The New Frontier

January 22, 2010

This is a post titled The New Frontier (新边疆) from the blog Trough-side History (槽边往事).

The New Frontier

Author: Trough-side History (槽边往事)
Translator: craigjb
Translation Editor: gregorus

Published on January 13, 2010

Everyone must know about this Google thing by now. Before, Google would always abruptly die, and be silently unreachable.  This time, for better or worse, there’s a death certificate, letting everyone know what happened. So, I’m not going to write something melodramatic, I’m going to write about something different that I’ve been thinking about:

What is it, after all, that has changed our lives?  Is it as sociologists say, that it all starts with changes in people’s way of thinking? Or are the hard scientists right that everything starts with technological and scientific breakthroughs and innovations? Or is it actually just as old Marx said: that all change is contained in the means of production? I, for one, think it’s commerce; only commerce can write the check that changes lives.  Take for example the Taobao website; it lets people support themselves and lead a decent life without relying on the shelter of a support system or possessing exceptional talent. When many people start relying on this sort of business model as their main source of income and providing services to wider groups of people, I think that everyone’s life changes, both sellers and buyers, and it’s hard to go back.

In commerce, goods are exchanged, and money is the medium.  To take it a bit further: what would happen if we went beyond physical goods? For example, I believe that information itself is a type of good, implying monetary value. Because information is always related to a particular duration of time–that is, information and time are interchangable–people are willing to buy time with money. Aren’t they?
Isn’t the reason why so many people are willing to buy “items” in online games because they want to save the time of leveling up and making money? Isn’t the reason why everyone loves using online maps
because it saves you a phone call and is quicker? Not to mention online dating sites; many people have money but don’t have an occasion to meet people of the opposite sex.  They just want to pay money for a membership; the site saves you the small talk and time it takes to find someone to connect with.

Looking at it this way, information is indeed a good. Since it’s a good, it’s on the market, and people engage in trading it, and so certain rules must be followed. It’s easy to infer that this market would best follow free market rules: abundant competition and prices adjusted automatically by demand. If this market followed no rules at all, what would the result be? Similarly, in an unfair, unjust, un-transparent market environment, the price for a piece of information or a type of information might be raised, and the quality of service lowered, but you would still have the opportunity to use it. If other companies tried to enter the market and provide a better service, they would be forced out by some unforeseen tactic.  Or else this type of company would simply never be allowed to enter the market.

When these sorts of circumstances appear, it implies the existence of a conflict of interest, the existence of the problem of what sort of rules to use to operate this sort of commerce. Clearly, a non-market
environment obstructs this sort of commercial model, and influences the production and distribution of profit. Now, let’s imagine an Internet company called, say, www.xyz.com, which provides a service which all of mankind can consume. This additionally means that the entire world is its market and each person in it a potential customer. If one country completely disallows www.xyz.com from providing its service, and instead provides a replacement www.abc.com service, this is unfair competition, implying that xyz company undergoes a great loss because of this, because it is unable to serve a large part of its potential users. [The citizens of the country also undergo great loss because they cannot take advantage of xyz.com’s possibly superior service.]

In ancient Rome, the imperial army guarded the roads to Rome, preventing the barbarians from invading and cutting off the routes of trade. Where soldiers were stationed was the empire’s frontier. Today, with the appearance and popularity of the Internet World, national borders are no longer the border lines of geography–they have become very blurry. Wherever commerce reaches is the new frontier. Similarly, as the profit produced by the Internet grows, information has become like the goods transported by Roman merchants, and the point of dispute is no longer limited to trade roads, it’s concentrated in how to protect free flow on the information superhighway, how to get rid of its “mountain passes.”  Only with free flow of information will the profit sources never stop producing.

This is the situation we’re currently facing. The first and second world wars were fought over territory, resources, and population, with each country vying for a vaster domain. Today these things don’t have
much meaning, and what people are fighting over is the right to control and guide the information superhighway, the new frontiers of the Internet World. In this fight, there will be no gunpowder smoke, no battlefield; capital and technology will take the floor, determining the final right to control. And again, it will probably be hard to bear those who decide to circle a piece of land for themselves, putting up a sign saying “restricted area.”

