Transparent governance is the new fad (China Daily)

“In China people tweet on t.sina.com.cn and among the most avid tweeters is ‘Minister Wu’. Yes, for real, he is a government official, but not quite ministerial ranking.

“Still, a government official who openly tweets is a novelty here and naturally, Minister Wu – as he is affectionately referred to by fellow tweeters – has many fans and is one of the most read twitters across the land.

“Minister Wu is the deputy director of the publicity department of Yunnan province. He openly supports government transparency and presses for monitoring of government behavior. I am not sure whether this has won him friends within government circles (probably not) but he has found support on the Internet.”

China’s Taoism Revival

“As China’s only indigenous religion, Taoism’s influence is found in everything from calligraphy and politics to medicine and poetry. In the sixth century, for example, Abbess Yin’s temple was home to Tao Hongjing, one of the founders of traditional Chinese medicine.

“For much of the past two millenniums, Taoism’s opposite has been Confucianism, the ideology of China’s ruling elite and the closest China has to a second homegrown religion. Where Confucianism emphasizes moderation, harmony and social structure, Taoism offers a refuge from society and the trap of material success.

“Some rulers have tried to govern according to Taoism’s principle of wuwei, or nonaction, but by and large it is not strongly political and today exhibits none of the nationalism found among, say, India’s Hindu fundamentalists….

“Li Jinkang, says the goal is to keep Taoism vital in an era when indigenous Chinese ideas are on the defensive. ‘Churches are everywhere. But traditional things are less so. So Chairman Zhu said: “What about our Taoism? Our Taoism is a really deep thing. If we don’t protect it, then what?”‘”

Excerpts from NYTimes.com.

The revolt of China’s Twittering class via @ethanz

“Twitter has become a powerful tool for Chinese citizens as they increasingly play a role in reporting local news in their communities. But the social revolution brought by microblogging might be even more important than the communication revolution. Indeed, here Chinese Twitter users lead the world, using it for everything from social resistance, civic investigation, and monitoring public opinion, to creating black satire, ‘organizing without organizations’ in the Guangdong anti-incineration movement, and mailing postcards to prisoners of conscience….

“Twitter political activism in China challenges the simplistic yet widespread assumption that social media in the hands of activists can lead swiftly to mass mobilization and social change. Instead, these information-sharing tools and channels promote more subtle social progress.

“That subtlety reflects the distinction between macro-politics and micro-politics. Macro-politics is structural, whereas micro-politics is daily. Changes in the micro-political system do not necessarily lead to an adjustment in the macro structure, particularly in hyper-controlled political systems like China’s. But if small units are well organized, they can greatly improve the well-being of society as a whole, bit by bit, by working at the micro level. ‘Micro-information’ and ‘micro-exchange’ can push forward real change.

“Why is micro-power so important? In the past, only a few highly motivated people engaged in political activism; the masses took almost no initiative. Passionate people did not understand why the public seemed unconcerned about their efforts. Today, highly motivated people can lower the threshold for action so that people with less passion join their efforts.

Currently, the Chinese Twittersphere has three prominent features: First, as China’s rulers strengthen their censorship efforts, Twitter has become highly politicized. Moreover, Twitters brings opinion leaders together around one virtual table, attracting a lot of ‘new public intellectuals’ and ‘rights advocates,’ as well as veterans of civil rights movements and exiled dissidents. Its influence on Chinese cyberspace and traditional media is the result of this grouping.

“Finally, Twitter can be used as a mobilizing tool in China. Recent years have seen an explosion of activities indicating that Twitter has become the coordinating platform for many campaigns asserting citizens’ rights. With the proliferation of Twitter clones in China (all the major portals now offer microblog services), social movements in China are getting a long-term boost.”

With Twitter blocked, Chinese micro-blogging thrives

“China’s 420-million web users have seized on micro-blogging as a new avenue for mass expression in a tightly-controlled information landscape….

“Last year … China’s censors added Twitter to their list of blocked foreign services amid government accusations that social media were used to fan deadly ethnic unrest in northwestern China in July 2009.

“But several Chinese clones soon sprung up, offering users a platform for sending 140-character messages via provider websites or mobile phones — while exercising heavy self-censorship to keep authorities happy….

“From almost nothing last year, there are an estimated tens of millions of micro-blogging, or ‘weibo’, accounts in China…. A recent poll found that about 90 percent of under-40s use a “weibo” service … The DCCI predicts active user accounts will exceed 400 million within three years as China’s online population grows…

“Users say China’s half-dozen providers offer services that are superior to those of Twitter, such as embedding of videos and photos. They add that more can be expressed in 140 of the Chinese language’s pictographic characters than in English….

“The real impact of ‘weibo’ could lie in its ability to knit together — through the rapid, mass sharing of links — the countless Chinese blogs, forums and other websites that are the dominant outlet for public expression.

