Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Uyghur Detention Camps in Xinjiang 

Largest statue of Mao in the world - Kashgar, Xinjiang


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Watchman Nee, Witness Lee, and the Local Church 

Watchman Nee


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Thursday, February 28, 2019

In a war between China and Taiwan, who would win? 

Taiwanese soldiers training in January for a possible invasion from China.
Click for larger image.

Don't get excited, I don't anticipate a war between China and Taiwan. But the question comes up every once in awhile, and the issue was raised again the beginning of January when Xi Jin-ping gave a speech reiterating China's claim to Taiwan. By the way, I use the terms "China" and "Taiwan" because it's simpler. But it is important to point out that both terms are technically inaccurate. "China" is inaccurate, because both China and Taiwan claim to be the "real" China. "Taiwan" is inaccurate, because there is no country in the world that calls itself "Taiwan." Taiwan is not the name of a country, it's the name of an island. The name of the country is "Republic of China." So the accurate way to talk about it would be "People's Republic of China" and "Republic of China." But that gets confusing, so most of the time you will hear people say, "China and Taiwan." It is important to note that both the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China claim all of China, but govern only part of it. The Republic of China claims all of China including Tibet and Mongolia (which was taken by the Soviet Union, and is now an independent republic), but only actually governs Taiwan. The People's Republic of China also claims all of China (although I think they have given up on Mongolia), but only actually governs the mainland. So understand that when I say "Taiwan" I mean the Republic of China, and when I say "China," I mean the People's Republic of China.

I don't want to go into detail on the history of this problem, because I have addressed that in a previous post, but just quickly, before and during World War II China was ruled by the KMT under Chiang Kai-shek. China was an ally of the United States in the fight against Japan, a conflict that temporarily overshadowed the ongoing civil war between the Guomindang (KMT) and the Communists. After World War II was over, the fight resumed, with the KMT being overwhelmed but never completely defeated by the Communists. In other words, technically, the civil war between the KMT and the Communists is still going on. The KMT under Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, and essentially set up a government in exile. The Communists were determined to invade Taiwan and finish off the KMT, thus becoming the undisputed ruler of China. Fortunately for the Communists, Truman hated the KMT. He felt they were corrupt and he did not want to get involved in any conflict between the two parties. In other words, he was strongly disinclined to "rescue" the Republic of China from the Communists. But unfortunately for the Communists, Kim Il-sung got the brainy idea to invade South Korea, thus starting the Korean War. Truman got cold feet and sent the Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait, thus essentially putting the Chinese civil war into a stalemate that has lasted until this day.

Now, back to the present. As I said, Xi Jinping recently gave a speech where he advocated reunification, with the offer that Taiwan could have a "one country, two systems" arrangement.

The current leader of Taiwan (Tsai Ing-wen) rejected the offer. This has renewed criticisms of her and her "obstinate" approach, and also provoked negative comparisons of her with Ma Ying-jeou (leader of Taiwan before Tsai) and the party he represents. Tsai is from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), generally considered the party of the Taiwanese natives, and Ma represented the Guomindang (KMT), which has historically been the party for those who came from the mainland in 1949. But these comparisons are unfair and not entirely honest. It is true that the KMT supports the "one China" principle, but the one China they support is not one China under the Communist Party. Not at all. Supporting one China under the Communist Party would be tantamount to surrender. It would go against everything the KMT believes in. They want to see one China under the KMT. So in fact, both parties are equally opposed to one China under the Communist Party.

The other issue is the "one China, two systems" arrangement that China is proposing for Taiwan. Tsai is being criticized for rejecting it. Also unfair. The KMT also rejects, and has always rejected, the one country, two systems arrangement. Ma Ying-jeou's rejection of one China, two systems was clear and unambiguous:

If the system is good, then we believe it should be "One Country, One System." (from interview with Aljazeera)
Here is how he defines it:
Mutual non-recognition of each other's sovereignty.
Mutual non-denial of each other's right to govern.
So if the Guomindang (KMT) feels the same way about these issues as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), why does Beijing have a better relationship with the KMT? It seems that for Beijing, any kind of "one China" is better than no "one China." The KMT and the Communists fought a bloody war on the mainland. On April 12, 1927, Chiang Kai-shek began a purge of the Communists that ultimately resulted in the deaths of thousands of Communists. But the conflict between the Communists and the KMT was complicated by the Japanese invasion. Over time, the Communists gradually got the upper hand, and the KMT was forced to flee to Taiwan. In contrast, the DPP has never fought against the Communists, or taken a stand against them. They just want to be left alone on Taiwan--they have no interest in invading the mainland.

So here is the irony: The party that is committed to invading the mainland, totally defeating the PLA, wiping out the Communists, and taking control of the country, has a good relationship with Beijing. They send representatives to Beijing to meet with Chinese leaders, and several years ago, the KMT leader was awarded the Confucius Peace Prize.