So, I say I believe commerce will change lives. People will change the world in the pursuit of profit. We will see more and more conflicts on the new frontier, and the power of capital and technology will be victorious with the help of the market. In this sense, I won’t [quietly say goodbye].

—–

1 Response(s) to The New Frontier

poster: xiaoxixi (“information-tion” / “laugh-he-he”)

I’ve always liked Google, but in this country google sometimes isn’t as useful as baidu. What is the reason for this? Maybe it’s just because google isn’t accustomed to the climate, in the mystical land of China, there are too many things that [they] can’t understand, but people living there are already used to such strangeness. Is google really going to [翻强]? Then I really don’t want to go back behind the tall wall, if even searching has to be [翻强], then what fun is it to go online

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Warm and sweet-smelling

March 31, 2009

Here’s my translation of a satirical post titled Warm and Sweet Smelling (香喷喷,暖洋洋) from agall1982’s blog Nonsense (扯淡). Once I finished the article, I realized that I don’t really get it…maybe I’m missing something.

Warm and sweet-smelling

One day, an old farmer was working out in the fields. He felt sick from something he had eaten that morning, so he squatted down to relieve himself. A group of county officials who happened to be visiting the countryside that day saw him.

The county head Mr. Zhang came over and squatted next to him, considerately asking about his life and health. Mr. Zhang stroked a large ear of wheat as he said to the farmer, “The holiday season is almost here. Season’s greetings on behalf of the party and government.” The farmer happily responded, “I’m grateful for the party and government’s concern. Under the care of the various levels of leadership, my life and productivity have both been regular, as have my bowel movements; the party has no need for concern.” Hearing this response from the farmer, Mr. Zhang happily noted that farmers are the people and the party’s precious riches, that farmers make an outstanding contribution to the party and the country, and that now they wanted to share the results of the country’s development and liberalization with the farmers.

Mr. Zhang noticed that the stuff under the farmer’s bum was very watery. Mr. Zhang’s face became serious, and when he heard that the farmer had had watery bowels the day before too, his eyes filled with tears. Mr. Zhang said, with deep affection: “After hearing this sad news, I won’t be able to think about tea or food for days.”

He turned around and asked a member of his entourage, “Why are our farmers’ bowel movements so watery?” The officials all lowered their heads and thought hard. Mr. Zhang gravely instructed them, “We must keep a close lookout inside and outside our county for hostile forces taking advantage of the farmers’ watery poop situation to infiltrate and destroy their peasant ranks, and make every effort to protect the harmony and stability of their ranks and of greater society.”

After Mr. Zhang’s patient instruction, the mental knot that had perplexed the other officials for years finally came untied, and splendid smiles came across their faces. One after another, they declared that they would keep Mr. Zhang’s words firmly in mind, would practice an untiring, tenacious work ethic, and would devote themselves to ensuring that the farmers have dry bowel movements.

Mr. Zhang nodded his head, satisfied.

At the same time, a smile was also coming across the farmer’s swarthy face. He said he couldn’t be happier, but at the moment didn’t know how he could repay the government and society. “I’ll think about it for a while, and also want to write a letter thanking the Party Central Committee, but haven’t figured out what to write yet.” He rubbed his bum with an unassuming laugh.

Everyone had a good chuckle.

Happiness never lasts. With the joyous holiday atmosphere and his busy work schedule, Mr. Zhang was forced to end his visit of greeting and inspection of the old farmer. But Mr. Zhang’s cordial smile and warm words lingered in the fields like hot steamed buns just off the stove, warm and sweet-smelling.

March 31, 2009

I’ve translated a post from Wang Xiaofeng’s blog “Mental Associations Not Allowed” (不许联想). It talks about the proposed mandatory real-name registration for blogs in China.

The paradox of real-name blogging

Author: Wang Xiaofeng

Source: Mental Associations Not Allowed [blog name]

 

A bunch of people with nothing better to do are getting ready to institute mandatory real-name registration for blogging.

