Archive for the ‘China’ category


Twitter pushes the near future to look more bipolar than multipolar

01.11.2022

Dave Troy’s analysis of the Elon Musk takeover of Twitter makes for interesting reading, since Troy has actually spoken to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and has a bit more of the inside track than most.

For starters, Troy reminds us that Dorsey trusts Musk, in order to keep Twitter away from Wall Street investors. Dorsey has said this publicly in a Tweet. He believes this acquisition is about ideology, so Musk doesn’t care if Twitter doesn’t make money—or at least, money will come if the technology is opened up and they can charge for other things built on top of it. Getting data on all of us helps Musk in a big way, too.

Troy posits that Musk believes we need to be on other planets, so we shouldn’t help the poor in our quest to get off this rock; but another interesting one is that he believes in a multipolar world order, something Vladimir Putin has talked about. Musk believes in rule by technocracy, Troy theorizes, not by politics. He also believes Musk is a sociopath.

All this is quite fascinating to read. Taking Troy’s words on Putin, Musk and Dorsey sharing the same vision:

All seem to think a “multipolar world” is a good thing, because after all, shouldn’t Russia get to do its thing and not be bothered by anyone else? That’s “free speech” and opposes “cancel culture,” right? So yeah, that’s aligned with Putin. But Putin himself doesn’t support free speech; his government censors wildly, but it does support speech that breaks the hegemony of the Western elites. As do Musk and friends. This is internally inconsistent.

Because of these shared values, Troy foresees Musk teaming up with D. J. Trump at Truth Social and Kanye West at Parler to control the information space.

It points to a pretty dark outcome and a polarizing world, but one which has been brewing for a long time.

We could talk about the failure of neoliberal economics and, therefore, the western hegemony. With all the figure-massaging by China when it reports its GDP, there’s still no denying that the country has risen vastly in mere decades. And Putin has said as much about wanting to fight back against western hegemony.

It’s incredibly easy to fall back on “them and us” as a concept. Dictators might find it easier to make their positions official (even if there is internal dissent that is driven underground), while the west can broadly talk about diversity while not truly breaking ranks with the neoliberal order. Our Blairite government here is positioned as such while having a social veneer (and a modicum of restraint) based on history and market positioning, while the Opposition will make things that much harder and is more blatant at wanting to do so.

I would have once said China had the potential to be an outlier, raising its educational standards and embracing Confucianism, which has its foundations in free thought and liberalism, balanced with preserving a relationship between state and subject. Perhaps with Hu and Wen things could have gone that way. Under Xi Jinping the aims have changed, and at least one China-watcher I know (who knew Xi’s father and knew of Xi from 1982) tell me that they foresaw this.

I’m not going to make any bold predictions myself, but the world looks like a place that won’t become multipolar but bipolar, and Twitter is one tool that is going to accelerate this trend—building on top of what Facebook and Google have already done by forcing users into silos. Meanwhile, Baidu et al will no doubt reflect the official positions of their governments.

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China in 2022: speak Cantonese, get banned from social media

08.10.2022

If you think some of us were being uppity about New Zealand Chinese Language Week, how’s this for a real-life report?

Speak Cantonese, get banned from a social media platform.

That’s what’s happening in China right now. And I had already mentioned schoolchildren being told off for using their reo.

The Google Translate translation is actually pretty good for a change, if you can’t read Chinese.

And here we are in New Zealand, kowtowing (derived from a Cantonese word, incidentally) to the Chinese Communist Party with its policy.
 

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New Zealand Chinese Language Week reviewed—in Cantonese

02.10.2022

My friend Bevan was going to make a podcast in Cantonese for New Zealand Chinese Language Week, and I decided I would record a few tidbits—except it wound up being something far longer and a podcast episode in its own right. So here it is, all 13-plus minutes of it. If this isn’t your language, please feel free to skip this one!
 

 
PS.: Here’s Bevan’s!
 

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The Detail on New Zealand Chinese Language Week

30.09.2022

Thank you, Alexia Russell and Radio New Zealand, for giving voice to our concerns about New Zealand Chinese Language Week. You can listen to the episode of The Detail here.

