Language and Trump’s Misuse of Power

Like many, I followed the U.S election in its endless entirety.

After it all, and in the midst of a post US-election defeat, the 45th President began sending messages asking for his base to maintain hope and continue to fund their campaign to contest the election.

What was chilling about this was the tone of them.

In this blog, I attempt to take a linguistic view, specifically a Critical Discourse Analyis of these messages sent to people who have not yet donated to the Trump Stop-The-Election fund.

Critical Discourse Analysis

A key starting point when exploring ideas and concepts about language and power is Critical Discourse Analysis, an approach that focuses on the way power is enacted.

A theory associated with Norman Fairclough and Ruth Wodak, they suggest that even texts which appear to be relatively neutral (which is not the case here) can actually be loaded with hidden ideological significance. Linguistic strategies are chosen to shape and influence the ways readers might think and feel about particular topics.

Fairclough devised a three-tiered model for the study of discourse, shown below. It illustrates the interconnectedness of discourse analysis: the text is explored within a wider context of production and interpretation.

The relationship between texts and contexts

Text (language choices, including lexis, grammar and cohesion)

  • The discourse is shaped like a conversation, or rather a one-sided telling off.
  • There is a semantic field of desperate need ‘I need you right now’, ‘I need to know I can count on you’, ‘I’m calling on you’ which later transitions to anger at the message being ignored. It really is something you’d receive from a desperate ex at 2am. Source: textsfromyourex
  • Personal pronouns are used to reinforce the separation between the groups of donated and non-donated Trump supporters; ‘you’ve ignored all our emails asking you to join us in the DEFENDING THE ELECTION’, ‘why haven’t you?‘. While the Trump group had referred to itself as ‘we’, ‘we still have a long way to go’ which establishes the speaker as having the ‘distinguished’ honour of being part of this group.
  • Proper nouns are used to list the people ignored ‘Team Trump, Eric, Lara, Don, the Vice President AND you’ve even ignored the President of the United States’, there is an emphasis on the President. The adverb ‘even’ used to show a sense of surprise.
  • Modifiers ‘blatant’ & ‘corrupt’ have negative connotations which are used to discredit the opposition
  • The Noun phrases ‘the VERY FIRST TIME’, ‘your FINAL NOTICE’, ‘in the last 48 hours’ give a sense of urgency, while ‘the blatant voter fraud’, ‘corrupt Democrat-run cities’ indicate the messages strong bias, and ‘my STRONGEST defenders’, carries a rather militant testosterone-filled image. While ‘TENS OF THOUSANDS of Patriots’ and ‘the American people’ appeals to recipient’s patriotism.
  • Parallelism is used ‘when they come after me, they’re really coming after YOU’ to balance two ideas aimed to motivate its worshipping readers. This structure is completed by a ‘three-part-list, ‘….and everything you stand for’ which reinforces the first two points.
  • Contractions are used ‘you’ve’, ‘haven’t’, which provides a colloquial tone. This is an indication of a lower register, one which we’ve come to expect from this administration which attempts to converge itself with the populous it is trying to entice.
  • Antithesis is used through the opposing view of ‘rip power away’ and ‘putting together’ to draw a comparison between the two parties strategies.
  • Graphologically, the use of capital letters is cohesive with Trump’s irate led messages found on Twitter, ‘YOU’ in caplocks is repeated three times which indicates a tone of telling off. He uses bold text in ‘Election Defence Task Force’ which is possibly used to give credibility to it and italics ‘why haven’t you?‘ to direct the message at the audience.

Discourse Practice (production, distribution and consumption in society)

In the past, political power certainly has had a distinct register, politicians exert power through their speeches and parliamentary debates, and institutions and individuals (like police officers) give direct orders through their language. Society accepts the existence of this type of power and that the language used is appropriate given the status of the individuals or institutions involved. It is thus a juxtaposition for the President of the United States to be producing written discourse that is more akin to a break-up text.

What is wrongful is the message’s coercion, whereby an unsubstantiated, soon-to-be removed power is using its remaining power to control others. Where power has been more effectively enact power through manufacture of consent, this is through a creation of forced guilt.