China is said to have about 17.5 million blogs. Because insults, verbal abuse, slander and even fraud are often found on blogs, the department concerned has decided to implement a real-name system. This will put an end to the problems.

This logic trumps Hagel.

I don’t know what’s wrong with the person’s brain who thought of this, trying to solve the problem of bad speech on blogs with a real-name system—it’s straight out of Grimm’s fairy tails. Insults and abuse didn’t just appear because of the Internet, and especially not just because of blogs. Slander appeared at about the same time as written language, and fraud is an even older crime; they can’t possibly be connected to a computer network. Could a real-name system possibly resolve the problems listed above? If so, wouldn’t it be like that joke where if you can get full from eating eight bāozi, then why should you eat the first seven?

Sure, if real-name blogging was implemented there would be less filthy speech on the ‘net. On this blog for example, I get insulted alot. With a real-name system, if you do it again, I can figure out behind the scenes that you were the asshole doing it. There would be less shots in the dark from behind, and gradually less trolls saying that you suck if you delete their insulting comments.

Even so, I’d rather endure the ‘net’s noxious atmosphere than a real-name system. Being uncivilized is one of the Internet’s characteristics, just like people from Beijing are uncivilized [translator understands this as tongue-in-cheek]. You can’t prove that people from Beijing are civilized just because they pretended to be civilized for the Olympics, it’s just not reality. You can’t prove that Chinese people are civilized just because the real-name system makes the Internet civilized, or you’re just fooling yourself and others. Rather than seeing the web become happy and civilized, I’d like to see its noxious atmosphere; that’s the best way for me to understand the reality of China. There are dumb fucks everywhere, especially on the Internet. You can’t prove they aren’t there just because they aren’t saying uncivilized things.

Do blogs really infringe on people’s right to privacy? They do, but you have to look at how many do out of 17.5 million blogs. It doesn’t seem like many to me; if it was 1%, society would be a mess. You can’t say that all blogs infringe on privacy rights just because a few do. Xinlang Networks’ celebrity blogs have a real-name system, and don’t they often have rights infringement problems? Besides, anonymous blogging actually does value and protect the right to privacy. Some people like sharing their inner thoughts without letting their relatives, coworkers, and friends know—is that any of your business? If you make people use their real name, they won’t have any right to complain, to let out their inner thoughts; this silently tramples people’s right to privacy. Laws and rules must be in the interest of the majority, or else they go against common sense.

Chinese people are how they are. What is expressed through the web is also real. Civilized culture comes gradually, and just relying on the constraints set by a few idiots is following the same logic as an ostrich hiding its head in the sand when it meets danger.

Some people are worried that “Beijing cursing” will be brought into the arena during the Olympics. I don’t think there’s any need to worry. “Beijing cursing” will show up in places where people like to be lewd. For example in the finals, it will never be eliminated, even if the 50,000 spectators all have doctorates, are all government officials, or are all parade guards with the highest sense of honor and humility—there will be cursing. That’s the culture of the playing field. It’s a way of venting, an authentic expression of culture and human nature. Even more so, this is a ceremony; given this premise, people will adjust their mentality to this “frequency”. It’s a ceremony of pleasureful fantasy for all of Beijing, even for the whole country. During that half month, nobody will be more mighty and proud than the Chinese people, so there will be no need for venting through swearing. Just watch, when the time comes people will be holding the old by the arm and the young by the hand, being nothing but civilized and polite, and we’ll hear charming tales of two people missing the bus twelve times because they were trying to let the other person get on first. All of the people of Beijing will metamorphosize into Lei Feng [a youth canonized in 1963 as a model of self-sacrifice]. But as soon as the Olympics are over, the ceremonious feeling will be gone, and the next day the people of Beijing will go back to their swearing just like before the opening ceremony.