But the party that has no interest in invading China, and just wants to live peacefully on the island, has a terrible relationship with China. Whenever the DPP is in power, China is constantly taking threatening actions and issuing warnings. It is as if China is saying, "We only love the ones who hate us."

But let's try to see this from Beijing's point of view. If China were to have good relations with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), they would be surrendering their claim to Taiwan, because the DPP has no interest in making Taiwan part of China--they are opposed to "one China" in any form. But if Beijing has a good relationship with the KMT, they don't have to give up anything. Since the KMT is committed to taking over China, China has no fear that they would declare independence, since that would be contrary to their ultimate aim, and also no fear that they would one day conquer China.

But there is a problem with Beijing's way of thinking: Being on good terms with the KMT still does not bring Taiwan back to China. Again, the KMT's "one China" and the Communist Party's "one China" are very different. Couldn't be more different. The KMT is not, and never will be in favor of one China under the Communist party. They are just as opposed to domination by the Communist Party as is the DPP. The KMT and the DPP are often portrayed as being different, but in fact, they are not, except in theoretical terms. Here's how it works:

Ulitmate long-term goal of Taiwan's two main parties:

DPP: Independence from China
KMT: Control of all of China

But does anyone really believe that the KMT has a chance to take over the mainland? Chiang Kai-shek never gave up that hope until the day he died. But he died in 1975. That's a long time ago. Officially, the KMT has never given it up. That's why Taiwan is still called the "Republic of China." But does anybody seriously believe today that Taiwan has a ghost of a chance of retaking the mainland? So if we can all agree that there is no possibility that the KMT will ever again govern all of China (unless China agrees to a multi-party system or something), then the KMT and the DPP are essentially the same with respect to their relationship with the mainland. Again, other than that theoretical difference, there is no daylight between them on that issue. Neither of them would ever consider being dominated by China.

But Beijing doesn't see it that way. They have convinced themselves that the KMT's belief in "one-China" means that they are easier to deal with. And it is this belief, rather than Tsai's (the current president) attitude that has produced the tension. She is protrayed as being obstinate and recalcitrant. Not fair. When she became president, she reached out to China. They rebuffed her, not the other way around. I suppose from Beijing's perspective, you could say that they rebuffed her because she rebuffed the one-China policy. That's fair as long as you let me point out that every KMT president has also rebuffed one-China under the Communist party. They only want one-China if China surrenders to the KMT and allows the KMT to govern all of China.

I should interject here that a big part of the current tension has to do with the difference between the current leaders and Chairman Mao. Whatever you think about Mao, he was a confident leader. He didn't worry much about Taiwan. The current tension around islands in the South China sea could not have happened during Mao's time. He was thoroughly Chinese--focused on the mainland. Here is a conversation about Taiwan between Mao and Kissinger (from On China - ISBN: 9781594202711 pg 307):

Mao: It's better for it to be in your hands. And if you were to send it back to me now, I would not want it, because it's not wantable. There are a huge bunch of counter-revolutionaries there. A hundred years hence, we will want it [gesturing with his hand], and we are going to fight for it.

Kissinger: Not a hundred years.

Mao: [Gesturing with his hand, counting] It is hard to say. Five years, ten, twently, a hundred years. It's hard to say. [Points toward the ceiling] And when I go to heaven to see God, I'll tell him it's better to have Taiwan under the care of the United States now.

Kissinger: He will be very astonished to hear that from the Chairman.

Mao: No, because God blesses you, not us. [waves his hands] because I am a militant warlord, also a communist. That's why he doesn't like me. [Pointing to the three Americans] He likes you and you and you.

Does this conversation from the Seventies indicate that Mao did not care about Taiwan? No, I don't think so. I believe it reflects two things about Mao's thinking. First of all, Mao was a realist. He saw that the thinking of Taiwan people was very different from the thinking of mainland people, so taking over Taiwan by force would change Taiwan, but it would also change China in ways that Mao did not want China to change. Second, Mao was a very confident leader. He was not in a hurry, because he was confident that when he was ready to take Taiwan, he would take it, and nobody would stop him. So he could afford to wait.

Modern Chinese leaders, in contrast, are much more insecure. China today seems burdened with an inferiority complex--forever needing to prove to the world, and even more to herself, that she is a major player on the world stage. Mao had no time for such antics. Building fake islands in the middle of the South China Sea would not appeal to him.

So where do we go from here? There are several possibilities, but let's talk about the impossibilities first, because if we can get them out of the way, the discussion about what is possible will not be burdened with unrealistic options. The following two things are impossible. They can never happen.

1. The KMT retaking the mainland by force and putting all of China (China + Taiwan) under its rule.

2. The Communist Party taking over the island of Taiwan and putting all of China (China + Taiwan) under its rule.

I'll take them one at a time.

