Monday, September 3, 2018

Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit

Attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit as a guest of CGTN: Discussed here: 
“Growing Security Ties in the SCO” CGTN Opinions (June 9, 2018)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

April in Beijing

Spring semester is fully underway. I am teaching Sino-US Relations for the first time ever, so its taken a lot of preparation. I have filled in a lot of my own gaps in knowledge of the bilateral ties. We started with 18th and 19th century encounters, American missionaries and merchants in China juxtaposed with Chinese laborers and officials in America. Many Chinese found New York City to be too crowded and dirty and that high rise housing caused poor morals, echoing many contemporary views toward modern China in many ways. They shared the same cultural observations that distinguish life in the two cultures, but over a hundred years ago. I guess I am not so original. We then traced the bilateral relationship from 1949 to today, just passed through 1989 last class. Now, we will look at theories of international relations and how they apply, rise and fall of great powers and such, domestic interests in both countries, and the international context (Russia as playing the role China formerly did). Excellent students, very bright and knowledgeable, making good presentations. just a chore to get them off of their electronic devices (the universal bane of all professors' existence).

Also teaching a course Power in America that I taught once as a graduate student in Hawaii almost two decades ago. There, we are critically examining race, gender, class, and religion as sources of power through norm setting and cultural influence. Easier to talk about these issues in a foreign environment as they are of course very sensitive in the American classroom. As we approach the midterm, we will move on to institutions like police, courts, prisons, government (the presidency and abuse of power), and corporations.

Hard to find time to do media but have done a few tv and radio shows, and written some newspaper opinion pieces. Don't feel like searching the links. Here's one (

Otherwise, could not say how enjoyable India was. First time to visit. simply put: fantastic food, quite amazing, the freshness of ingredients in the curries, the tandoor options, the breads. Took a cooking class and learned how to make some of these favorites. Rajasthan has so much history from the Moghul/Mongol influence, gorgeous palaces and mansions. politically speaking, couldn't get a good handle on views toward BJP and Congress, varied a lot in people's views. certainly no one was shy to reveal their anti-Muslim attitudes. despite, or because, the large Muslim presence and mosques around New Delhi and the northwest. of course, India is far behind China in the development scale, but has richly preserved its cultural traditions. Need to think through the trip more extensively.

Fulbright hosted a wonderful conference near Dali, Yunnan and the tourist location of Brian and Jeanee Linden, two Americans who have tried to initiate a sustainable model of cultural heritage preservation and responsible tourism. They also model their lovely accommodation on the Aspen Institute to be a destination for academic groups, while residing in a courtyard mansion over a century old. I greatly enjoyed chatting with the Lindens, as Brian came to China around 1983 and basically stayed ever since, raising their children in Yunnan. Also, our Fulbright group really bonded, even participating in a collective Bai dance on our last night with some local musicians. Greatly exceeded my expectations. The U.S. State Department is such a wonderful host, and really invests its scarce resources in promoting mutual understanding through people to people exchanges that do enormously impact those who participate.

Otherwise, China keep developing, keeps growing. Beijing continues its march toward modern megalopolis. Will save for another time impressions of this great transformation. Though I met Isabel Crook, who was born in southern China in 1915 to missionary parents, married David Crook, who had come to China to support Mao's revolution in the 1940s. Both became teachers here at Beiwai, my host university. I met their son who is around 70 and lived nearly his whole life in China. Their stories of living in Beijing from 1947 until now were fascinating and only scratched the surface. Out of deference to their privacy I won't share them, but can you imagine an Anglo-Canadian couple living their lives in China through all the twists and turns of the PRC, from the Cultural Revolution and the like. She is 103 and still living in the socialist housing provided all those years ago. What amazing people and stories you find when you travel.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

First India Trip

Applying for the visa to India online, first trip to that great and historic civilization. Interesting that visa application has mandatory question to identify one's religion from a drop down menu of about 10. Other than specified religions, only option is 'Others'. Non-religious not welcome? Surprised Parsi was listed as a religion too, just thought that was a language. Also requires one to note any 'visible identification marks'. big nose? maybe just scars and tattoos? It also distinguished birth or naturalized citizen, required details on mother and father, and of course if anyone back several generations was of Pakistani descent. Also, required to state if you had any military service background. Not quite as amusing as Britain's requirement to self identify whether you are a person 'of good character' but always a treat to see what it takes to visit a country. Will find out in 72 hours if I am accepted. Hopefully.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Socialism in China

Finished my last class today, and my first time ever teaching on Christmas Day (more precisely giving the final exam). My MA students were very impressive in their analysis of American politics and American foreign policy. Undergrad students, will see how their papers are in January. Today I told them to put away all electronic devices to do a group activity, and maybe half the class did not hear me because they were so immersed in said electronic devices. Could be the downfall of the country, if not the world, the inability to live in the present and the existing space, addicts. On a related note, CCTV somewhat inartfully transcribed my comments from a live program, but caught the spirit of my comments. ( Basically, tuition at Chinese universities is around $1,000 per year and much of that is subsidized, some students make money going to college. Dormitories, Spartan though they may be, cost less than $1,000 per year. The quality of university lags behind Western institutions, particularly American comprehensive universities, but its a great value for money, and access is available to virtually everyone.

