"We're all on the Truman show," I say, in describing Shanghai

Two interesting articles on the struggle over what folks think in China. Or, rather, what they say about what they think.

This article from The Sydney Morning Herald outlines the pedestrian efforts of state security at colleges abroad in Australia.

Fairfax has interviewed lecturers and Chinese-born students who have suffered repercussions because of comments they made in Australian classrooms which were reported through Chinese intelligence channels. “I was interrogated four times in China,” said a senior lecturer at a high-ranking Australian university.

Brings back memories of students of mine from Fudan University in Shanghai from about ten years ago who told me, in disgust, of how internal campus police pressured them to join and spy on Hong Kong organizations. They were slated to study in the Special Autonomous Region because they were among Shanghai’s best and brightest.

Their crime (and the security apparatchiks’ leverage) that brought them into contact with the officials (the reason for having such a contingent in the campus police was so that the college was spared any embarrassment from having their dirty laundry aired by the municipal officials) was their curiosity about the government’s repression of the June 3-4, 1989 Tiananmen uprising. The three young men told me they had been detained and questioned and their dormitories searched because they had burned some DVDs with information they found on line. They also marked up a bed sheet which they displayed for 45 minutes inviting a public discussion about the June 4th incident. “We just wanted to have a discussion,” one told me.

Often, on the anniversary of the repression of the uprising which had begun April 15, 1989, someone displays a sign somewhere. Right before the anniversary official China gets edgy and plainclothes strangers start appearing in public.

The three boys said the lesson they had learned from the official response to their inquisitiveness was to hate their country’s government, and, perhaps, also their country.   They had come to me since they had heard that I had been a journalist. 19 & 20, each declared in a one-on-one conversation with me, “I am a man.”

“Not yet, but you’re getting there,” I said.

I was a teacher at that time. My job, as my department head had instructed me, was also to make sure my students became responsible men and women. I recall one boy telling me we would all gather at my apartment for a party. They brought beer. I showed a move: the 1960s comedy The Russians Are Coming.

Last I heard one of the three wrote me to say he was living in Germany and was much happier, especially since he could cross the international borders of the EU unimpeded and meet Italian girls who seemed, he wrote, to take a shine to him.

This article  from an English-language Chinese publication called The World Of Chinese illustrates another, more insidious invasion: that of American English (and basketball) into the slang of the Chinese language.

ni xing ni shang【你行你上】

This means ‘”if you can do it, then you go and do it.” The entry on the UrbanDictionary.com elaborates: “it’s used against people who criticize others’ work, especially when the criticizer is not that much better.” Often the phrase is followed by “no can no BB” (bu xing bie BB【不行别BB】), which means “if you can’t do it, then don’t criticize others”. “BB” means to nag or complain in Beijing and Dongbei dialects.

The phrase originated from the public’s response to the Lakers’ being defeated by the Thunder in the Western Conference Semi-finals of 2012. A lot of people blamed Kobi for losing the game at that time, but one of the real fans of Kobi came to his defense and said: “you can you up”. This later was widely spread on the internet and became popular internet slang.