The message plays on the audience’s natural fears of losing. What makes the message so shareable amongst Democrats is that they are in a state of jubilance.

Social Practice (social and cultural practices such as power relations, ideological struggles)

Texts can be taken at face value, but examining social and discourse practices helps us recognise and engage with any underlying message. There are usually two different types of power that are attempted to be enacted:

Instrumental Power: a type of power that is explicit and often imposed by a higher authority. e.g No Smoking signs, No Mobile Phones in exam halls.

Influential Power: a type of power that is persuasive rather than imposing. e.g Win a pair of flights

These messages appear to use both. The instrumental power of the President and the imperative order that carries, while using the influential power of a persuasive message with an unconventional force attached to it. Given the cultural and historical context of the President’s role, it is likely that most of the target audience would share the writers’ standpoint and their judgement of what is the right thing to do, which is to follow the President’s orders. The fact he has gone about discrediting the office throughout his tenure demotes this message.

By appealing to patriotism, the message aims to make them feel proud of their country by persuading them that they will be patriotic if they endorse this ‘Stop the Election’ campaign. It tries to make readers feel guilty and that they must act. It focuses more on an assumed love of country or the President. In this case one should not pair the two together.

Each of these emails shows how Trump presents his own stance through a process of delegitimisation of the process of an election, whereby a victimised-self image is constructed through the negative presentation of the opposition. What is so dangerous is that in a democracy, those in power rule by consent, power is not enforced but agreed upon. Those who hold it must be seen to be legitimate. By claiming that he is ‘DEFENDING THE ELECTION’, it is really quite the opposite.


To sum up, when discussing political language writer George Orwell levied that ‘it is designed to make the lies sound truthful and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind’. Trump’s manipulation of his position has been evident throughout his tenure, these messages are an evidence of this continued explicit manipulation and wrongful coercion.

My week in a state-run Chinese hospital

Before 2020, my ignorant self would never have valued so highly the proximity of a hospital to my house. A park- yes; a supermarket- for sure; but a hospital, maybe in the rare instance of an emergency. The last 4-6 weeks I’ve saved countless hours in transportation time due to my proximity to the China-Japan Friendship Hospital.

The China-Japan Friendship hospital is described on the Beijinger as a ‘state-run hospital with a pleasant foreigner wing’. In this blog post I will provide my reflections on my experience there, a bit of background into why I was there in and the operation itself.

My week in a state-run Chinese hospital

Monday 4th May

I’d been told by my Doctor to come on the Monday for my blood test before the operation on Wednesday. I arrived in a t-shirt and shorts with my Kindle in the back pocket and phone without any credit on. I felt it was going to be a back in an hour trip.  A few registration forms later, I had a plastic bug-free wristband and a nurse questioning why I hadn’t at least brought a change of underwear. She warmly told me that I would not be allowed outside the grounds of the hospital until Sunday. Doctors orders. I was handed my pyjamas and shown to my room.

Explaining this to my Italian girlfriend Germana was not so easy. After topping up my phone, I made the phone call to break the news and to send for supplies. Germana being a designer and an amazing cook, came not only with the essentials but with items to decorate the room and one of the greatest Fajitas ever.

I’d opted a while back that I would not be going VIP (quoted at RMB 50,000) but the standard (RMB 20,000). So my room was basic but it had a great view of the Japanese themed garden. I was apprehensive but at ease. The funny situation is that I felt healthy and my nose seemed clear for the first time in months, granted I’d taken a week of antibiotics to quell the inflammation. I spent the evening designing my room, sorting my laptop out and then went to meet Germana out by the front entrance for a takeaway. I’d yet to try the hospital food.

Germana and I together in the Japanese garden. Its actually really pleasant and I had gone before the operation to read.

Ok so before continuing on with the rest of the week, here’s my past medical history and diagnosis to this point:

1998- 2005

Mild asthmas caused me to cough up phlegm and experience shortness of breath partly due to the pollen and rather narrow airways.

January 2014

Surgery to correct my nasal passage partly caused by a sport incident, done in the U.K. by a rhinologist- great name.