“’The density of information they have created, their frequency of dissemination and the degree of connectivity they have enabled for web users far surpass any previous form of Internet use,’ Hu Yong, an author of several books on the Chinese Internet, wrote in a recent opinion piece.”

American #creativity is declining /@newsweek

“Creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward…. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is ‘most serious’….

“Highly creative adults tended to grow up in families embodying opposites. Parents encouraged uniqueness, yet provided stability. They were highly responsive to kids’ needs, yet challenged kids to develop skills…. In the space between anxiety and boredom was where creativity flourished.

“Preschool children, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day. Why, why, why—sometimes parents just wish it’d stop. Tragically, it does stop. By middle school they’ve pretty much stopped asking. It’s no coincidence that this same time is when student motivation and engagement plummet…

“When faculty of a major Chinese university asked Plucker to identify trends in American education, he described our focus on standardized curriculum, rote memorization, and nationalized testing. “After my answer was translated, they just started laughing out loud,” says . “They said, ‘You’re racing toward our old model. But we’re racing toward your model, as fast as we can.’

“Researchers say creativity should be taken out of the art room and put into homeroom…. Creativity isn’t about freedom from concrete facts. Rather, fact-finding and deep research are vital stages in the creative process.

“Creativity requires constant shifting, blender pulses of both divergent thinking and convergent thinking, to combine new information with old and forgotten ideas… The attention system must radically reverse gears, going from defocused attention to extremely focused attention. In a flash, the brain pulls together these disparate shreds of thought and binds them into a new single idea that enters consciousness. This is the “aha!” moment of insight, often followed by a spark of pleasure as the brain recognizes the novelty of what it’s come up with.

“The lore of pop psychology is that creativity occurs on the right side of the brain. But we now know that if you tried to be creative using only the right side of your brain, it’d be like living with ideas perpetually at the tip of your tongue.”

China is leading the clean economy race

“Creating a clean economy will not be easy. It will require sustained, consistent, and large-scale investment across many sectors, including transportation, building systems and appliances, energy generation, and of course the electric grid itself. … As a percentage of GDP, China, Germany, and even Brazil are investing at a rate three times greater than the U.S. …

“China is … making longer-term, sustained commitments that are much larger. The country is already in the process of building 16,000 miles of high-speed rail (roughly 16,000 more than the U.S.). And China is bringing together 16 state-run companies to put one million electric cars on the road within a few years. …

“As an indication of how serious China really is, the country has built the largest solar and wind production industries in the world in just a few years. …

“But it was the country’s ten-year plan that made some jaws drop. Between now and 2020, the country will invest 5 trillion yuan in the clean economy. That works out to about $75 to $100 billion per year for 10 years running (smart grid investment alone is estimated at $60 to $100 billion over the next decade). Imagine the U.S. Congress passing the equivalent of the highly controversial stimulus package 10 times over (not likely).”

Nomadic roots of the violin

My daughter is going to be starting violin lessons, so we found this history of the violin.

“The earliest stringed instruments were mostly plucked (e.g. the Greek lyre). Bowed instruments may have originated in the equestrian cultures of Central Asia…

“Turkic and Mongolian horsemen from Inner Asia were probably the world’s earliest fiddlers. Their two-stringed upright fiddles were strung with horsehair strings, played with horsehair bows, and often feature a carved horse’s head at the end of the neck…. The violins, violas, and cellos we play today, and whose bows are still strung with horsehair, are a legacy of the nomads.

“It is believed that these instruments eventually spread to China, India, the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East, where they developed into instruments such as the erhu in China, the rebab in the Middle East, the lyra in the Byzantine Empire and the esraj in India. “

Neighbor raises funds for education in rural China

“The Gwen Moore Children of China Fund promotes literacy and self-sufficiency for children and women in rural Guizhou Province in southwestern China by providing financial help so children can attend school, an opportunity previously out of reach due to their families’ profound poverty.

“Education is a key that can change the future in ways Luodian County residents never imagined—enhancing the quality of their lives, supporting their families, and changing their personal and social circumstances.”

Hua Mulan (Wikipedia)

“Hua Mulan is a heroine who joined an all-male army, described in a Chinese poem known as the Ballad of Mulan. The poem was first written in the Musical Records of Old and New from the 6th century … Over time, the story of Hua Mulan rose in popularity as a folk tale among the Chinese people on the same level as the Butterfly Lovers. It is one of the first poems in Chinese history to support the notion of gender equality.”

[Translation] Han Han: The Bloom of Youth (China Elections and Governance)

“In the latest blog post from Han Han, the popular race car driver-turned blogger-turned international celebrity takes on the subject of the hard prospects faced by many of China’s young people and the possible untold stories behind many of the recent series of Foxconn suicides.”