As they tagged Jo (chair of the NZCLW Trust), I decided I would get in touch via Twitter reply. This also addresses one of the points she makes in her side of the story.

I realize the Reformation was way further back than 1949 but you never know. One hopes that when you explain something in the receiver’s terms, they might get you more.

Massive thanks to everyone who gave me some great talking points for this interview—all I did was give them voice.

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New Zealand Chinese Language Week: a podcast entry

29.09.2022

As we come to the conclusion of New Zealand Chinese Language Week, a review about how inappropriate it was by being the very opposite of inclusive, for those who’d prefer to sit back and listen rather than read one of my blog posts.
 

 

You’ll likely catch me on RNZ’s The Detail on Friday, September 30 (PS.: uploaded this morning here). The AM Show changed its mind, so you won’t see me ‘come home to the feeling’ on TV3.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, New Zealand, politics | 2 Comments »


In one poem: Chris Tse on Chinese Language Week

26.09.2022

This is why poet laureate Chris Tse is awesome.

The Tweets that follow are must-reads, too, including:

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The reality of Chinese Language Week for many Chinese New Zealanders

25.09.2022

‘Chinese Language Week’ has rolled around again, and if you look on Twitter, there are plenty of Chinese New Zealanders (myself included) and our allies miffed about this. And we get the usual trolls come by.

First up, it’s not Chinese Language Week. It’s Mandarin Language Week. I have no problem with the promotion of Mandarin as long as that’s what it’s called. But to promote it as being representative of all Chinese people here is ridiculous and encouraging randoms to come up to us with ‘ni hao’ is tiresome. Thirty-six per cent of us might be OK with it, sure. But not the rest. (To Stuff’s credit, probably because it doesn’t promote a Chinese person as a force in politics, and because it now actually has reporters of colour, this is a great opinion piece from a fellow Chinese New Zealander.)

To me, Mandarin is unintelligible with maybe the exception of five per cent of it. When I watch Mandarin TV, I can catch ‘呢個’. If I’m immersed in it, it might creep up to 10 per cent after a fortnight, but that’s with the context of seeing the situation in which it’s used. It is—and I’ve used this analogy before—like speaking Danish to an Italian. Some Italians will get it because they’ve figured out the connections going back to proto-European, but others’ eyes will just glaze over.

If you’re someone who claims that we appreciate a Mandarin greeting, try saying ‘Καλημέρα’ to a Norwegian. Yeah, you’d look multilingual but we’d just think you were confused—at best.

This is a country that supposedly apologized for the racist Poll Tax, but, as my friend Bevan points out:

And Richard said around the same time:

Some initiatives have taken place, which is awesome:

But it’s clear that we need to organize something to counter a hegemonic desire to wipe out our culture and language. This is why so many Chinese get what Māori go through.

The first Chinese New Zealanders came from the south, and were Cantonese speakers, likely with another language or dialect from their villages. Cantonese was the principal Chinese tongue spoken here, so if there’s to be any government funding to preserve culture, and honour those who had to pay the Poll Tax, then that’s where efforts should go—along with the other languages spoken by the early Chinese settlers.
 
The trolls have been interesting, because they’re copying and pasting from the same one-page leaflet that their propaganda department gave them when websites opened up to comments 20 years ago.

In the 2000s, I criticized BYD for copying pretty much an entire car on this blog, when it was run on Blogger. BYD even retouched Toyota’s publicity photos—it was that obvious. The car colour even stayed the same.
 


Above: The Toyota Aygo and BYD’s later publicity photo for its F1, later called the F0 when produced. The trolls didn’t like getting called out.
 

Either CCP or BYD trolls came by. The attack line, if I recall correctly, was that I was a sycophant for the foreigners and anti-Chinese.

No, kids, it’s anti-Chinese to think that we can’t do better than copying a Toyota.

Nowadays even the mainland Chinese press will slam a car company for this level of copying. Zotye and others have had fingers pointed at them. BYD’s largely stopped doing it.