The first impossibility we have already talked about. But I haven't mentioned yet that 70 percent of the people of Taiwan speak Taiwanese Hokkien. These people have never had any interest in taking over the mainland. But they do, of course, have an interest in defending their independence. They have not officially declared independence as a national act, but the individual leaders have. The current leader, of course. And Ma Ying-jeou before her said it very clearly. The only difference between him and Tsai is that she has declared independence from China, and while Ma declared independence as China. But again, practically speaking, those two are the same (since there is no possibility that Taiwan can ever take over the mainland and be the "real China"). Chen Shui-bian, of course, also declared that Taiwan was an independent country, and if I remember correctly, he even used the word "Taiwan" instead of Republic of China. I'm not sure about that part, but I seem to remember that. I don't specifically recall hearing Li Deng-hui proclaim Taiwan's independence, but he certainly believed in it. He was a member of the KMT, but he was a Taiwanese native, and was largely responsible for purging the KMT of old guard (as detailed in another previous post).

So in a defensive struggle, Taiwan would be completely unified. No one in Taiwan believes in "one-China" under the Communist party.

But in an offensive struggle it would be very different. Most of the people would be very opposed to trying to "retake" the mainland. That's before we even start talking about the logistics of it, which are obviously formidable. It's not going to happen.

Now let's talk about the second impossibility--that of China taking over Taiwan by force and bringing all of China under the rule of the Communist party. The following article addresses the logistics of such an effort:

Interesting article. I like it because it shows graphically the difference between China and Taiwan militarily. That's important. But remember, the difference between China and Taiwan militarily is nothing compared to the difference between the United States and North Korea, or between the United States and Vietnam, or between the United States and Iraq, or between the United States and Afghanistan. And the United States was not able to win any of those conflicts. Why? The reason is two-fold. First, it takes much more military force to attack than to defend. The second reason is that victory in conflict requires both military force and the will of the people to fight. The "human" side of war, if you will.

So let's take a look at the human side for a minute. If China attacked Taiwan, Taiwan would fight tooth and nail. Lots of people on both sides would die. I assume that the Americans would get involved to help Taiwan, but they wouldn't need to, as long as they were willing to supply Taiwan with the needed weapons of war. Believe me, when thousands of families throughout the countryside of China started getting their one and only son back in a body bag, there would be a revolt. Many people would be asking, "Why did my son have to die? Taiwan did not attack us. Why did we attack them? There is no reason for this. My son died for nothing." The common people would not support the war effort. Intellectuals in universities may support it, because their blood wouldn't be flowing in the streets. But the common people throughout the country would lose heart. Why? Because in order to have the people with you, you need a legitimate casus belli. It is very hard to be victorious without that, as the Americans have found in Iraq. Now, if Taiwan invaded China first, it might be different, at least for awhile. But if not, China would have no legitimate cause for action, either in the minds of the people, or in the eyes of the watching world. So an attack on Taiwan in these circumstances would be devastating for the current regime in China, both in terms of relationship with the other countries of the world, and in terms of relationship with China's own people. Most people in China are not Communists. But they do like stability. The current regime on the mainland has given them that. But if you take that away, the widespread support the current regime enjoys would disappear. Read history: a military attack that causes many people to die will never have the support of the masses unless you can convince them that you had to do it, and you had to do it now.

So with both of those impossibilities out of the way, where do we go from here? What is the wisest course of action? Can Taiwan and China ever be unified? Can they ever be one country? Yes, of course. But whatever happens, it must be something they both agree to. This is key. Neither side has either the power or the right to force its will on the other. Once we can accept this, they are many possibilities. But they will take time. Why? Because regardless of where you come down on this issue, China and Taiwan are very different. Mao understood this. And if it was true then, it is so much more true now. At the time Mao and Kissinger had that conversation, China and Taiwan had been separated for less than 25 years. Now it has been 70 years. So trying to join them today would be hugely problematic. But there are interesting changes going on in China that could produce a very different dynamic in years to come. For one thing, Christianity is growing very rapidly in China. In 20 years or so, China could be the largest Christian country in the world. In contrast, Taiwan, like America, seems to be moving toward secularism. When I was a child in Japan, no one would have believed that in 2019, China would be well on the way to becoming the largest Christian country in the world. for us in those days, China was like North Korea. Now we commonly say "China" and "Taiwan," but in those days, we often said, "Red China" or "Communist China," and "Free China," and the common expression during the Cold War was "I'd rather be dead then red." Never could we imagine China as a Christian country. Mind you, China is not Korea. Korea is 30% Christian. But Christianity is much more significant in the country of China than it was when the missionaries left after 1949. Christianity is growing. There is a spiritual hunger in China that is pretty impressive for someone like me who grew up in Japan. In Japan, there was great freedom for churches to operate as they wished. But there were no churches. I lived in towns of several hundred thousand people and one church. The countryside of Japan has not changed that much in all these years, but China has changed drastically. In Beijing today there might be 10 or 12 Three-Self Churches. but there are thousands of independent "family churches." I have never been to Taiwan, but data shows that when it comes to Christianity, Taiwan is much more like Japan than China, andChina is becoming more like Korea every day.

