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Category Archives: Beijing

Confucius Peace Prize Year Two

Last year when I was living in Shanghai, I posted about the advent of the Confucius Peace Prize in response to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Well, ladies and gentleman, it’s been a year since then and so the Chinese government has named the second recipient of the prize. I’ll let this NY TIMES article explain…  drum roll please…


By Published: November 15, 2011

BEIJING — The Chinese committee that awarded this year’s Confucius Peace Prize minced no words in honoring the winner, Vladimir V. Putin, prime minister of Russia.

It praised his decision to go to war in Chechnyain 1999.

“His iron hand and toughness revealed in this war impressed the Russians a lot, and he was regarded to be capable of bringing safety and stability to Russia,” read an English version of the committee’s statement. “He became the antiterrorist No. 1 and the national hero.”

Not only that, it applauded him for “acting as the propagandist of current political events” while still in high school, and for being selected to join the K.G.B. while in college, “which made true his teenage dream of joining the K.G.B.” Much later, of course, came the “large-scale military action towards the illegal armed forces in Grozny, Chechnya.”

So went the announcement by a group of 16 patriotic scholars awarding what they call their second annual “grass-roots” peace prize. Four members of the group, the China International Peace Studies Center, held a news conference on Sunday in the Fragrant Hills Park west of central Beijing, but there was curiously little reporting in the Chinese news media about the award. Then word spread over Twitter on Tuesday that Mr. Putin, who had engaged in wars in Chechnya and Georgia, had won the prize, which has been steeped in political intrigue in recent months.

“Those wars were righteous wars,” Qiao Damo, the self-described co-founder and president of the Confucius Peace Prize committee, said in a telephone interview. “Mr. Putin fought for the unification of his country.”

In fact, the campaign in Chechnya led to a stream of human rights abuses by Russian and pro-Russian Chechen security forces, including rape, torture and murder, numerous human rights organizations found at the time.

Mr. Qiao also said that the committee, which had voted for Mr. Putin from among eight nominees, valued his opposition to war. “He was against the NATO bombing of Libya,” Mr. Qiao said.

The award was first given out last year as a rejoinder to the Nobel committee’s decision to give the Peace Prize toLiu Xiaobo, an imprisoned dissident writer. Mr. Qiao said this year’s ceremony would be held on Dec. 9, and organizers hoped to hand a gilded statuette of Confucius, the Chinese sage, to Mr. Putin, along with a certificate. The award announcement did not mention any cash prize.

The winner last year, Lien Chan, a Taiwanese politician, said he had never heard of the award when contacted by foreign journalists. He did not show up at the ceremony, even though the prize came with the equivalent of $15,000 in cash. Instead, a young girl with no relation to Mr. Lien accepted a statuette and a bundle of bills.

When asked about the award on Tuesday, Dmitri S. Peskov, a spokesman for Mr. Putin, told a reporter in Moscow: “We have only heard about the award from the press. We do not know much about the prize.”

Besides Mr. Putin, candidates for this year’s Confucius Peace Prize included Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft; Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor; Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president; Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations; Yuan Longping, a Chinese scientist; Soong Chu-yu, a Taiwanese politician; and a Tibetan boy named by Chinese officials as the Panchen Lama after the abduction of a candidate supported by the exiled Dalai Lama.

Mr. Putin received nine of the 16 votes cast, Mr. Yuan six and Ms. Merkel one, Mr. Qiao said.

Among the 16 voting committee members was Kong Qingdong, a professor of Chinese literature at Peking University who has boasted widely that he is in the 73rd generation of Confucius’ lineage. Mr. Kong is also famously known for cursing at a Chinese journalist on Nov. 7, which has prompted editors at Xinhua, the state news agency, and students at Peking University to demand Mr. Kong’s resignation.

Meanwhile, a founding member of the committee, Liu Haofeng, said in a telephone interview that he had split off from the group and planned to start a new award with the help of Americans, the World Harmony Prize.

The Culture Ministry has berated the original prize committee for claiming to hand out last year’s award in the name of the ministry.

As for a new competing prize associated with the Culture Ministry, the Confucius World Peace Prize, an announcement posted last month on the ministry’s Web site said the group that had proposed the award had decided not to distribute it.

Nikolay Khalip contributed reporting from Moscow, and Mia Li contributed research from Beijing.

China Nostalgia


For those who understand the awesomeness that is life in China. It’s feichang fresh, really.

Four international students in Beijing uploaded their masterpiece to Youku about 5 months ago. It recently was played on CCTV. Yes, CCTV. It’s pretty catchy!


We’re back
Extremely extremely extremely fresh
Everyone put up your hands
Are you ready?