And for the past two months, Beijing's skies have been crystal clear and deep blue; no pollution. This year the government switch wholesale to natural gas and away from coal. Apparently, supplies ran low and rationed gas in the countryside was leaving rural communities colder, so coal burning in the Hebei countryside was resumed last week. Smog has returned. But never seen anything like the effort to clean up the air in one fell swoop, and almost got there, may make it next year with some experience. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Watching Films in China

After watching Coco, my daughter asked me to rank my favorite kids' movies. Below are my systematic rankings and hers. Asian themed films are clearly on the rise, especially since I was introduced late in life to Japanese anime, somewhat surprising, only Miyazaki made the list.
Personally I didn't care for Coco, though I like ancestor veneration, didn't care for the animation or the story, aside from reconnecting father and daughter and emphasis on extended family ties. 

Image result for totoro
My Favorite Animated Movies (modern)
1. My Neighbor Totoro
2. Big Hero 6
3. Moana
4. Princess Mononoke
5. Kubo and the Two Strings
6. Song of the Sea
7. Inside Out
8. Zootopia
9. Mulan
10. Kiki's Delivery Service
11. Kung Fu Panda
12. Beauty and the Beast
13. Frozen
14. Finding Nemo
15. A Bug's Life
16. Lion King
17. Chicken Run
18. Howl's Moving Castle
19. Aladdin
20. Incredibles

Maitreya's Favorites
Tier 1: Moana, Lion King, Chicken Run, Pocahontas, Nausicaa
Tier 2: Kubo, Song of the Sea, Secret Life of Pets, Mulan, Kung Fu Panda, Totoro, Ponyo, Zootopia, Incredibles, A Bug's Life
Tier 3: Inside Out, Aladdin, Coco

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trump in China (Accidentally typed Grump in China, changed it)

President Trump visited China for three days on his nearly two week Asia trip. Aside from complaining about trade deficits with each country he visited, and applauding China's ability to beat the United States economically, nothing too dramatic so far. China rolled out the red carpet, literally and figuratively, with a 'state visit plus', hosting the Trumps with tea in the Forbidden City palace museum. So far, so good. He and President Xi seem to have a good personal rapport; Trump seems fascinated with strong authoritarian leaders. The Chinese public appears very enamored with the 'goddess' Ivanka Trump and her children's knowledge of the Chinese language and Arabella's ability to sing in Chinese, even for Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan back at Mar-a-Lago in April. Since Trump is not so interested in China's domestic social issues, he is avoiding any sensitive comments about political affairs inside the country. Criticizing trade or business practices is not sensitive. Though the Trump team calling the region the 'Indo-Pacific' is a significant change from past practices of calling the region the Asia Pacific, since US security ties to India are ramping up quickly and continues the Obama era balancing posture toward China's rise. Here is my discussion with Ambassador Su Ge, now with the Foreign Ministry's primary think tank the China Institute of International Studies ( [link works on my phone in China, may not work on other devices or locales]. And an interview with regional tv in Shenzhen on China's development goals coming from the 19th Party Congress.

Otherwise, lots of professional opportunities here, writing for news magazines, media appearances, and guest lectures. Monday, the US Embassy is sponsoring me to talk about what life is like for American university students and professors at a local public high school in Haidian district and at a university (China Agricultural University). I enjoy sharing what American schools are like in China and what Chinese schools are like back in the States. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

19th Party Congress

Xi Jinping was re-elected party General Secretary. Rumors were that the Standing Committee would be only 5 members were wrong, 7 in total. CNN reports they are loyalists to Xi, though I have been told there are at least 3 factions represented among the 7. I am not too familiar with these figures, though it appears that no successor was named so the 20th Party Congress 5 years hence will be dramatic even if we know what's coming. (my polite observation of the Party Congress for China's official English language weekly: I have been in Beijing for the past two Party Congresses by good fortune. The sky was more blue last time, this time more polluted, I take that as a sign of internal self-confidence by party leaders. Rumors that none of the Standing Committee members would be women were correct, as was widely expected. Otherwise, China is poised for a greater leadership role with its Belt and Road initiative, and more self-confident to defend its national interests related to territorial and maritime boundary disputes. The Secretary of State is in South Asia after visiting China, his 'f#*%ing moron' President Trump arrives in a few weeks. I expect it to go well, Jared and Ivanka are pro-China, and Trump shall be on his best behavior as he loves the red carpet treatment.

*This is not an official Department of State blog, and the views are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program, the Institute of International Education, or the Department of State.