The other interesting thing about China is that, in contrast to America, the percentage of Evangelical Christians is very close to the percentage for all Christians. In China, if you are going to be a Christian, there is little reason to be anything but Evangelical. That may not seem important now, but you better believe the effect of that reality in 20 or 30 years will be astounding. If Taiwan were forced into China today, it would be perceived by everyone as a less free country swallowing a free country. But if Christianity continues to grow at the current rate, China will be a freer country than Taiwan in years to come.

I said all that to say that patience is to everyone's advantage. But let's talk about options. What can be done? What are the good options and the not so good?

First of all, "one country two systems" is clearly a non-starter. Why? Well, both political parties in Taiwan oppose it, as expressed recently by the great-grandson of Chiang Kai-shek:

I get the distinct impression from reading this article, that among the younger generation of political leaders, there seems to be a "moving together" of the two perspectives (KMT and DPP). But especially with respect to one China, two systems, they seem to be unified. So why are the people of Taiwan so overwhelmingly opposed to one country, two systems?

Perhaps I can explain this by way of analogy:

Let's suppose that China and Japan were fighting a war. Then let's suppose that the common people begin to hear the rumor that China had surrendered to Japan. They rush to turn on the television or radio, or go to the Internet to see what is happening. Now, imagine that they turn on the radio or something, and hear the announcer trying to reassure the public: "Please don't worry. Japan has promised that we can have one country, two systems."

What do you think? Do you think most people in China would be happy about this? Do you think they would say, "Oh, good. Nothing will change. And it's good for China to be together with Japan. After all, we are all Asians, so we must be related somewhere back there."

No. no way. I think they would be horrified. And picture the scene: At every elementary school, at every middle school, at every university, students would gather around the flagpole and watch the flag of their country coming down for the last time. Why? Because you can have one country, two systems, but you can't have one country, two flags. With tears streaming down their faces, they would sing their national anthem for the last time as they watched the flag slowly beijing lowered so that it could be replaced by the flag of Japan. Then they would have to go back to their classrooms and learn the national anthem of Japan. Why? Because you can have one country, two systems, but you can't have one country, two national anthems. Right now as I am writing this, Beijing is pushing a law in Hong Kong that could put you in prison for three years if you show disrespect for the national anthem of China.

Remember, this analogy is just that, an analogy. It's not true, and it would not happen. Japan is a peaceful country now, and they would not do that kind of thing today. But I share this analogy to make the point that if something like that did happen, it would not be accepted. Nobody would say, "Oh, look! We have a bright new flag with a big red sun in the middle! Isn't it lovely?" Nobody would say that. And nobody would say, "Japan is so kind to allow us to have one country, two systems. We don't even have to learn Japanese. We just have to learn the Japanese national anthem, so we can be loyal to our new mother country." Nobody would feel that way. There would be widespread unrest. Probably war in the streets. The mass of people would not be politely singing the Japanese national anthem. They would be singing, "Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves!" And they would be singing it with gusto.

Sometimes Chinese people puzzle themselves over why the Taiwanese do not like the "one country, two sytems" idea. But in fact, Chinese people themselves would never accept such a thing if it were imposed on them by another power.

In western culture, we have what is called the "Golden Rule:"

Do unto others as you would have them to unto you.
It comes from the Bible--from the words of Jesus. But Confucius said something very similar:
Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you.
Since we are talking about China, we will use the Confucian version. Chinese people should not force something on Taiwan that they would not want forced on them.

So you see, a free people will always resist one country, two systems. In the interview I mentioned earlier, the interviewer, Steve Chao, who is ethnic Chinese, but very North American in his thinking (he's from Canada), seemed to be consumed with the idea that Taiwan people are watching Hong Kong and they see how one country, two systems is going, and they don't like it, so they decided not to accept it for Taiwan. I suppose this may be true to a certain extent, but Mr. Chao doesn't seem to realize that the KMT has always opposed one China, two systems as a matter of principle, for reasons that have little or nothing to do with Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a colony. Furthermore, there is a significant part of the government in Hong Kong (called the "pro-Beijing camp") that likes the one country, two systems idea. In other words, not everybody agrees that one country, two systems is not going well. I don't want to get sidetracked into talking about Hong Kong right now, because I plan to address that issue in a future post, but it's not the same, as Ma Ying-jeou articulates very effectively in the interview.

So what to do? I think there is a solution that can avoid the problems we have talked about. I don't know the Chinese name for it, but in America we use a Latin expression: status quo. It means "leave things the way they are for now."

What would be the advantage of this approach?