So, if a real-name system is put in place for blogs and forums, swearing will still happen where it’s deserved. If someone wants to call you a “mother fucker” I don’t think you can lock them up for half a year, and if you do how much space will China need to lock them up? If you do, where will you lock up corrupt officials? Besides, what can you do to someone if they swear? You’ll know where they work, but they can’t really get fired for cursing someone in public. The worst part is, with a real-name system, how do you verify the person’s identity? Would you have to enter your ID number every time? Your cell phone number? You try to protect people’s private information, but who will be responsible if this information is leaked? There’s another problem: in reality, alot of people have the same name, for example Wang Gang, Li Qiang, Zhang Ming. To verify these people’s names, would you have the first one register as Li Qiang, the second as Li Qiangqiang, the third as Li Qiangqiangqiang? How many studderers would we have to train in China? Can you imagine the 50,000th Li Qiang: “Fuck, I’ve got to enter the character “qiang” 50,000 times, by the time I’m done the site will be closed!” Of course this example is somewhat exaggerated, but I think that there would be more problems with a real-name system than the anonymous system. Then the department concerned will throw in some money, fill in the hole some more, and the cost to society will mount up like toy blocks. It’s just like if radiation increased because you had too many appliances in your home, so you buy an anti-radiation device, but the anti-radiation device’s power consumption is too high, so you you buy a device to reduce the anti-radiation device’s power consumption, but that device gets dust stuck in it really easily, so you buy a dust-cleaning tool, but this tool needs a special cleaning formula, so you have to buy a bottle of it, but the cleaning formula is dangerous to your skin, so you have to buy a skin-protecting product, but this product wastes alot of natural resources, resulting in an unbalanced ecology…when people are being stupid they always like to make up new inventions.

 

What is the use of the real-name system, then? Of course it has a use. Old drunks don’t drink for the alcohol. It’s not at all intended to fix uncivilized conduct on the web. So what do you think, is it intended to fix some problem? Or is it intended to fix some other problem? What problem is it intended to fix?

 

My first translation is from A Basket of Nonsense’s blog (废话一筐杂感:入乡随俗 美国华人裸而不淫也爱天体营 for the original article). It is about a Chinese-American’s experience at a nudist beach in California.

When in Rome: Chinese Americans Get Nude but Not Lewd, and Like Nudist Camps Too

Random Thoughts from A Basket of Nonsense

Humans have natural qualities and societal qualities. For example, nudity is one of our natural qualities, but where you can and can’t be naked is a societal matter. Human civilization is actually built on the balance between these natural and societal qualities.

In human history, there was a period that emphasized societal qualities to the extreme. When Confucius talked about practicing self-restraint and returning to rites, for example, he hoped that nature would yield to society. Zhū Xī 朱熹 (1130-1200AD) said “preserve Nature’s law; extinguish human desires”, thus putting nature and society in direct opposition. Because it completely opposes man’s natural qualities, it can be said that the Confucian idealist philosophy of the Sòng (960-1279) and Míng (1368-1644) lacks human nature. This is also the greatest flaw that was ever passed on to modern Chinese culture!

In modern times, the development of global civilization has always carried the flag of liberating human nature. This so-called liberation of human nature is actually the liberation of man’s natural qualities. To put it simply, these natural qualities have an objective existence, and are indifferent to good and evil. Societal qualities must give these natural qualities ample space to express themselves, and must not inhibit them. During the Renaissance, artists painted nudes, wrote about sexual desire, and advocated sexual liberation. This naturally clashed with the religious regulations of that period’s mainstream society. Still, man is a social animal, and it seems that human nature unrestrained by social rules is not easily accepted by society. Thus the balance between natural and social qualities has become a fundamental issue for modern civilization.

There’s no need to reduplicate a large amount of research, since previous results from human civilization already contain a great amount of research from other countries. Among this research is one of the most significant achievements: the development of the notion of human rights. Unfortunately, to this day China still rejects this notion. From the late Qīng (1644–1911) until the present, all of the misfortunes of the Chinese people can be attributed to the lack of a notion of human rights.

If you want to talk about what progress China has made the last 30 years, look at how much the Chinese people’s natural qualities have progressed. They have made the first steps towards the freedom to choose their way of life, and developed even more of a demand to continuously expand these types of freedom. However, such advances are due to the liberation of nature, not encouragement from mainstream society’s morals. In fact, mainstream society still resists this sort of change, which is why China is still not a modern society.

