Stories from Quick Reads and China
Below is an edited version of “The Translation Detail Everyone Missed in the China Internet's Incredibly Surreal Anthem“ by Jason Li, originally published on the blog 88 Bar and republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.
In case you missed it, the New York Times, ProPublica, the Guardian and the Atlantic all wrote about this incredibly surreal but voted best of event anthem celebrating China’s glorious Internet. Thanks to ProPublica, we have a subtitled YouTube video above.
As James Fallows at the Atlantic pointed out, one of the most stirring phrases in the song that is repeated eight times during the chorus is 网络强国. The New York Times and ProPublica both translated this as “Internet power,” while Fallows points out that:
English speakers might think of “Internet power” as comparable to “soft power” or “girl power” or “people power.” But to my amateur eye there is a more explicit connotation of China’s becoming a national power in cyberspace. I’m sure Chinese speakers will tell me if I’m wrong to read 强国 as meaning a powerful country, as in “rise and fall of the great powers” etc. Thus the refrain would emphasize “a powerful Internet country.” The impression I got from this was of a strongly nationalistic message about a supposedly borderless medium.
I wanted to add to the translation and confirm Fallows’ viewpoint by examining one of the lines from the chorus:
Both the New York Times (Paul Mozur) and ProPublica (Sisi Wei and Yue Qiu) translate this to some variant of: “An Internet power: Tell the world that the Chinese Dream is uplifting China.” (Emphasis mine.)
Actually, the line in Chinese does not end with the phrase “China” (中国) but “the greater Chinese” (大中华). Not only does “the greater Chinese” sometimes mean Greater China, but it also hints at overseas Chinese people (华人 or 华侨) and, as Fallows put it, the “borderless” greater Chinese culture/civilization.
Jason Li has translated a letter written by a web user named Cherish to her parents, which was published on citizen media website inmediahk.net, and turned it into a comic. The letter addresses the generational conflict triggered by the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong.
Most of the pro-democracy protesters are under the age of 45 and grew up in a politicized Hong Kong society following the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. On the other hand, those older than 45 are mainly migrants from mainland China who settled in Hong Kong with a hope of improving their family's living conditions.
Take a look at what Cherish said to her parents:
This five-minute video created by ESADE business school shows where Chinese capital is invested in Europe and examines the various motivations Chinese companies have for investing overseas (via the China Observer).
The above high school test paper has gone viral in Hong Kong social media in the past few days. The test question is: What are the factors that lead to the September 28 Umbrella Revolution?
The student answered with a mathematical formula: 64+71+101+689+3=928.
The teacher marked the paper 0 and told the student to correct the answer. The student decoded the formula:
64 = the June 4 Incident in 1989 in Beijing. After the crackdown, Hong Kong people hold annual candlelight vigil demanding the vindication of June 4.
71 = on July 1 1997, Hong Kong, the former colony of Britain was handover to Beijing. Since then, every year, pro-Beijing political groups celebrate the reunification in the morning, while the pro-democracy civic groups rally for democratic reform.
101 = the China national day is on October 1.
689 = is the total number of votes that the current Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying obtained in the election committee, which was composed of 1200 members.
3 = the reform trio, a short term for the three major government officials responsible for the consultation of the political reform. The three officials are the Chief Secretary, Carrie Lam, Secretary of Justice, Rimsky Yuen and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam.
The sum of the above is 928, September 28, the day when the police deployed tear gas to peaceful protestors who resisted with their umbrellas.
More than 500 dead wild water birds appeared in the lake areas of Inner Mongolia since this summer as a result of water pollution. The poisonous water, as reported by local herdsmen, came from factories from a nearby eco-industrial area. Annie Lee from China Hush wrote a photo feature on the situation.
Foxconn, a Taiwanese company and Apple company's subcontractor in China, has been criticized for its labour management policy, which has resulted in high number of workplace suicides. Nao, a pro-grassroots group, translated poems of Xu Lizhi, a Foxconn worker who committed suicide on 30 September 2014, at the age of 24, in Shenzhen, China. Below is one of the poems:
“A Kind of Prophecy”
Village elders say
I resemble my grandfather in his youth
I didn’t recognize it
But listening to them time and again
Won me over
My grandfather and I share
Almost as if we came from the same womb
They nicknamed him “bamboo pole”
And me, “clothes hanger”
He often swallowed his feelings
I'm often obsequious
He liked guessing riddles
I like premonitions
In the autumn of 1943, the Japanese devils invaded
and burned my grandfather alive
at the age of 23.
This year I turn 23.
– 18 June 2013
Last night at 9:30pm, around 300 hundred protesters attempted to set up new barricade in Long Wo Road, near the government headquarter at Admiralty. Riot police took action to disperse protesters and arrested 45 of them. The process was brutal. The TV news showed that one of the protesters, identified as Tsang kin-chiu, a member of Civic Party, was intentionally brought to a dark corner where he was punched and kicked by six police officers.
The protesters action last night was a reaction to the police clearance of the barricades in major sit-in sites in the past few days. The massive sit-in action, dubbed Occupy Central protests, is to impose pressure on the Hong Kong government demanding a revision of the political reform package by incorporating the idea of “citizen nomination” in the election of the city's top leader.
Mainland Chinese state-run media has been running editorials and opinion pieces to criticize the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, with emphasis on the destruction the street occupations have brought to ordinary people.
The Umbrella Revolution has also been labeled as “Color Revolution” backed up by foreign forces, in particular, the United State. Pro-Beijing law makers passed a motion on October 10 demanding an investigation of the mobilization of the massive sit-in action under the Legislative Council（Powers and Privileges) Ordinance.
In response to the smear campaign, DDED HK, created a video that imitates the China Central Television's news report on the students’ use of mass destruction weapon – umbrellas and birthday song – in Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution.
In the video, the umbrellas that protected the protesters from police pepper spray and tear gas were depicted as parachutes and ray guns. The birthday song, which was sang by the sit-in protesters, when they were surrounded and bombarded by the anti-occupation groups, was depicted as the most evil weapon.
Kevin Slaten from China Labour Watch wrote on China File on the situation of labour exploitation in China — the fact that industrial safety and workers’ lives were taken for granted for economic growth, which is reflected in a notorious local Kunshan government's appeal to foreign investors: “The Kunshan people welcome your investment. The more you exploit us, the happier we get.”