Sports Day was an interesting series of games and athletic events. I got my breakfast at 7am (xiaobing, tian de; a deep fried pastry with a bit of sugar) so as to catch the Opening Ceremony of the Sports Event. The Chinese National anthem was played with a small color guard, and after a quick speech by an administrator, the games could begin. I watched for an hour or so in the morning and again in the afternoon. I was most intrigued by what might be described as ‘4 people, 10 legs’. Each team has to move in unison, collectively lifting a rope to pull up the rail and swing forward with the proper leg, while maintaining balance. Obviously, the team that works together collectively the best will win ('Zuo!You!' - Left! Right!). Interestingly, since there were no foreign teams, the only observation I have is that female teams tended to better than mal teams. A feminist might suggest the cooperative nature of the female gender may play a part, and that would seem evident. Unfortunately, though it was mandatory for both grad students and undergrads, few of my own MA students competed. One explained to me that undergrads are younger and have more ‘jingsheng’, spirit/health (which I silently accepted despite the fact that virtually all grad students go straight from undergrad and are between 22-24 years of age), and the second more compelling reason was that undergrads want to beat the grad students, and implicitly the grad students don’t take it as serious, nor do they want to lose, then of course, better to not compete. They later explained that teachers (i.e. me) could have participated. Maybe next semester!
We had an interesting discussion about Occupy Wall Street with another sociology professor from Fordham and a Syracuse University Occupy Campus student (both by phone from New York).[http://english.cri.cn/8706/2011/10/18/2861s663255.htm] In the end, I am/was rather skeptical of the social or political importance of the protests, but the Chinese media is certainly enjoying the unrest elsewhere. Most of the media (especially the English language media I can read, but all sorts it seems) are concerned about the national morals after the latest incident where Samaritans chose to be bad (not sure of the biblical story, or even if its biblical, if there can be a bad Samaritan, maybe they were all good). A young girl in Guangdong (Yue Yue was her name), child of some street vendors, was hit by a van and then run over by a truck and then ignored by 18 others (according to surveillance cameras, which have become ubiquitous) as she lie bleeding in the alley until a street woman that collects recycled cans and bottles moved her to the side. Legislation has been introduced to criminalize not coming to the aid of an injured person (worked on the Seinfeld 4 in the final episode), though public opinion (on the internet particularly) is divided on whether the street lady was simply a publicity hound (seems unlikely, though she has received a lot of criticism for the motives of her good deed), and the character of the broader population in being so callous. Attention is now turning to the parents lack of oversight, which then goes to the question of the challenges in Chinese society as a migrant laborer working endless hours and with no time to even watch their (perhaps) only child. It is certainly a tragedy, and very sad, though the girl has thus far survived (i guess she has not after checking today's news).
Otherwise, I continue to meet grad students and professionals from far flung places, particularly some interesting students from Central Asia (Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in particular) and Mongolia, but also Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Seychelles, and so forth. China is launching its own soft power campaign to build a better understanding of China’s ‘peaceful rise’ to those who had yet to hear. It is something unique about my university, with visiting diplomats and officials passing through for short or medium term visits. Soon, I will embark on my series of lectures at other universities on topics like US-China relations, US foreign policy, and the US presidential campaign. First up are some universities here in town, at Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing University of Chemical Technology, and Beijing Institute of Technology, before my first outside lecture in the south at Wuhan University.