The trolls this time have been the same. The comments are so familiar, you’d think that it was coordinated. Dr Catherine Churchman pointed out that one of her trolls repeated another one verbatim.

All this points to is a lack of strength, and a lack of intelligence, on the part of the trolls, with uppity behaviour that actually doesn’t exist in real life. ‘I’m so offended over something I have no comprehension over.’

The fact remains that those advocating for Cantonese, Taishanese, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, and all manner of Chinese languages love our Mandarin-speaking whānau. In many cases, we feel a kinship with them. The trolls are probably not even based here, and have no idea of the cultural issues at stake. Or the fact they already have three TV networks speaking their language.

Is it so hard for them to accept the fact some of us choose to stand up to hegemony and insensitivity, and want to honour our forebears? Are they anti-Chinese?
 
For further reading, Nigel Murphy’s ‘A Brief History of the Chinese Language in New Zealand’ is instructive, if people really want to know and engage in something constructive. It’s on the Chinese Language Week website, who evidently see no irony in hosting it.

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Testing the search engines: Bing likes antiquity; most favour HTML over PHP

21.09.2022

Bing is spidering new pages, as long as they’re very, very old.

Last week, we added a handful of Lucire pages from 1998 and 1999. An explanation is given here. And I’ve spotted at least two of those among Bing’s results when I do a site:lucire.com search.

As a couple of newer pages have also shown up, I doubt there’s any issue with the template; and the home page now also appears, too. But, by and large, Bing is Microsoft’s own Wayback Machine, and most of the Lucire results are from the 1990s and early 2000s.

It got me thinking: do the other search engines do this, too? For years, Google grandfathered older pages and they came up earlier. (Meanwhile, searches for my own name still have this site, and the company site, down, having lost first and second when we switched from HTTP to HTTPS in March. Contrary to expert opinion, you don’t recover, at least not quickly.)

As Lucire includes the date of the article in the URL, this should be an easy investigation. We’ll only do the first 50 results as that’s all Bing’s capable of. I’ll try not to include any repeat results out of fairness. ‘Contents’ pages’ include the home page, the Lucire TV and Lucire print shopping pages, and tag and category pages.
 
Bing
Contents’ pages ★★★
1997
1998
1999 ★★★★
2000 ★
2001 ★★★★★★★★
2002 ★★
2003 ★★★
2004 ★★★★
2005 ★★
2006
2007 ★★★
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018 ★
2019 ★
2020
2021
2022
 
Google
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★★★★★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002 ★★
2003
2004 ★★
2005
2006
2007 ★
2008
2009
2010 ★
2011 ★★★
2012 ★
2013 ★★
2014 ★★★
2015 ★
2016 ★★
2017 ★
2018 ★★★
2019 ★★★
2020 ★★★★★★★
2021 ★
2022 ★★★★
 
Mojeek
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004 ★
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009 ★
2010 ★★
2011 ★★
2012 ★★★
2013 ★★★★
2014 ★★★
2015 ★★★★★
2016 ★★★★★★★
2017 ★★★★★★
2018 ★★★
2019 ★★★★
2020 ★★★
2021
2022
 
Baidu
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018 ★
2019 ★
2020
2021 ★★★
2022 ★
 
Yandex
Contents’ pages ★★★★★
1997
1998
1999 ★★★★★
2000 ★★★★★★
2001 ★★★
2002 ★★★
2003 ★★★
2004 ★
2005
2006
2007 ★★★★
2008 ★★
2009 ★★
2010 ★★★★
2011 ★★★
2012 ★★
2013 ★
2014 ★★
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020 ★★★
2021 ★
2022
 

To me, that was fascinating. My instincts weren’t wrong with Bing: it’s old and it favours the old (two of the restored articles were indexed). From the first 50 results, 18 results were repeats—that’s 36 per cent. I’m of the mind that Bing is so shot that it can only index old pages that don’t take up much space. New ones have a lot more data to them, generally.

Google does a good job with the top-level and second-level contents’ pages, though there were a few strange tag indices. But the distribution is what you’d expect: people would search for more recent stories. I know we had some popular stories from 2002 that still get hit a lot.