Every morning I wake up to your voices
I’m full of excitement towards this city
Beijing’s spirit and atmosphere is difficult to describe in words
I will always remember you, please don’t forget me

Yangrouchuanr [lamb skewer/kebab] is my old companion
I chat with beautiful women every day
Peking Duck, let’s have one more piece
I especially like the Beijing dialect/accent

Chaoyang District, you are the most niubi
Haidian District, I want to learn more about you
The big secret between us
I think you are so amazing


Every day attending class in the university
Riding bicycles no matter where I go
Yanjing Beer is the best
My life here is very happy

At Houhai, I have a lot of fun
At the Beijing Workers Stadium we are all flying
Pretty girls think I am extremely handsome
I really can’t bear to leave


First, second, third ring, no matter where you are
一块唱这首歌 (大省点儿)
Let’s all sing this song (Louder)
Fourth, fifth, sixth ring, no matter where you are
一块唱这着歌 (我听不见)
Let’s all sing this song


Post-Expo Pollution and Other Chinese Health Hazards


During Shanghai Expo, Oct2010

I have been getting sick on and off the past few weeks. I tend to blame it on the winter coming on…or perhaps it’s just the air. The World Expo in Shanghai wrapped up at the end of October. While the Expo was running from April until October, the government had ordered factories to shut down, construction to stopped, etc. to reduce pollution for the six months of the Expo. It worked! When I arrive in Shanghai there were blue skies. It was lovely. However, once November hit, things began to change.

An air pollution index below 50 is excellent, 50-100 is good, and above 100 indicates hazard. I have also read that when pollution gets above 250-300 that a person in optimal health will feel effects such as decreased stamina, weakened immune system, etc. During the Expo, levels were good. However, just a day after the compulsory anti-pollution measures were suspended, air index levels were quickly on the rise. Some blame it on the winter weather that carries pollution from inland provinces. The spike in the index seems too great to put only on weather. Plus, it’s a known fact that production and construction have returned to maximum levels in Shanghai now that the tourists have left.

Just after the Expo the index climbed over 100–the highest in 5 years. November 1, it was 156. On November 13, it hit 370. Three-hundred seventy! No wonder I get sick easily here. I love walking around the city. Surprisingly and the worst part, I don’t really notice it’s that bad. On the other hand, when I was in Beijing last week, I definitely noticed–a blanket of yellow/brown haze sprawled every direction engulfing the city. To track Beijing air pollution, there is a nifty little twitter tool that updates the air index for Beijing a few times each day. When levels recently hit over 500, the site was forced to create a new rating that went beyond “hazardous” to “crazy bad”. Seriously. Air pollution in Beijing has reach “crazy bad” and Shanghai is working its way there as well.

Post-Expo Pollution

According to National Geographic: Chinese Air Pollution Deadliest in World, “Air pollution is estimated to cause approximately two million premature deaths worldwide per year. A World Health Organization (WHO) report estimates that diseases triggered by indoor and outdoor air pollution kill 656,000 Chinese citizens each year, and polluted drinking water kills another 95,600.”

It is very frustrating to see how swift the government is to institute quick-fixes for events like the 2008 Olympics, the 60th Anniversary Parade in 2009, or the 2010 Expo. All three events–sources of tremendous national pride and international attention–saw clear skies. Skies that people in Beijing see maybe a few times a year, let alone days in a row! If the Chinese government can shoot chemicals into the sky to make it blue for a parade, put a ban on cars for the Olympics and halt construction in a metropolis like Shanghai, I would imagine they have people on their team that are working on more widespread plans. Let’s just hope we start seeing some long-term action at work soon.

There are numerous health hazards beyond pollution in China (as in any country!). The following is a list by month of some of the worst health-related incidents in China in 2010. Thanks to ChinaHush. Includes: melamine milk scandal, killer plastic surgery, H1N1, H5N1 and toxic McNuggets.


Memo of Health Incidents in China 2010.

Sex Education in China

Repost from chinaSMACK

Sex Education Class for Beijing Elementary Schoolchildren

Pretty amusing photos. I’m happy to see this being openly discussed and taught. Based on conversations with my past Chinese university students, sex is something they would have liked to know more about (at least according to the girls). I have even had some female students come to me with questions that are much better suited for a mom or sister, but felt they could not go to them because it is too taboo or unacceptable to discuss. I am clearly far too open with everything, but at least they felt comfortable coming to me. So, well done Beijing primary schools for integrating sex education.  They seem a little young, but the sperm/egg game looks like fun!

China’s Army of Graduates Struggles for Jobs

Speaking with past students, this New York Times article seems even more relevant. There are so many with university degrees in China…but what to do with it? My students seem to be going through the motions, but never really certain of the point or the end goal. What are they being prepared for? I am not a huge fan of the Chinese education system and this article further confirms the futility of it (in some areas).

