National Day

This week saw National Day in China. On the 1st October 1949,  the PRC (People’s Republic of China) was established by Mao Zedong – an event which is now celebrated as a national holiday.

National Day in 2009, 60 year anniversary

National Day in 2009, 60 year anniversary

For those who do not know how modern China was established, this blog post will describe briefly how National Day came about.

The final Chinese dynasty, Qing, ended in 1911. Its replacement was what is now known as the Warlord Era.  KMT (Kuomintang) leader, Sun Yat-sen wished to see the end of this rule and replaced instead with a democracy, and he attempted to seek assistance from the international community. His appeal was rejected, and Sun Yat-sen moved to the Soviet Union for aid. The Soviet Union granted this aid to the KMT – and to the newly established (and what would soon become) Chinese Communist Party. Both parties wished to end the Warlord Era and gain control of China.

Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen died in 1925 from cancer and his military leader, Chiang Kai-shek succeeded.

The fighting between the two parties – and their supporters – began in 1927. The KMT appeared to be stronger and secured most of the east coast of China, including the warlord’s capital in Beijing in 1928, and the KMT became recognised as leaders of China. Meanwhile, the CCP moved underground and into the countryside where they mobilised peasants and slowly began revolting – only to meet suppression from the KMT military.

Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong

In 1934, the CCP, led by Mao, began a retreat of 12,500km which would be known as The Long March to Shaanxi. Throughout the march they recruited support from the peasants and the poor, leading the CCP to gain mass support of the Chinese people. This event also firmly placed Mao as leader of the CCP.

The civil war was disrupted in 1937 with the second Sino-Japanese War and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. The CCP, against Japanese imperialism, immediately began to fight the Japanese army. The KMT however, continued to target the CCP. This lead to compromises with the Japanese, much to the anger of the Chinese people. After the Xi’an Incident, the CCP and KMT united to fight against the Japanese. The CCP relied on guerrilla warfare, which allowed them to gain more support with the Chinese living in Japanese occupied areas.

Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek

After Japanese surrender to the United States, both the CCP and the KMT, who had sustained heavy losses in the second Sino-Japanese War, began peace talks with Mao Zedong meeting Chiang Kai-shek. Despite this, fighting between the two continued. The CCP now controlled almost a quarter of Chinese territory and their forces had increased dramatically. With Soviet support, and its promise of land reform – allowing peasants to free away from landlords – CCP support grew, as did its military.

The CCP was able to gain control of more territories in China, and seized several cities which gave them the military equipment they needed to advance. The civil war ended with the remaining KMT forces, along with Chiang Kai-shek fleeing to Taiwan, and Mao Zedong, on the 1st of October 1949 proclaiming victory and establishing the People’s Republic of China. Although some resistance remained, the CCP were able to control the whole of China by 1950.

If you wish to learn more about modern Chinese history, but don’t fancy reading large history text books on the subject, Rana Mitter’s  Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (2008) is a great, pocket-sized book which covers everything you need to know.

mitter

Many Chinese authors have written about this time in history (both fiction and non). I reviewed Mo Yan’s Big Breasts and Wide Hips, which covers from the Boxer rebellion right through until modern-day China. Other writers include: Qu Bo,  Qu Qiubai,  Su Tong, Chi Zijian and Geling Yan.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Last week was the Mid-Autumn festival (中秋节) in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong (and indeed the rest of East Asia, which is called Tsukimi in Japan and Chuseok in Korea). A public holiday for the country (and me!) and the chance to indulge in mooncake, a traditional cake made of pastry and various pastes (such as red bean. I’ve also eaten a chocolate mooncake) and often containing around 1,000 calories!

Mooncake

Mooncake

Whilst this festival is associated with the harvest season, in China at least, there is a story behind it. Here in this post I will tell you that story as it was told to me by Chinese friends.

Many thousands of years ago, there lived a young married couple who were deeply in love. The husband was great at providing food for his wife by hunting. He was so good that when ten suns appeared in the sky, causing destruction to the world, the people turned to him and asked for his help in shooting them down. He shot down 9 suns and left one in the sky to look after the earth and provide warmth.

A watching immortal fairy was impressed by his actions and went down to earth from the stars to present him with a gift. This gift was the elixir of immortal life. Not wanting to separate from his wife, he gave it to her to keep. Likewise, his wife did not want the elixir as she did not want to leave her husband.

A man was watching near by and saw the elixir. He waited patiently until the husband left to go hunting one mid-autumn afternoon. Once he’d left he approached the wife and demanded the elixir. He was imposing and threatening. Scared, the wife swallowed the elixir so the evil thief would not get it. After drinking the potion the wife became an immortal fairy, like the one who gave the gift. She flew into the sky, but she was heartbroken at having to leave her husband. To watch over him every night, she lived in the moon.

moon

Upon returning to his home, the husband found out what had happened. He was devastated that his wife had left him, but soon realised she was watching over him from the moon. Reassured, he offered the moon her favourite cakes to say thank you.

The story captured the hearts of his fellow villagers, and soon spread all over China. On the anniversary of his wife becoming a fairy, they too offered cake and celebrated the moon.

My Chinese friends love telling stories like these (and there are a few for various holidays!). They did not remember the names of the characters, but were able to retell the essence of the story. I hope I’ve been able to pass it on to all of you!

