September 25 – Prelude

I woke up at 7:30 as is routine now. Went to chinese class which was about the same as always, and did fine on the exercises, as expected. During the break, we asked prof. wang where she was from, and she said she was from harbin. I asked about skiing, and she said that the two best ski resorts were by harbin, one right nearby and the other was it’s own resort a bit further away. She gave me the names of the two places, one is ‘er long shan’ and the other bigger one is ‘ya bu li’ (ski area is ‘hua xue chang’ Ôºè ʪëÈõ™Âú∫) After class ended at 10, I decided that I’d waited long enough and ought to bite the bullet and get some computer speakers while I was here. I walked down to the dianzi dasuan at zhongguancun, to look for speakers. I stopped by the hivi booth, which online makes upscale is recommended for upscale speakers, but they wanted the same 400 USD for their speakers I’d seen online, which seemed like a lot for two speakers that are only connected via an 1/8th inch jack. I ended up getting a pair of Edifier R1900T2’s, which are really nice. (580 kuai / $85 usd, they go online for about $100 usd). They’ve got rca inputs, and are decent sized bookshelf monitors, and to my ear they sound great, definitely way better than the internal laptop speakers. It was about 11:45 when I got them setup and back to the dorm. They are pretty heavy, and it was a bit of a walk, also some of the blue ink on the outside of the box rubbed off on my shirt, but washing it will probably fix it.

I went to lunch with sarah, who was heading out at the same time as I was. We went to the three specialized cafeterias, I got a chicken sandwich from the ‘western style’ cafeteria that was very passible, and she got a plate of fried rice with egg.

After lunch, I hung around the dorm until class started at 1:30, it was another one of those awkward time slots where there wasn’t quite enough time to go out and do something. I did transcribe the next set of chinese characters into my notebook so I can study it in anhui.

The lecture at 1:30 was by a professor of political studies at the university. He talked about the chinese government. (Definitely not communist, probably more capitalist than in the US) and about the historical precedent that went into that. There was a lot of interesting material in the lecture, I’ll try and summarize briefly.

China has less labor protection and more competition in most markets than the US or europe. China is also the only country that is still using a pictorial and not an alphabetical language, everyone else uses an alphabetical language (that is anyone at least, he talked about how korea and japan are both using alphabetical systems now.) China feels it’s influenced the west more than it has been influenced, consider the prodigious number of chinese restaurants in the US, versus the KFCS and such that have been constrained to only the major tourist cities in china. China is technically still a poor country, in that the per capita income is less than $3000 / person, but china does way better than the other countries at this level (brazil, the rest of asia). As a result germany and japan have stopped giving china aid as an under developed nation.
The poorness is due to the rural population, (which is migrating to the cities at 1%/year) because they are very self sufficient, but it is unlike the poverty seen elsewhere. The poverty line is $2 / day, and these farmers don’t have that, but they are self sufficient, have homes, decent clothes, and their own land.
State control is dissed by western powers as a monopoly, but allows for efficiency in crucial areas. In china, the state manipulates the market, while in the US the market manipulates the state. He mentioned that in the british opium wars, the drug traffickers were able to persuade the british navy to invade for their profits.
China has been forced into being the world’s factory, as a result of it’s large labor force, they feel backed into a corner in terms of pollution and the like, because as the factory they are clearly the ones doing the work leading to pollution, but it is the western countries that set up the factories and need to take responsibility for them.

He talked for a while about the structure of the government, and how the government interrelates with the communist party. The party these days is an elitist party, and they don’t have a problem with that. You can only join the party if you are already a leader, and an excellent scholar.

The basis of all this is that for the last 2300 years, china was a family based country. There were a total of about 150 government officials over the whole country. there was no passage of wealth, land was split equally among sons, and no rich family could persist more than three generations, because if you were rich you would have many sons, and so the land would be divided more, and they would each end up at the same place as a common person. in terms of leadership it was pragmatic, everything was through merit and the government exams, because there was no need for the emperor to really do much beyond be smart and make good decisions for the empire.

After Class, I went back to the pitzer office. There is a group of kids that are staying longer in anhui, since there is a national holiday when we get back. I decided to come back to beijing, because I think it’s easier to explore and such here, than when stuck with a large group of people who can only speak english in a foreign area. The program said they really need to get their tickets back because since it’s a holiday back they’ll have trouble, I’m again glad I’m going back with already reserved tickets. I talked with the director about additional traveling this semester. She said that they could and probably would move one of the activities so an earlier weekend freed up, so that we can go up and visit innner mongolia before it gets too cold. I also asked here about going to hua shan, and she said that it was pretty dangerous and suggested tianzishan instead. The pictures of that one look really cool.

at five was the final taiji class. They gave us pieces of paper with pictures of us doing the various poses they’d taken on wednesday. Then we met with a group of taiji students from the university. I talked for a while with a phd student from tsinghua university who is doing high energy physics. He’s hoping to do a post doctorate at stonebrook, and then work at the LHC. We watched the main taiji instructor do some taiji, and then dispersed.

I headed to dinner with a fairly large group, I got beans with potatoes, and cucumber with chicken, overall not bad but pretty bland.

After dinner I we stopped by the supermarket, now that the olympics are over there’s a dvd shop setup outside, and I found a documentary on miazaki I didn’t know existed, so I picked it up for $8 yuan.

I came back to my dorm, showered, did some various preparation for tomorrow (packing, etc.) and am heading to bed. Got to get up at 5:30 tomorrow. In terms of health, I’ve got some post-nasal drainage, which means a slight cough, but it’s nothing major, and very controllable. Overall, not a very bad cold.

Categorized as Post