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.

Fulbright in China, Part Two

I was fortunate enough to receive a second Fulbright award from the U.S. State Department, and particularly lucky to be posted back to China, and especially pleased to be based in Beijing at Beijing Foreign Studies University (Beiwai). After spending the summer in eastern Beijing (Huangqu) and collaborating with the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE), I had a very nice orientation at the U.S. Embassy in late August, meeting the other Fulbright scholars, the staff at the Education and Cultural Affairs Section of the Embassy, and the nice staff from Project Pengyou. The highlight for me was meeting the Ambassador and his wife, Terry Branstad, who was Governor of Iowa when I was in elementary school and again just before being selected by President Trump to serve as chief liaison with Beijing, probably President Trump's best selection of the variety of key positions he has filled in this tumultuous first year. I wore my Hawkeye tie to meet Ambassador Branstad and we chatted for about half an hour about all things Iowa, our love for the state, and even the fact that we had the same high school teacher despite growing up in different towns and different eras. We also had nice outings to the Great Wall and a hutong (alleyway) tour in the old area of the city to make jiaozi (dumplings) from scratch. Ours turned out better than expected. It was a well organized experience to hear from Embassy staff on U.S.-China relations and daily life concerns.

We moved into our dormitory at Beiwai, which frankly was disappointing, particularly at this stage in my life, to have sub-standard housing, the toilet has backed up about 2 dozen times in a month, and outside our window is the campus garbage dump, broken bicycles, used appliances, plastic bags, and other permanent refuse. How can I invert a sight for sore eyes, a sore site for my eyes. Oh well, I think the other Fulbrighters have it worse outside Beijing and Shanghai; at least we have a kitchen and ample space. A good reminder to remain humble and be thankful for what we do have.

Classes are pretty good, teaching International Security, American Foreign Policy, and American Politics. One day a week for two hours each, about 25 students per class; two graduate level and one undergraduate. Beiwai focuses on foreign languages, so students in the School of English and International Studies (SEIS) where I am based are of very high quality. I can see the advances of student capability in just over 5 years since I finished my last Fulbright at China Foreign Affairs University. Since the 19th Party Congress just concluded today, along with heightened tension on the Korean peninsula, I have been regularly appearing on television and radio (on Korean peninsula:, on Syria:, and campus events. I was a discussant for one of the most outstanding faculty in the history of the university, Prof. Mei Renyi, who has been at Beiwai since around 1957 and is still teaching courses on U.S. foreign policy. In a few weeks, I will give a talk at a local high school and national university on American education, campus life, and classroom etiquette. Lots going on, autumn is here, and winter is quickly approaching. Will add some photos and content later, just a quick start.

Friday, March 7, 2014

In America

I spent the fall and winter of 2013 in Shenzhen, China living with my sister who moved there to work. Had a chance to visit new places like Beihai in Guangxi on the ocean (nice old town, beaches were disappointing, especially when the hurricane from the Philippines hit) and Hangzhou (beautiful West Lake and the old grand canal) at the National Day holiday. And visited some old places like Beijing, Hong Kong, Macau, and Wuhan. And I had my sabbatical leave so I was able to complete my book on the increasing use of unmanned aerial vehicles i.e. drones.

May return to China this summer and spend time in Hefei, Anhui; not far from Huang Shan/Yellow Mountain.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Leaving China

With less than one week to go before departing China Foreign Affairs University and resuming my academic duties at Cal State Sacramento, I can add a final coda to my time in Beijing. The past two months remained quite busy. I made six more appearances on CCTV Dialogue, on issues from Obama's visit to Myanmar (, violence in Israel-Palestine (, who would become the new US Secretary of State ( - I argued against Susan Rice and in favor of John Kerry, got that one right at least, Sino-Indian relations (, Sino-US relations (, and regional relations in Northeast Asia ( I also had one appearance on China Radio International regarding the US Fiscal Cliff ( Those may be my last media opportunities for quite some time. I also had the chance to publish an op-ed in a Chinese state-run newspaper regarding Sino-US relations (“Change Brings Renewed Hope for Sino-US Ties” at