Apologies

I would like to apologise for not posting for a long time. I have recently moved country (skipped across the Yellow Sea infact) and have been settling into my new job and life. From hereon in, I will be making an effort to keep you all up to date with Eastern literature!

As a side note, I have rebranded this blog. If there’s anything you would like to see or read please get in touch!

The Rape and Lies of Cambodia

‘’Let me reassure that the Kingdom of Cambodia a country with independence, neutrality, peace, freedom, democracy and human rights as you all have seen, shall be existing with no end.’’ Prime Minister Hun Sen

Continuing with extracts from my diary.

27th November

Today I met a journalist for the Phnom Penh Post and was given all the gossip about the country. Cambodia has a dark side which no one admits to and no foreigner sees. I was quickly told that journalism is a dangerous profession: some journalists have been sent to prison for ‘slander’. He told me about stories he was working on, stories which would be published abroad. These stories will be on the HIV problem in Cambodia; he found out through NGO contacts, and drunken politicians at functions, that Cambodia has a habit of lying about the number of HIV and AIDS cases: the government have worked out that the higher the number the more money from charities and governments they will get. Also, this aid money was never passed down to those who needed it. The rich kept themselves rich, and the poor remained poor and in poverty.

We continued the conversation over dinner (fried ants are gorgeous) and also learnt that the lake in Phnom Penh, the one that stops the city from flooding every wet season, has been sold to a foreign company who were going to fill it in to make a shopping centre. And to replace the lake, they were going to build a new one and that they picked a place, not outside Phnom Penh, but right over a housing estate where a lot of poor people lived. Another article being written was about how the families and businesses in that area weren’t being given compensation; they were being forced to leave and were being made homeless. Apparently, the company had given the government money for compensation, but surprise surprise, it wasn’t passed down.

We also got chatting about the water festival. The journalist went on to explain about Diamond island, how it used to be full of homes and businesses but (this sounds familiar) was bought by a company who evicted everyone (again left them homeless) and built a theme park. The yearly water festival was to be held there to show off the new renovated island, and the news that the island had changed spread over Cambodia, so more people from across the country turned up than were expected. The main bridge rocks slightly and there were a large number of people from the countryside who didn’t realise the bridge naturally did this, so they got spooked and started the stampede. It wasn’t the story I heard on BBC News before I left about how some people were electrocuted and fainted which caused panic. The journalist then went on to talk about the compensation system that had been put in place for the victims: if a family had one or more person who died in the incident, they got paid $50. If a family had one or more person who got injured, they were paid $100. Compensation wasn’t per person but instead per household, and barely covered medical and funeral costs for one person let alone any additional family members.

From the Daily Telegraph: the aftermath the festival

From the Daily Telegraph: the aftermath the festival

28th November

As I was leaving Phnom Penh the day after next, I decided to pay the tuk-tuk driver for the trip to S-21, the Killing Fields and today’s trip. I was already advised by the guesthouse owner that I should pay no more than $35. The tuk-tuk driver took me to one side and said that for me he would give me a special price. He said that because he hadn’t laid a finger on me I was to pay him what worked out to be £200. I thought he was joking, and he said that if I didn’t pay him I was to remember that he had access to my drinks in the guesthouse (true, as he got them from the kitchen fridge every morning) and that he also had access to my room. He said that if I didn’t pay he wouldn’t hesitate and told me that my embassy wouldn’t care if I was raped and the police wouldn’t care unless I paid them to look into the matter. I still thought he was joking, and he told me to go up to my room as he has made a point. When I unlocked my door my bed was covered with around ten massive spiders (Cambodia doesn’t do normal sized spiders). I was staying in a twin room, and when I have breakfast the owner’s wife makes the bed and has a sweep. I also double check every morning that I have locked the door. Yet, the driver knew exactly which of the two beds I was sleeping on and placed the spiders on the right one. I hate spiders, and these were massive, I went and got the hotel owner who thought I was joking, saw them, then went to get a bucket. Whilst he was sticking them in the bucket he was telling me which ones gave nasty bites, which ones were poisonous and which ones look more harmful than that they actually are. I did however quickly get the driver’s point and decided to pay him. I never saw him again.

Whilst at dinner with my new journalist friend I told him briefly what had happened and they told me about an American girl a few weeks back who was raped – she went to the police and was sent away because she was white and therefore must’ve been asking for it. He also told me white women were targeted upon more, because Cambodians don’t like black skin -white is seen as more exotic and Westerners are seen as incredibly wealthy. It is an easy way for them to make money and if a woman refused to pay then the men would take another form of payment.

Prime Minister Hun Sen

Prime Minister Hun Sen

Cambodia breaks my heart. Politically and socially, it’s completely messed up. The Human Rights Watch have done a number of reports into the political corruption and human rights abuses to Cambodian citizens. Amnesty International have also produced lots of statistics on crime against women in Cambodia. More needs to be done to improve the situation, instead the world are happy to ignore the problem.

Cambodia receives up to $7omillion in aid every year from the World Bank alone. There are over 3,000  NGOs and yet the country has been stuck in a rut since the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Something has to change.

Articles and reports about abuses: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/123212617/Cambodia-Rape-report

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/28/raped-beaten-killed-cambodia-detention-camp

http://www.hrw.org/asia/cambodia

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/cambodia-government-protect-victims-sexual-violence-reports-rape-increase

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/aug/26/donors-asked-to-review-cambodia-aid