July 2019

After experiencing difficulty in breathing through my nose, I met with the same UK Rhinologist (which incidentally is a doctor devoted to the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the nose and the paranasal sinuses). He consulted with me that I had polyps. This is basically abnormal growth projecting from a mucous membrane. Don’t worry I won’t show you a picture. He wanted to confirm this using a CT scan. Being it a private clinic, the cost of which was £500. So as I was heading back in a week and the wait time on the NHS being longer than that, I planned to get it done in China.

Jan 2020

It was the end of the school term and we were about to go off on holiday. In this rest interlude I decided to finally get round to visiting the International Department of the CJF. Staff were English speaking, the waiting line was comfortable, the Doctors consulting room was spacious. I paidRMB 500 to see a Doctor Liu and similarly he recommended I get an endoscopy photograph (costing RMB 400) and a CT Scan (RMB 1200). Markedly cheaper than U.K. He identified the same polyps but would wait until seeing the CT scan before recommending surgery.

1-2 weeks later, I was able to pick up my copies of the CT scan. COVID had happened. The International Hospital was now closed so I went to the sister state hospital and was seen by a chummy English-speaking doctor. He consulted that I would need surgery but there will be no surgery-taking place until after COVID dies down.

April 2020

I was now more adjusted to the Chinese hospital system so went to visit the state-run part. Met with Dr Liu who had first met me in the Intl section (RMB100) he consulted that I would need to have my lungs examined before going ahead with surgery. CT Scan then a Lung examination/breath test and following consultation. RMB 600. Satisfied he then put me on one week of antibiotics to calm the nasal inflammation. RMB 200. He scheduled me for the blood test and then the operation. One which I was now in the present moment beginning anxiously to wait for.

Can you spot me?

Tuesday 5th May

5:00am The realisation you’re in a hospital hits when you are woken by the bright light being turned on in your room and a nurse arrives to take 4 samples of your blood.

6:30am A troupe of nurses enter and give me the lowdown for the week (in Chinese). This happened every day. It was a handover procedure.

8:00am Heart examination. The full works attached to my chest and my beats were measured.

9:00am CT scan on my lungs. This was only done as my previous one was 3 days out of day.

10:30am My first sodium drip.

11am Pre-surgery notes translated and talked through, tomorrow will be a prescribed fast

12 pm Answer questions relating to my health and specifically COVID-19 conditions. This is almost six weeks after they’d banned foreigners from entering China. (Therefore its impossible we’d now be able to bring the spread from outside)

1pm Lunch. Walk out to the garden to have another bite to eat with Germana in the garden. A little spent from the morning but the food cheers me up.

2pm Dr Liu chats me through the procedure. I read a document that details the risks of the procedure. I then sign my life away, literally.

3pm Second sodium drip

4pm Smell test- Possibly the most interesting examination. I was given five different potent smells. I had to sniff ‘em and remark on their smell. I felt like a beautician consultant.

4:30 pm Beard is shaved. This is mandatory for the procedure.

6pm Write to loved ones.

7pm Shave my nostrils. Surprisingly satisfying.

8pm Pop out again for a Prawn Curry with Germana. The last bit of food before the fast that would start tonight. My heart felt heavy.

Wednesday 6th May- Operation Day

9:00am Germana arrives. Incidentally I was allowed only one guest who could only come on the Monday and Wednesday. Whereas Chinese guests on the ward were allowed an army of well wishers. That said I’m not complaining.

9:20am Nurse tells me I will have surgery today. Adrenaline rush.

9:30am Playing Codenames to distress. I later go into practicing karate kicks on my hospital bed pillow.

9:45am Temperature check 1. One where I stick a thermometer under my arm for 5 minutes.

11:45 Temperature check 2

14:30 My stomach rumbling. I ask when the surgery would be. I’m told that it’s not going to be today. My temperature is too high by 0.2 degree. Operation will be rescheduled until Friday.

14:32 <Choice words in Italian>

14:35 Temperature Check 3.

14:40 The reading is within the boundaries and the Doctor says that now that the surgery will take place. Ok, so what on earth happened there? Was it the prawn curry, the karate kicks that made my temperature rise. This back and forth did not exactly put my mind at ease.