New York Times: China’s Army of Graduates Struggles for Jobs

Beijing. Courtesy of Gilles Sabrie, New York Times


How To Be Alone

Recently, I have been absorbing time with myself. Perhaps I am getting older, but I really enjoy just being around me and doing things that I am interested in. I don’t feel the need to have people around very often…just me, my space, my thoughts, books, music… Having Shanghai at my disposal has been perfect for this. I can get lost in the city, then find myself content at a wine bar, reading outside or talking to whoever happens to be near me. It’s wonderful.

Sitting at a cafe in Beijing alone, I had written a long journal entry about what I value in spending time alone and how I feel it is healthy and necessary to do. I find myself to be a much happier, balanced and peaceful person this way. Well, when I got home and was about to type these thoughts into a long, confusing blog post, I received an email from the one, the only, Maggie Glass. It contained a video of essentially the same thing I wrote about. Life is funny like that, huh? Rather than share my journal, I’m posting the video. I think it is much more effective and beautiful. Plus you get visuals.

My journal entry was more in tune with the 2nd half of the video. Many situations that I have such fond memories of would not have happened if I were not alone–including ones that day in Beijing. Alone allows you to open up to things around you while teaching you more about the person within. Alone breathes life into you that is sometimes forgotten if you are constantly focused on others around you. Embrace alone.

Thanks to Meilin. I hope you enjoy the video. Please let me know your thoughts!

How to Be Alone

by Andrea Dorfman

Someone’s in Beijing

Very last minute, I jumped on a train from Shanghai to Beijing to catch a meeting the next day. Though there is a bullet train that takes about 7.5 hours, I opted for the 13ish hour one because it has beds. I got to Shanghai’s Main Railway Station a bit early with a book and food. Sitting in the waiting room, I was carefully observed by those around me. I could feel every eyeball that was on me, so would smile back whenever I caught someone’s eye. I also got to play with a baby.

I boarded and quickly put on the movie Avatar to watch as the train rocked me to sleep. Just towards the end of the film I got an email from the position in Yemen that made me somewhat unhappy. More about that another day.

Initial Reactions: Things I Immediately Remember Liking About Beijing

  • Shopping
  • Dirty air and more spitting
  • Friendly people
  • Cold
  • Bigger clothing sizes
  • Taxis start at 10kuai
  • Feels more like Dalian
  • There is not stupid plastic divider in the taxi.
  • I can understand the accent and LOVE hearing the “er” sound
  • I had a full conversation within 5 minutes of exiting the train
  • I feel closer  to other places I want to be
  • Old feeling in the air
  • It’s the capital
  • Less “international” than Shanghai (meaning a better expat community…maybe?)
  • It just feels good!

Christmas Tree at The Nest (Courtesy AP)

From the train station I found myself a random bathroom in a random shopping center to freshen up (meaning change, clean myself, put on makeup and do my hair). I jump in a taxi and make my way to the Capital Club in Chaoyang District where I will be meeting Tom Kirkwood for lunch. Tom is a best friends with my boss’ boarding school friend who I met in 2008 in Beijing. I have spoke to Tom on the phone and had a really good feeling about him before we even met. I sat waiting by the window on the 50th floor at the Capital Club. It was perfect, peaceful. Everything was decorated for Christmas. I sat by a huge decorated tree and a gingerbread house while Christmas music softly played in the background. It’s winter in Beijing, unlike Shanghai, so it really felt like the holidays for the first time since I’ve been here. Overlooking the sprawling landscape shrouded in a dense haze, I sat reading 100 Years of Solitude awaiting lunch.

Enter Tom. He is accompanied by two other gentlemen who are introduced as Daniel Nivern and Michael Fox. I will not go into every detail of lunch, but I must say one thing. It was lovely to speak with people who are not only successful in their own walks of life, but who are genuine, warm, interesting human beings. Good stuff. I feel lucky to have occupied a piece of their time and for the guidance they offered.

Central China TV (CCTV) Building

Leaving the meeting, I headed for an old favorite of mine: The Bookworm Cafe. It was time to sit in a warm cafe, look out at Beijing as night fell, and think. I nearly stayed another day but, at the last minute opted to catch the night train back due to work obligations. I do not like the word obligations.

Upset I was not staying in Beijing longer, it was decided that I deserved french fries. The remainder of my journey home is worthy of individual posts, so more to come. Thrilled to have stepped foot in Beijing again. Like New York, I have never officially lived in Beijing, but have spent enough time for it to feel homey. My brief trip got me ready and excited for Christmas in Massachusetts!

Interesting side note: This trip is very similar to another 11hour Beijing-stint I did a year ago December 2009. 我爱北京。