  • Nobody dies. There would be no war. Under the 1992 Consensus, each side is allowed to believe that they are the "real China." As long as Taiwan continues to maintain that, they cannot be invaded. Right now, China has many missiles pointed at Taiwan. Missiles are indiscriminate. They don't just kill soldiers. If just one of those missiles were fired at a city like Taipei, many innocent people could die. We don't want that. As Xi-Jinping said in his speech, "Chinese don't fight Chinese."
  • Trade across the Taiwan Strait would continue. This is very important for both sides of the strait.
  • Taiwanese businessmen could continue to work in China. I heard somewhere that there are a million Taiwanese businessmen in China. I don't have any idea if they number is really that high, but there are a lot of them. They bring a lot of expertise to China, and a lot of income to Taiwan.
  • Student exchanges could continue. Chinese students could continue to study in Taiwan, and Taiwanese students could continue to study in China. These exchanges are so important! They keep young people from both China and Taiwan communicating with each other. Chinese students tend to be openhearted and relational. I have never been to Taiwan, but if Taiwanese students are even half as openhearted as Chinese students, these student exchanges have huge possibilities. As communication continues, the people of China and Taiwan in the next generation would grow together more and more.
  • Travel. Tourism is good for both sides of the Taiwan Strait. And as more and more people travel both ways, I believe that understanding between them will increase. When I first came to China, it was very rare to find Chinese people who had been to Taiwan. That has really changed and needs to change more.
  • Discussions about this problem could continue peacefully. I believe these discussions are very important. I do believe Taiwan has a right to insist that discussions are not done under the threat of force. Nobody wants to negotiate with the cold steel of a gun barrel on his temple. But there should be negotiation and dialogue.
  • The Americans would stay out of it. Sometimes I hear people in China talking about how America wants to control the Taiwan situation for their own purposes. I believe that is a misunderstanding. The Americans actually don't care that much about what happens in Asia. But they are desperately afraid of a land war in Asia. This is partly because of their experience in Korea, but also because of their experience in Vietnam. They did not win either one of those conflicts. Korea was a standoff, but Vietnam was a bitter defeat, with the Americans literally escaping in helicopters from the roof of the embassy in Hanoi. So whenever China talks aggressively toward Taiwan, the Americans become very concerned and sell lots of weapons to Taiwan. But when China talks peacefully toward Taiwan, the Americans lose interest. They have so many other things to worry about.
  • Perhaps more important than anything else, the respect for Chinese people as a peaceful people would increase. When the people of the world hear talk of war between China and Taiwan, they begin to wonder if the Chinese, as a people, are peaceful, or addicted to violent conflict. The status quo would do much to put these fears to rest.

I realize that the status quo is not a permanent solution. But I think it is by far the best option for Taiwan's current circumstance. Patience is a virtue that will yield rich fruit in the relations between China and Taiwan, and among all Chinese people throughout the world, and also the relationship between Chinese people and the people of other nations. In the future, I want to brainstorm some more about what possible solutions may be available that might be more long-term, and less temporary than the status quo idea. For example, it is clearly impossible for Taiwan to take over the mainland. But what if China invited Taiwan to take over and change the name of China back to "Republic if China?" I don't want to go there right now, because that's just a wild idea that floated through my brain, and I haven't had time to process it yet. But all who love China (both China and Taiwan) must never give up trying to find a peaceful solution to this problem.


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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Super Bowl, Beijing Style 

Watching the Super Bowl in Beijing gives the idea of "Monday morning quarterbacking" a new twist. The show starts at 7 o'clock Monday morning. In America, we would say, "the Monday after the Super Bowl," but in Beijing it is the Monday of the Super Bowl. It's a live feed. I'm watching it the same time as you are. Except that it's Monday morning here, because of the time change. I live in the University district in the upper west side, so it is a long subway ride down to the CBD (central business district). So I don't always go to a Super Bowl party. One of the Chinese sports channels broadcasts it (with comment in very fast Chinese), and I can follow the play by play on my computer. But this year the Bookworm decided to have a Super Bowl event. Last year I went to the Super Bowl party at Paddy O'Shea's. I left early and stopped by the Bookworm, which I usually do anyway after the Super Bowl, because it is in the same area. To my surprise, they were watching the Super Bowl. The owner told me it was just a thing he was doing with a few friends. I told him he should have a Super Bowl event, and this year they decided to do it. I like this environment much better than a noisy bar.



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Japan in the Sixties 

Mt. Chokai

This video begins with my parents' wedding in June of 1948 and then jumps to the early sixties in northern Japan where I grew up.

In the days that followed World War II the field of operations for various missions was set out. I am not sure who made these decisions, but the Norwegian-Americans were assigned the northern part of the main island (Honshu). Northern Japan was a third world country in those days, and it might have been considered the worst possible place to be sent. But it really fit Norwegian-Americans, because in many cases it was not more primitive than what they, as farm kids from the upper Midwest had grown up with.

But Japan was not the American Midwest. It was very much a pagan culture, and the cultural contrast took its toll. Most the the original missionaries who went out with my parents during the earlier fifties quit soon afterward. What had began as a major thrust (in response to General MacArthur's call for 10 thousand Protestant missionaries) dwindled to a few families. The adjustment was just too much for most people. As a kid I had no comprehension of this. For a child, the gentle countryside of Northern Japan was Heaven.