14:50 Nerves a wreck. The man who pushes the bed arrived at my door. I pack myself in and am wished off on the ride. I am pushed into the elevator and descend to the 4th floor.  “Check ignition and may god’s love be with you…..”

14:52 Oh no wait! Radio transmission to Major Tom. Abort mission. While I was literally lying down in a movable hospital bed on the 4th floor, I’m told that I will need another blood test and so I am pushed back to the room.

15:30 Blood test came back. I have the all clear. I get again into the movable hospital bed that incidentally had way too many blankets for May.

The scene on the 4th floor

China curiosity: The number 4 in China is often not used in apartments because the homonym of the word in Chinese sounds very similar to ‘death’. So it was very strange to be wheeled into a theatre on the fourth floor. I can only imagine what it is like for more superstitious Chinese folk.

15:32 Un baccio con mia ragazza. Then through the swinging doors I go. 5…, 4…

15:33 Lying down I meet the General Anaesthetist. I sign another paper. Could this have been asked at a more convenient time? 3….., 2…

15:35 Stickers attached to me. A new needle in place. The General Anaesthetist covers my mouth with an oxygen mask. I’m still awake though. I have to remind them of this. In what is one of the unique human experiences my veins are injected and my eyes refuse to open. 1…..Lift off.

——

18:30 A slap to the cheek, wake up Wei Si Li. I was warned to breath through my mouth when waking up. I had to empty it first of the blood that had accumulated there before doing so. I spat it out on to my robust pyjamas.

18:40 I was rolled back on through to the waiting room, mio amore had been waiting there, relieved to see me. I welled up, the pain, the emotion of it all was actually a bit much I have to be honest. I was exhausted and when I was finally brought to my room I could hardly walk to my bed. The Doctor came in to tell us that the procedure had been a success.

Late: Germana stayed with me all night of what was a very long one. I was sent to sleep on Malcolm Gladwell’s dulcet tones.

Thursday 7th  – Sunday 10th May

The following days passed. I caught up on classic movies from my harddrive- 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Casablanca. Akira. –to name but a few

I had fat tubes inserted up my nose and on Friday I had the joy of having them pulled out. One of the weirdest sensations I’d experienced.

Germana would sneakily come and visit and we’d meet in the fire exit staircase of the hallway. Although I didn’t show it at the time, I did feel really loved. I also got calls from the family to cheer me up.

My pyjamas, which I had faithfully worn throughout, were becoming increasingly stained with blood. I kind of revelled in it though. It is kind of like at a festival when you decide to not take a shower for a few days. Stinking bliss.

My sleep gradually got better throughout the week. Germana had to actually bring painkillers from home as the hospital did not provide me them for some reason. I think it was asthma related.

I signed up to the food over the next few days. It was on point with the mushy tofu or soup dishes when I could hardly chew. It was overall not too bad.

I got to walk around the ward and watch as people recovered or came back in the shellshocked state I was in post operation. I was on a Ear Neck Throat ward so bandages were quite visual. One of the patients must have only been 2 or 3 years old, he was super brave!

On the final day I received my paperwork, packed my bags and covered the expenses. It came to altogether RMB 25,000.

Post Op

It is now 21st May and the good news is that my breathing is better. Before I felt like I had a blockage in one or sometimes both nostrils, now I am experiencing some serious air exhalation from these nasal trumpets.

I’ve had two check ups since discharging myself. On both occasions I had an endoscopy but this time fully conscious. In this examination I would be lying down on a bed while the Doctor had the camera up my nose and picking off the crust and blood clots. It was excruciatingly painful. First time worse than the second.

I’ve compiled all my fapiao (receipts) and have sent it off to our HR. One reason I went through the state-run hospital is that our company health insurance can cover it.