When in Rome: Chinese Americans Get Nude but not Lewd, and Like Nudist Camps Too

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Many Chinese discuss assimilation when they come to America. A few faster-paced Chinese are not only able to accept Western culture in the traditional sense, but eventually come to accept what many Westerners themselves don’t even accept as traditional Western culture, such as nudist camps. Chinese people who have experienced nudist camps say that nudity is not lewd, and can alter your perspective. A few days ago, this overseas reporter paid a visit to a nudist camp in southern California.

(picture: widely known by nudists as Black’s Beach, San Diego) 

Reporter accepts Chinese-American friend’s invitation to experience nude fun

Last Sunday, this reporter accepted an invitation from Mr. Yang, a Chinese-American friend, to participate in an open house at the Corona Club in Corona, California. The Corona Club is a private club established by a group of “naturalists” with the purpose of “being nude without being sexual” and “returning to nature.”

At first, Mr. Yang had gone to the club out of curiosity with his white girlfriend. As a conservative Oriental, he initially rejected viewing people nude in a public situation, let alone participating himself. But the club’s goal of “nudity without sexuality and returning to nature” changed his mind. “Even though everyone there is nude, you can just tell from everyone’s expression and mentality—nobody has “dirty” or “obscene” written across their face, people are talking and laughing. It doesn’t feel any different from having clothes on.”

Mr. Yang told me that in the summer, every weekend is an open house. Normally only members can participate, but during open houses, non-members can participate too, and don’t have to take their clothes off.

After Mr. Yang’s introduction, this reporter’s misgivings were dispelled, and we continued down the road in our car. After travelling for awhile, we arrived at the Corona Club on Route 15.

It’s an extremely secluded spot, with no nearby residents or businesses. Towering mountains surround a dense forest, and in the center of this forest is the home of the “naturalists”.

After a strict registration process, the iron gate slowly opened and we entered the parking lot.

Soon after entering the gate, this reporter was astonished to see a naked staff member. A strong signal was instantly transmitted to my brain: “You’ve stepped into the land of nudity.”

Stepping aboard the four-person tour vehicle, I started a “voyage of exploration” in this mysterious land. Whether by chance, by fortune, or by plan, the tour guide sitting right next to me happened to be a nude, middle-aged woman. She pointed out every facility and landscape along our route: winding mountain paths leading to secluded places, libraries set beneath the shade of trees, row after row of campers there for the holidays, tennis courts for fun and fitness, an indoor and outdoor pool, a gym, a dance hall, a café, a park for pets, places for musical performances; nude people everywhere we went, men, women, old and young.

Our tourist guide told us that the Corona Club started in 1963. It’s a non-profit organization created with the goal of providing a place for “naturalists” to “return to nature”. “When you’re here you’ll feel more intimate with nature, your mind and body will be relaxed, you’ll forget about your worries and return to yourself,” she said. “Didn’t the famous painter Van Gogh say the human body is the most beautiful thing on Earth, and the most beautiful human body is a woman’s body? Here we can appreciate the most beautiful thing on Earth together.”

There are Chinese who believe in naturalism here, too

This reporter noticed that white Americans weren’t the only ones at the Corona Club who believe in naturalism. There are plenty of Chinese and other ethnicities. I took this opportunity to listen in on what some of these Chinese-Americans had to say about the Corona Club.

26-year-old Mrs. Chen sat stark naked sunbathing in her lounge chair as she chatted with her white husband: “At first it was like he he had brought me into a gang of criminals, ha ha, but after awhile I realized that this place isn’t obscene, it’s completely different from the nudist camps on video tapes. Although everyone here is nude, it’s completely against the rules to engage in any kind of sexual behavior in a public area. The people who come here only have one goal: to return to nature, forget the pressure and troubles of their everyday work, get rid of the false façades between people doing business, breathe fresh air in the beautiful great out-doors and experience their own mind with the chirping birds and whooshing wind.”

