi-award-winning Last Train Home‘s intimate observation of one fractured family sheds unprecedented light on the human cost of China’s economic ‘miracle’.
From Materialism to Nukes, My Students Have a Fascinating View of China’s Ever Expanding Growth and Power
Recently on a test I asked my students an opinion question. Most of them have their own opinion about many things: sneakers, Nikki Minaj, the 2012 election results and a plethora of other pressing issues of today. But some of their answers to the opinion question I posed were too priceless to pass up. The names have been changed to protect the ignorant or innocent. But the answers do reflect education or lack thereof and it’s interesting to get a real middle school response from American kids who have lived their entire life post 9/11 not knowing the whole story of 9/11. Not that I’m into conspiracies (I’m not) but children today post 9/11 still have a similar view of American strength as I did growing up pre-9/11. Here is the question and some answers:
China will one day rule the world! Do you agree or disagree?
1. “Yes, I agree because China makes most of the stuff we buy.”
Susan’s answer is the cynical American’s view. China rules us because they make everything that we use. Besides the inherent untruth to that, imagine if that were actually true! Take a second today and count just how many things you buy on a daily basis that are “Made in China” and you’d be surprised how few there are.
2. “I disagree with this statement. I disagree because I believe in my country.”
Sam’s answer begs the question, “Does America rule the world?” To which I would surmise his answer to be yes. Another further question should be posited to be “what exactly do you believe your country should be able to do?”
3. “No, I disagree because China and USA have gone to war before and USA has won.”
So true, Greg. But that resulted in the creation of North and South Korea, and too many deaths on both sides. We don’t want that to happen again right?
4. “No, every country and state has its own rights. One place can’t control the whole world. There are many differences between everyone’s religion.”
Arianna has the jack of all trades answer. It tries to be everything to everybody. Yes, there are rights and yes, not one place can control the whole world, but why was religion brought into the picture?
5. “Agree. China is our enemy and lots of people to kill us! Shiver Shiver.”
Perhaps it’s a good reason why this student forgot his name on the test. Mx and I had a good laugh at this one. Especially the “shiver shiver” part.
6. “I don’t agree because in America we have more stuff than China and China’s technology is not as fast as our technology in America. I don’t even think they have cellphones.”
Interesting Gary. Very interesting. So materialism will save America, right? And what exactly do you mean by China’s tech isn’t as fast as US tech? Are we talking fast computers or the rate of growth? But you’re 100% wrong about the whole cellphone thing.
7. “I disagree because so we’ll all have peace.”
Well, Justin, just because you disagree that China will rule us all one day, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be peace. I guess one could look at the Cold War as a period of peace but what a tenuous peace.
8. “I disagree because we will nuke them if they try to take over because they will try to eliminate us.”
Manuel’s answer might take the “video game answer award!” We’ll just nuke ‘em! Nice. Too bad China’s a nuclear power too (since the 60s) and they won’t take it so lightly that we’ve fired a nuke at them and most likely they’ll retaliate. Nice. Back to the Cold War.
For more experiences in Teaching Chinese in America go here.