I also gave my final public lecture at Nankai University in Tianjin on the South China Sea and East China Sea disputes, topics that always lead to some acrimony. The view in China is of nervousness about Japan's increased militarism. In late November i had the opportunity to visit Kyoto for the first time, my fifth trip to Japan but first to Osaka and Kyoto. Kyoto is now easily in my top 5 cities in the world. What a wonderful combination on antiquity (well preserved wooden Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and imperial palaces from over a millennia ago in some cases) and modernity (excellent public transportation, glimmering shopping streets, and sparkling train station)! And Japanese people continue to rank as the most hospitable in the world, the safest and most relaxing place i have visited. So, i don't quite agree with the assertions of Japanese nationalism and militarism, but one can understand the political purposes of such rhetoric. Of course, the legacy of Japanese militarism sparks uneasiness across the region, and the tragedies of China's victimization in World War II are always part of my considerations as i have visited many sites of Japanese aggression from that time. I also had the chance to visit China's 29th province (with autonomous regions, special administrative regions, municipalities, etc. its hard to count) , Taiwan; my first trip there. Unfortunately it was the rainy season in the north at Taibei, but i enjoyed seeing the Palace Museum, the night markets, the old town of Jiufen (inspiration for Hiyazawa's Spirited Away, perhaps my friend Bekiwe can intepret the meaning of that film to me), and the rugged coastline of Yeliu. After visiting the museum, i was more impressed by the Qing dynasty, which i had always ranked as rather low. Their commitment to cultivating arts was extraordinary, though their avoidance or ignorance of the martial arts, the modern ones of artillery and armaments, left them vulnerable to outside forces that utlimately ended their reign. Even at the ebb of their power in the late 19th century, they were delegating to major officials the responsibility to design snuff bottles that would wow and overwhelm the capabilities of Western artisans to show their material and spiritual advancement. It seemed that they really believed it was a cultural competition, not a struggle for material plunder and economic hegemony over the celestial empire. Live and learn.

I also gave my final lecture at the US embassy in Beijing regarding the political transition between the election in November and the inauguration in January. I even saw one of my former CSUS students Daniel Green who is working in Beijing, and brought several of my current CFAU students. Otherwise, I am working on my academic research regarding international law and Asian politics. I am also working on a manuscript about cultural challenges between US and China on a more personal level. But time is short, and i need to carve out more time to devote myself to moving those projects forward.

I cannot quite say I am prepared to resume life in America. I look forward to driving my own car, though since its not registered currently i will have to wait some days for the California DMV to open (3 day holiday) and get through the red tape. I look forward to my soft bed at home, though must clean the place, restart all the services which is proving difficult, and restock the empty cabinets. It will be nice to share some new experiences with my classes, though i have yet to find time to make my syllabi and i do not teach my Asia class until next fall. So, at least last night i enjoyed my final visit to the Xinjiang Provincial office restaurant and devoured four large skewers of soft lamb, ate even more rack of lamb, and added on stir-fried lamb and scallions, along with some spicy vegetable dish, and ended with fresh Uyghur yogurt and pastries. and a moderately cool Yanjing beer. That is the life, all that lamb for under $50US.

I hope any readers enjoyed the blog, i left it more on my professional activities, and hope to conclude a book on my personal experiences (currently the manuscript is a messy 220 pages) maybe within a year or two. I generally avoided too many political issues, though i am ironically less critical of the governing party than many ordinary people in China. I appreciate the advancements made since i first came to China twelve years ago, and indeed the enormous progress made since 1978 in all walks of life. Governing 1.3 billion people is no easy task, and lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty is a singular historical achievement. If we compare China to other developing countries, the improvement is even more striking. If we compare it to developed countries, it lags in some indicators. And sadly in some areas progress is grinding to a halt. But in other areas dynamism is palpable, and with new subway lines criss-crossing Beijing and my recent high-speed rail journey back from Wuhan at 300km/hr, there is every reason to be optimistic about China's future. After all these public lectures, occasionally denounced, media appearances and occasional offense to the public sentiments, and touching on sensitive issues in the classroom, i can relax. And wait for my next trip back. Zaijian!! or in fact, most Chinese now say 'bye-bye'.