Japanese people tend to be indulgent toward children, sometimes to the point of absurdity, but you can bet we took full advantage of it. We loved Japan. Like the adults, we also went through a very difficult cultural adjustment. But it was the reverse of our parents. For us, it happened when we "returned" to the United States, a country of which we were citizens, but a country in which we found it very difficult to feel at home.

But even though we liked Japan, were were not really Japanese, so education was always an issue. Some of the American missionaries in the countryside sent their kids to Japanese schools because they did not want to send them away from home. They could come home every day. But, of course, there were things they missed in their schooling, which was designed for Japanese people. So some missionaries sent their children down to Tokyo to go to an international school. A good idea academically, but being so far from home, children were only able to come home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

The mission my parents were with found a compromise. They had a small school for children that operated very much like the one-room country schools they had attended as children in North Dakota and Minnesota, and then they sent their children to Tokyo for high school.

One of the best things Dad did when we returned to the field in 1961 after an extended furlough in North Dakota, was to buy a Bell & Howell movie camera. The camera you see pictured here is not Dad's. It is the camera used to film the Zapruder film (assassination of JFK). It is now held in the National Archives.

Although that took place in 1963 and Dad bought his camera in 1961, Dad's camera was actually a slightly newer version of this. I don't have a picture of it, but it looks exactly like this one, only newer. Perhaps it would seem primitive by today's standards, but it was really a pretty impressive machine. The 8mm camera was actually a modified 16 millimeter. It used 16 millimeter film. You would thread the film in the camera, run it through, then find a dark place, open the camera, turn the film over, thread it, and run it through again. Combine this ingenious device with Japanese color film, and you have a pretty good picture, with one caviat. It takes much more light to get a proper exposure on film than with digital. So anything shot inside would tend to be dark unless you had pretty powerful flood lights. But outside, the quality was pretty impressive for the time

Click for larger image.
The video starts in Sakata (after the wedding). It then moves to the school in Akita, and then back and forth between the two, and includes a few scenes from our small farm in Honjo. There is nothing here from Nojiri for some reason. In the field day segment, you can see an amusing scene of me trying to bat right-handed. Apparently the grownups did not realize that I was a southpaw. There was no way I was going to hit that ball. Not then, not now, not in a million years.

The little vignette of settlers traveling across the prairie in their covered wagon was Johnny's brainchild. He directed that segment, which was filmed in Sakata. Costumes were a problem. Pretty hard to find cowboy hats in Japan. But we found some straw hats in the market that were the next best thing. Use your imagination. We brave the wilderness all day long, crossing all kinds of terrain in our journey to the west. At night, we wearily build our campfire and prepare to rest for the night. Suddenly, Johnny sees an arrow. Indians! We hit the ground and start shooting at the Indians from under the covered wagon. Not exactly politically correct by today's standards, but if you watched television in the fifties and sixties, it was a pretty standard scene.

There is brief footage from the Navy base in Sakata. During the first term, this was an Air Force base. At that time, Dad was actually on the payroll of the US Air Force as an auxiliary chaplain. I am not sure when the Navy took it over, but the second term (until we moved to Honjo) it was run by the Navy. Dad was not on the payroll, but the Church in Sakata he had worked with so much the first term had a Japanese pastor, so Dad and the other missionary, who was Morris Larson at the time, took turns preaching at the Navy chapel. Larsons then got involved in Tsuruoka at some point...can't remember just how that came about. Anyway, the irony of the whole thing is that even though we lived in the countryside of Japan where nobody spoke English, I spent many Sundays in the chapel at the Navy base listening to Dad preach in English.

Above you can see a street scene of Nakamachi (from the old Sakatavets website) taken near the old mission house in Sakata. In this picture to the right, you can see Larsons and Mom and Dad having a backyard dinner at the Navy base with one of the officers (also from the Sakatavets website). I thought at first that it was Lt. Michaels, but it comes from the photo collection of a different officer, and the child appears to be a good bit younger than Shelley. Anyway, you can see both Lt. Michaels and his wife (and Shelley) in the video, so take a look and decide for yourself. We also went to the Navy base at other times. I remember a baseball game there once, and also a Halloween party and once or twice we were there for a Fourth of July celebration. But the Navy base closed down and left town and we moved to Honjo, so those days have passed into history, only to be remembered. Just before we left for the States in 1967, I gathered a bunch of the 8mm film reels that had survived the Honjo fire, got a pair of scissors and some scotch tape, and spliced them together to make one film that was about 30 minutes long. After we got to the States, Dad had gotten a Nikon and had lost interest in the old Bell & Howell. But I was fascinated with it, so the scenes in Fergus Falls were filmed by me. There is also brief footage of the Langager Family Reunion in 1971, which was at Lloyd Langager's place in Tioga. At the tail end is some stuff that looks like it was filmed at Mary's place in Eastern Oregon. No idea who did that.