Mojeek has a similar distribution, though it should be noted that you can’t do a blanket site: search. There must be a keyword, and in this case it’s Lucire. The 2016 pages form the mode, which I don’t have a huge problem with; it’s better than the 2001 pages, which Bing has over everything else.

Baidu’s one is crazy as individual stories are seldom spat out in the first five pages, the search engine preferring tag indices, though half a dozen later story pages do make it into its top 50.

Finally, Yandex leans toward older pages, too, including our most popular 2002 piece. It’s the 2000 stories it has the most of among the top 50, and there’s a strange empty period between 2015 and 2019. But at least there is a fairer distribution than Bing can muster.

The other query that I had was whether these search engines were biasing their results toward HTML pages, rather than PHP ones. If that’s the case, then it could explain Bing’s preference for the old stuff (Lucire didn’t have PHP pages till 2008; prior to that it was all laboriously hand-coded, albeit within templates.)
 
Bing
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★ PHP
 
Google
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Mojeek
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Baidu
★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Yandex
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★ PHP
 

I think we can safely say there’s a preference for HTML over PHP. Mojeek brings up a lot of HTML pages after the top 50, even though this sample shows the split isn’t as severe.

Our PHP pages are less significant though: they contain news stories, and these are often ones other media covered, too. But I would have thought some of the more popular stories would have made the cut, and here it’s Mojeek’s distribution that looks superior to the others’. It seems like it’s actually analysing the page content’s text, which is what you want a search engine to do.

Baidu’s PHP-heaviness is down to all the tag indices—rendering it not particularly helpful as a search engine.

On these two tests, Mojeek and Google rank best, and Yandex comes in third. Baidu and Bing are a distant fourth and fifth.

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Rare: an Asus product not lasting the distance; awaiting its successor

16.09.2022

I see it was only 19 months ago since I bought the Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse. A mouse that cost several times what a regular one does, claiming the switches would last 50 million clicks. It has now developed a fault, and I wouldn’t even consider myself a heavy user. I’m certainly not a gamer.

Mice seem to last shorter and shorter periods. An old Intellimouse 1.1 lasted from 2002 to 2013. Its successor (after trying badly made Logitechs) Microsoft mouse lasted from 2015 to 2020. Here is the latest lasting 19 months.

Its problem is that a single click is being recorded as two clicks, with increasing frequency. Right now, a very cheap no-name unit bought in August 2021 is the daily driver with my desktop PC, and one of the earlier ones will now have to go with my laptop. It’s reasonably comfortable because the size is (almost) right (the biggest criterion for me), it’s light, and it works. Those switches won’t last 50 million clicks and the unit feels cheaply made, but right now I need something usable, and most mice are just too small. I even saw an article testing mice for ‘large hands’, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that they are for medium hands at best.

A Delux M625 is on its way now from Aliexpress (here’s the seller’s link). I’ve never heard of the brand before, but one Tweeter who responded to me says he has tried one, and found it acceptable. What sold it? None of the features that I find useless (a rapid fire button for gaming, RGB lighting effects that you never see because your hand is on the mouse and your eyes are on the screen, high DPI up to 24,000) but three simple figures: width, length, height.

The Microsoft Intellimouse 1.1, which I have raved about for decades, measures 126 by 68·1 by 39·3 mm. A bit of height helps so I don’t mind if a mouse exceeds 40 mm.

The Delux vendor claims 130·6 by 68·9 by 42·5 mm. That sounds very comfortable to me, as width is very important (something the Asus didn’t have, with my ring finger off the body of the mouse and on to the mouse pad). The no-name could be better, too. In a few weeks, I should know.

I had been so desperate after coming up empty with local sellers I even looked on Amazon. But I couldn’t be arsed converting Imperial measurements to metric, which the majority of the world uses. Jeff’s mob can carry on abusing workers and selling to their own country.

As to the Asus, caveat emptor: it hasn’t even lasted two years reliably.

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Posted in China, design, technology | 4 Comments »


The Lucire tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

09.09.2022

I wrote the below in Lucire—even though plenty of publications have covered our monarch’s passing, it still felt right to acknowledge it. After all, she had appeared in Lucire a few times.
 
