Publié le par chrislzh

So the last couple of days I've been discussing stereotypes of people from different regions of China with the students. The highlight came with this afternoon's class. This class, imaginatively called Jilin because the students all work in Jilin, is mostly composed of Dongbeiren. No surprise there, but there are a few from other parts of China. One poor bastard found himself moving from sub-tropical Yunnan to Jilin. So there were nine students present this afternoon. Four from Jilin, two from Heilongjiang, one from Hubei, one from Shandong, and one from Yunnan. Based on their description of Dongbeiren (a description noticeably biased in Dongbei's favour, for obvious reasons), I wrote the following summary on the board:

"Northeastern people are friendly, warm-hearted gangsters who drink baijiu for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

The students all agreed whole-heartedly, but the Dongbeiren agreed most enthusiastically.

And in completely unrelated news, I'm desperately trying to force myself to finish reading this:

"This is a chapter reprinted by arrangement with the National Geographic Society from the book Dragon Rising: An Inside Look at China Today By Jasper Becker. Copyright 2006 Jasper Becker."

Hmmm.... They had a slightly different description:

"China author and scholar Jasper Becker writes in a new book on the environmental devastation China faces from its headlong rush to development."

What a shitty sentence. Anyway, 'China author and scholar', huh? Well, I could be an arsehole and pick apart the grammar and ask snarky questions about what, exactly, the barely literate fool who wrote that meant, but instead I'll do this:

"Tianjin tries to disguise the lack of water in the Tai river which runs through the centre by importing water diverted from the Yellow River and keeping a stretch of water dammed at either end just for show."

The what river? I thought the river running through the centre of Tianjin was the 海河, which, last I checked, would be 'Hai He' in Hanyu Pinyin.

"If one takes the night train from Beijing through the Loess plateau to Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province,"

Ummmm.... That's a hell of a detour. I used to live in Taiyuan, and I visited Beijing often when I lived there, and yet I don't recall ever having taken either a bus or train between those two cities that went anywhere near the Loess Plateau. Crossing the Huabei Plain from Beijing to Shijiazhuang, and then crossing the Taihangshan, yes, but not the Loess Plateau. Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought the Loess Plateau lay to the west of Shanxi.

Now that Hai/Tai River mistake could easily be just a case of bad copying on the part of Asia Sentinel, but when it is followed so quickly with the sudden, magical relocation of Beijing and Taiyuan to the Loess Plateau, one really has to wonder.....

And this is the much-vaunted [cough, splutter] "China author and scholar" Jasper Becker. What kind of [more coughing and spluttering] "China author and scholar" would make such glaring errors with basic geographical facts that can be checked with a simple, quick glance at the map?

"On the World Bank's list of 20 cities with the worst air, 16 are Chinese and the capital is perhaps the most polluted of all."

Beijing's air is far from good, granted, but has this man ever visited Taiyuan or Tianjin? "Perhaps" is the operative word in that sentence.

The rest of the article manages to avoid too many glaring factual errors, but...

....I can't help but feel I've read this before.

Well, first of all, nothing in this is news. Secondly, I've read this exact style of article before, also by Jasper Becker, if my memory serves me correctly, and the formula goes like this: Gather up all the statistics you can that prove how evil China is and list them. Between statistics insert comments designed to increase the shock of reading such a long list of phenomenally bad statistics ("Shock and Awe", my friend, "Shock and Awe"). Follow the usual Western journalist approach to paying lip service to objectivity ("Oh, and by the way, these good things have been happening, too. And now back to how evil China is..."). Go back to another long list of statistics designed to pummel the reader into believing China will collapse within the next five days.

But what really has me wondering is this: How could such a famous, acclaimed writer write such shitty English? Is this really a chapter from the new Jasper Becker book? Did Asia Sentinel do a really crap job of copying out a chapter of the book? Or is this famous [still more coughing and spluttering] 'China author and scholar' really such a bad writer? Take this for example:

"Before 1998, Chinese economic planners had been trying to close these small mines, suspended new dam projects and to shelve an ambitious nuclear power plan."

Clumsy as hell, and it's not the only example that could be pulled from this text.

So I managed to force myself to wade through to the end of the article, only to a find myself reading a comment that began like this:

"The above is a very well written and informative article."

Bloody hell, man! Are you trying to make me choke on my beer? 'Well-written' would imply a glaring lack of ridiculous grammatical errors that any halfway-literate high school student would manage to avoid, and 'informative' would imply providing information that has not been generally available for years now.

Publié dans chrislzh

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