In preparation for Mom and Dad's 40th wedding anniversary, Anne Marie or somebody took all those videos and had them digitized into this one story. I should note that there is one anachronism. My sister(s) inserted an video from the fifties. I guess they thought that was the building of the house in Honjo, but in fact, it was the building of the church in Sakata. Fortuitous mistake, actually, because that little bit of history never would have seen the light of day. You will spot it right away, because it is an island of black and white in an ocean of Sakura color. I would guess that it was filmed by Morris Werdahl, because I'm pretty sure that's one of his daughters in the video. By the way, the video does have audio, but it is delayed a few seconds



Monday, January 28, 2019

Blaming China 



Interesting discussion on the Sinica Podcast about attitudes toward China. Listen to this in the background while you're doing something else. I listened to it twice that way, and I found it to be very informative.

This podcast features a book by Benjamin Shobert called Blaming China. I don't know anything about him. I had never heard of him before I listened to this podcast. But the other two guys have both spent a lot of time in China.

Basically, they juxtapose two attitudes reflecting two kinds of people: the "panda huggers" and the "dragon slayers." For those of you who are not familiar with the terms, they are pretty self-explanatory, I think. The panda huggers tend to see everything China does in a positive light. They make excuses for actions taken that others would be inclined to criticize, and they articulate a defense that puts the best light on the actions of the Chinese government. The dragon slayers, on the other hand, tend to view every action of China with suspicion. They are the pessimists in this game, and they are often holdovers from the Cold War. The person who immediately comes to mind when I think of the dragon slayers is Peter Navarro. In the introduction to his documentary "Death by China," he says "Don't buy 'made in china.'" That seems to me to be a ridiculous statement. The American middle class has lived on China-made products, because it makes their lives more affordable. Can anybody reasonably expect them to buy more expensive products and lower their own standard of living just so they can say that everything they own is made in America?

But I don't want to get sidetracked. Every time I read or listen to something by Navarro, I can't seem to get more than an inch into it without detecting language that is designed to sell books. Navarro is a sensationalist. I have no time for that kind of thing because it doesn't educate me.

But who would I list as a panda hugger? Here comes the problem. Nobody wants to be called a panda hugger. This is interesting to me. All three of these guys in this podcast criticize the dragon slayers, but they don't think of themselves as panda huggers. But can you really have it both ways?

The way I have it both ways is to define it in terms of the issues, rather than just signing on to one category or the other. If you ask me, "Which one are you?" I would not say, "I'm a panda hugger" or "I'm a dragon slayer." I would say, "It depends on the issue.

For example, I am a churchman. I go to church every Sunday in Beijing at a Chinese church. When it comes to Christianity in China, I tend to be a panda hugger. Christians have it pretty good in China. American Christians complain a lot about "persecution" in China, but I personally think Chinese Christians have a lot of freedom. Most Protestant Christians worship in "family" churches that are technically illegal. But they are largely left alone. The Three-Self churches are regulated by the government, but that does not mean that they are totally controlled by the government. The idea some foreigners (even Christian foreigners) have of Christian pastors standing up every Sunday and spouting Communist propaganda is nonsense. I read a report like that one time in the Wall Street Journal. It was nauseating. Basically, Christian pastors in Three-Self churches say what they think they can get by with, and most of the time, it's more than enough to get the job done.

Sure, there are problems. In the summer of 2014, the party boss of Zhejiang Province pulled the crosses off of more than a thousand churches in the city of Wenzhou (a Wenzhou family church pastor told me it was 1400). That was very rude. But it was as noteable for what they did not do as for what they did do. They did not arrest a bunch of pastors. They did not tear down the church buildings (except for the huge, five million dollar mega-church they demolished).

They just took the crosses off the buildings. Not very nice, but the effect was positive. Christians started asking themselves, "Why did God allow this to happen? Were we allowing the symbol of the cross to become more important than the cross itself?" So it had a purifying effect. Christianity in China is much more pure than Christianity in America.

Another area where I tend to be a panda hugger is when it comes to China's determined independence regarding the currency issue. Every four years American politicians talk about China being a "currency manipulator." But such talk is disingenuous. Hong Kong has had their currency pegged to the dollar for many years. Why don't the politicians ever complain about Hong Kong? And Ecuador doesn't even have their own currency. They use the US dollar. How can you have more of a peg than that? Yet, I have never heard a whisper about Ecuador's "currency manipulation" from American politicians. This is one area where I agree with the Wall Street Journal. They have said that countries like China and Hong Kong and Ecuador are merely outsourcing their currency to the US Federal Reserve. Simply true.

But when it comes to Human rights, I tend to be a dragon slayer.

So let's take a look at this. First of all, they all seem to be situated toward the left end of the political spectrum. I know that's true for Jeremy Goldkorn and Kaiser Kuo. And it seems to be true for the other guy too. So they start out talking about Trump as a dragon slayer. That's not true. If he was only hard on China, they would have an argument. But he is not. Trump has shown himself willing to ax America's closest allies if he thinks they are getting the better end of a trade arrangement. Trump is a deal maker. But if you remove trade issues from the equation, Trump is in some ways more pro-China than any president in my memory. He responded very favorably to the idea of Xi Jin-ping being president for life. I can't imagine Obama doing that. Or Clinton or either of the Bushes.