With the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday UK time, it would be remiss of this magazine to not mark this world event.

During the 25 years of Lucire, the Queen has featured several times, mostly from events that she attended. We weren’t around when she was newly crowned in her coronation gown by Norman Hartnell, and wearing the latest British fashions in her youth, a glamorous symbol of a new Elizabethan era that lifted the United Kingdom’s mood after World War II and continued rationing. But it is easy to imagine the coronation in 1953 being a dazzling, colourful event, and indeed it was covered in the likes of British Vogue at the time.

Her era has seen unprecedented change. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, she presided over an era which saw television become mainstream (a technology that she embraced with her Christmas message), many former colonies gain their independence, the dawn of the World Wide Web, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and both her country’s entry into and exit from what is now the European Union.

Much has already been said about HM the Queen’s sense of duty, and how she still read her red box’s worth of papers as head of state right to the end. On Tuesday she asked Liz Truss as the new prime minister—the Queen’s 15th, having begun with Sir Winston Churchill when she ascended to the throne—to form a government.

Here in Lucire the late Queen has attended events we happened to cover, beginning in 2008, with her last appearance at the Cartier Queen’s Cup in 2017.

I only caught a glimpse of her during a state visit to New Zealand in 2002 during her golden jubilee. It was her last visit to Aotearoa.

The visit was very subdued and HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh were whisked from the airport round the back roads of Rongotai, past the main street by Lucire’s then-HQ. I managed to photograph them as they drove by.

A neighbourhood shop had a staff member who was a diehard monarchist. I mentioned I had a photo of the royal couple and later gifted her my print. I still have the negative somewhere.

At the time, my sense was that our Labour government had republican leanings and downplayed the royal visit, hence ferrying them in the viceregal Daimler past industrial areas; it was a far cry from an earlier visit I witnessed in 1981 when as a school pupil, my schoolmates and I lined the drive at Government House to welcome her.

As someone who chose to retain my British nationality (I dutifully renew my passport every 10 years), as well as adopting my New Zealand one in 1980, I admit to having a tremendous amount of respect for HM Queen Elizabeth II and her unwavering sense of duty. Some of us born in Hong Kong in the 1970s, whose parents had memories of less pleasant times behind the Bamboo Curtain, appreciated the freedoms, although they stopped short of democracy, that we enjoyed in a Crown colony. Up to a point: my father said he could have worked harder to lose his Chinese accent after fleeing Taishan for Hong Kong after the communist revolution of 1949, but he chose not to as he didn’t want to be seen as sycophantic to the colonial power.

It was thanks to the Commonwealth that my Hong Kong-born, but China-raised, mother was able to obtain her nursing qualification from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales. When we emigrated to New Zealand, that made her transition into her job that much easier, as it was considered a notch above the rest. (Having said that, the Hospital Board put her on a lower pay grade than what she deserved, leading my parents to fight for it, with the help of Sir Francis Kitts, a family friend and the former mayor of Wellington. We won.)

When we came here, one familiar thing was that the currency had the Queen on it, and it was her constant presence that told you that there were, in principle at least, shared values. While we can rightfully critique the Empire and what it was built on, at least for this chunk of history, it was a reassurance for us as émigrés that there would be the rule of law in our new country, something that, as my parents could attest, China lacked during the difficult years of the war and immediately after.

My father’s preferred form of governance was social democracy, but he appreciated a constitutional monarchy; and my own studies at law school concluded that while an imperfect system, it was one which I, too, valued. The prospect of one of our own being president, at least to the law student me in 1992, seemed unfathomable and potentially divisive.

The success of the system does depend on our faith and trust in the monarch. HM Queen Elizabeth II gave us that sense, as one who placed duty first. As this nation enters into a period of official mourning, we also wonder what her successor, HM King Charles III, will bring to the table, with his interests in the environment and a UK government that he might not see eye to eye with.

Whatever the future, we pay tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II and mark the close of this second Elizabethan age.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, UK, Wellington | 4 Comments »