Her husband stepped in, commenting in Chinese: “This is why grandparents, parents, and children can be here together without the slightest feeling of violating natural laws; men and women who are not in a relationship can have fun together withought the slightest feeling of being lewd. The problem isn’t nudity, it’s in your frame of mind, how you look at the nude bodies around you, whether you look at them like Van Gogh admiring art, or in a vulgar, obscene way.”

This reporter adopted an æsthetic mentality, and from the family happiness of a 13-year-old girl having a diving contest with her dad, set off to experience the true meaning of “returning to nature”.

As this reporter’s companion Mr. Yang expressed, though he had already broken up for some reason or another with his white girlfriend from back then, he had come to like this club, and had already become a member. “I come here every year with my notebook computer, writing programs as I sunbathe. You know what? That feeling of relaxed body and mind greatly inspires your creativity.

Chinese go from seeing the “fruit” to tasting it themselves

Among the hundreds of “naturalists” who meet at Area #6 in San Onofre’s state-run beach park, the “nude beach”, there is no lack of Asians and Chinese.

A few descendants of Confucians who once saw “nudity” as “obscenity” lay bare their growing tolerence, as well as their own assimilation of Western customs.

Mr. Duan is a Chinese American bringing his wife to this nudist beach for the second time. Last time he was invited here by a white friend. At first his wife refused to come, thinking it harmful to public morals, but she was also afraid that if he went alone her husband would get carried away with himself, and so she decided to come along.

That time neither husband nor wife dared to “do as the Romans do”. Fortunately you’re never forced to be naked here, everything is at your own will. And so the two of them “enjoyed the peep show”, though they were on edge the whole time.

“After coming back that time, we had an intense discussion. The topic was whether nudity is obscene, or just a manifestation of returning to nature. I remember once in philosophy class, the teacher brought up an example from Marx in which someone wearing clothes arrived in a nudist area in France and was seen as strange by the locals. This illustrated that objective reality determines subjective mentality. In the nudist world, the behavior of wearing clothes, which is seen as civilized by normal people, is instead seen in another way. This example finally convinced my wife, and so we came back here.”

Mr. Duan’s wife sighed as she sunbathed, “Last time we just saw the fruit, but this time we wanted to see what it tastes like. You need to try everything once, see the world from different angles, before you can have a complete picture of life, instead of just being a ‘blind person feeling an elephant’s trunk’; see life as a fan, or an enclosing wall, or a whip, or a post. Life is actually the combination of these different images, and from just one side, you can’t completely understand the meaning of life.”

Nudity accepted, even when right and wrong aren’t clearcut

Nudity, seen as obscene by most Orientals, is interpreted differntly in the western world.

Jimmy Jo, a 59 year old “naturalist”, believes that lewdness is but an image of the mind, in that what you see is what is in your own mind. If you see “obscene” people, it’s actually your own mind that’s dirty.

The same with nudity in a doctor’s eyes—it’s just physiology. In an artist’s eyes, it’s just art. And in a scoundrel’s eyes, it becomes an object of lust.

As Jimmy points out, the key is what kind of attitude you view “nudity” with. People with a devious attitude will “see through” your underwear with their imagination even if you’re wearing clothes on the outside.

“Look at the nude men and women playing voleyball on the beach. Do any of them have a physical reaction to being together nude? No. Why? Because there is no obscenity in their hearts, they only feel the joy of ‘returning to nature’. Only if you have obscenity in your heart will you become aroused when you see a nude person of the opposite sex.”

The Chinese-American tourist Mr. Duan expressed that as a Chinese person influenced by Confucian thought, for awhile he was unable to figure out the right and wrong of nudity, but that doesn’t keep him from temporarily taking it as a social phenomenon. People come out naked, and leave that way; it’s fine when you’re at home, and in front of your husband or wife; so why not on the beach?

Hello world!

March 25, 2009

Hello World! Welcome to my blog. I’m going to post translations in English from the Chinese blogosphere for my own enjoyment and practice. I also run an English-Chinese language exchange forum. I would’ve posted the translations there, but don’t want to get that site banned in China. I welcome your comments and criticism on my translations!