So I disagree with them on that issue. But I was very glad to hear them speak out about the detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. As I said before, I have had a "wait and see" attitude about this situation, because it is very hard to get accurate numbers, and I don't like to make cheap conclusions. But the information coming out is more and more concerning. So I was glad to hear them express that concern. Hopefully, that situation will move in a different direction very soon. I am going to be watching it closely.


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Monday, January 07, 2019

Did I speak too soon? 

USS George Washington

In my post on New Year's Eve, I said that I did not expect a major confrontation in the South China Sea. Now I read that Rear Admiral Lou Yuan, deputy head of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, has told an audience in Shenzhen that the ongoing disputes over the ownership of the East and South China Seas could be resolved by sinking two US super carriers. Did I speak too soon? I didn't know about this speech when I wrote that post, but it would not have affected what I said. It is not unusual for top military brass in China to issue these proclamations once in awhile. It doesn't happen often, and the timing does seem to be strategic. And it is not without permission from the party I'm sure. But once in awhile this bluster is allowed, and perhaps even planned. So it's not surprising at all. It's diplomatically unwise, I think, because it is obviously designed to create fear, and I think it more often generates ridicule. Nobody really believes that China is going to start sinking American aircraft carriers. The problem in the South China Sea is that the United States is traversing the area to assert the right of free passage in what is generally regarded as international waters, but which China considers its own sovereign territory.

But the problem with asserting a claim, is that you have to defend it, or it will not be respected. In recent years, China has developed a pattern of drawing lines that other countries do not respect, and then doing virtually nothing when those lines are crossed (such as with China's self-declared "air defense zone"). This gives the nations of the world cause to believe that China doesn't really believe that those waters belong to China, but is hoping that bluster will suffice to keep other nations from challenging China's claim. It isn't working.

So who is going to win this conflict? As to actual possession of the islands, China is winning, because China controls the islands, and other nations, while protesting, are not doing anything to take them away from China. As to international recognition of China's sovereignty over those waters, America is winning, because American planes and ships routinely traverse the area, and China, while complaining, really does nothing to prevent the Americans from treating the area as international waters. That's the state of things for the present. The recent threats by the Rear Admiral are an attempt to tip the balance. We've seen this before. Years ago, a Chinese general, in a statement to the international media, threatened to destroy 100 or 200 American cities.

Again, I am certain these outbursts are orchestrated. I don't say that the generals in question are given the exact words to say, but their outbursts are timed to produce an effect at a certain time when the powers that be believe that a threat is the appropriate diplomatic weapon. They should be listened to, but I am not inclined to take them too seriously.


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Friday, January 04, 2019

China on the Far Side 

China has landed on the far side of the moon. At least, that's what the pictures show. I have mixed feelings about this. In a sense, it is a good idea, because it has not been done before. But another part of me wonders if this is another expression of China's age-old secretiveness. The moon changes in terms of it's relationship with the sun, but not with the earth. In other words, the near side of the moon sees darkness and also sees the sun. The far side of the moon sees both light and darkness. But due to the pattern of its rotation and revolution around the earth (it's rotation exactly equals it's revolution), the far side of the moon never sees the earth. So there is absolutely no way to get communication from an object on the far side of the moon, except from a satellite station that is currently traveling around the moon. I don't know. We'll have to wait and see.

Will China ever put a man on the moon? I think they want to. But if it happens, it will be a few years. It's a very big step from sending an unmanned object, to sending a human being. What is most interesting is the independent nature of China's space program. As far as I know, they have never been part of the International Space Station. Is that because of China, or because of America? I don't know the answer to that, either. How is it that, for all their differences, the Russians and the Americans can find a way to work together, but China is isolated? We'll have to see how that goes. But China has stated emphatically that if they build a space station, they intend to bring in countries from the developing world. If that's true, then I tend to think that China's independence could end up being a good thing.

Talk about a "space race" doesn't really bother me. The moon is so inhospitable, the chances of being able to establish a permanent presence are, I think, very slim. The Americans are talking now about a space station in moon orbit. That would seem to be easier than building a permanent station of any kind on the moon. The moon is incredibly hot during the moon day (half of that 28 day period) and unimaginably cold during the moon night. So I don't see them ever being able to establish a moon-based station that is more or less permanent. But a rotating space station is a distinct possibility if they are willing to pay for the process of resupply, which would, of course, be much more costly than resupplying a space station that is in low orbit around the earth. One thing is clear: China is determined to have a space presence, so that will continue. But just what form it will take is uncertain. The world is going to be watching.


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Tuesday, January 01, 2019

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Monday, December 31, 2018

A Brief Look Back at 2018 

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