Reflections

  1. I think the healthcare in China takes a more holistic approach before operating on you. They take a look at the whole body and ensure its stable across the organs before embarking on any procedure.
  2. There is almost a 3-5x mark up on price when you compare the state-run hospital to the international hospital. I’d also argue that if you remove the comfort and the queues- there is not much a difference in the service you get.
  3. I was the only foreigner I saw in the hospital throughout the 4-5 month experience. Some nurses in the state-run hospital can speak some English. Some of the medical staff rather ignorantly will direct you to the international wing rather than serve you, but there is nothing stopping you from going through the system.
  4. I’m really glad I got this done in order to take control of my health. I also know how lucky I am to have it done. There must have been a huge amount of people with medical issues as serious or more serious than mine who have had to wait due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
  5. Lastly, this is kind of obvious, but hospitals are fast-moving work places. Doctors and nurses have hugely demanding jobs even at the best of times.  One Doctor, on the ward, shared with me that he’d been working for 48 hours. Dr Liu was also a calm and professional doctor and if it wasn’t for his demeanour I don’t think I’d have felt so confident going into the operation. It shouldn’t have needed a pandemic for the world to give a fuller appreciation to doctors and nurses who really put themselves on the line for us on a daily basis.
My stained shirt. I had one family member tell me it looked like i’d gone ‘Full Auchwitz’
My first meal after the operation
The timetable board that said I was in operation
The timetable board that said i was still in operation…
Post tubes coming out.

Quarantine Bliss

Day 26

7:30am Wake. Begin carrying out my chiselled morning routine. One that Tim Feriss, Mr Life Hack, would be proud of. Days indoors require expert time management. Ensuring that each minute is carefully considered is a daily mission. Roll over to begin first minute of regimented 10 minute snooze.

8:25am Get out of pyjamas before morning call with fellow work colleagues. I take a seat by our south-east facing window. The morning sun shines radiantly on my ZOOM video profile. Natural light + a plain top = easier on the eye. I feel like the model online professional.

WechatIMG8 1

27 January- 21 February in pictures.

8:32am Mi amore tells me I have peanut butter from the pancakes on my face. Model professional status questioned.

10:50am I’ve finished the second class of the day. The student was visually amazed that we could go on a virtual tour of the Acropolis online. The change of scenery really blew him away. All from the comfort of your living room. The same living room you’ve been in for the best part of a month. Why leave I jest

10:55am I take the morning break to look outside. Our 3rd ring apartment is a good location for car-spotting.

3x Chinese Volkswagen Santana

2x BYD Tang

10 x Geely Borui

Today I was fortunate to also spot a China-built Tesla S. Update Car spotting group. It looked like it was heading out east. Was it making a runner?

12:01pm Take lunch. The leftovers from last nights dry food cookoff. Practically made of lentils at the moment.

12:10pm Spot new residents in the building opposite. The dismay of their faces towards the taxi drivers fee suggest they’ve come from the newly built, rarely used, deep south Daxing airport. Data log their floor. Check on other residents to see if they are also abiding to the 14-day quarantine. Everything seems in order for now. Am I in a Hitchcock movie?

2:34pm Sense a drop in my post lunch dopamine levels. Change Spotify playlist from ‘Focus’ to ‘90’s Rock Songs’. Rock out on Cranberries- Zombie. Excellent day choice.

2:45pm Interrupted by a furore in the ‘Safe and Sane Beijing’ group. A self proclaimed ‘Earl of Grey’ believes the government is sandbanking an apartment block in their aim to prevent mass spread. Where doth this Troll emerge from? 

3:30pm Complete my 2nd daily temperature check. Report measurements to HR to pass on to our work buildings property management. I am grateful to be helping instil this local government policy. My second recording of 36.8 degrees is higher than normal.

3:35pm Sanitise the flat

4:14pm A kuaidi (delivery) calls. Can I come meet him at the gate? <Nervous exhale>

4:17pm Finish putting on my protective mouth gear and collect parcel of survivor peanut butter. Ponder if the biker’s ‘whole’ facemask is a fashion statement, road safety related or as everything nowadays over just coronavirus precautious. I herald him and ask him which TaoBao stall he bought it from. He obviously thought our distance was too close and zoomed off.

4:19pm I feel my nose running as I wait for the elevator. It might just be the extreme condensation currently taking place under these masks.

4:21pm Make it back to the flat.

4:50pm Did I tell you I was addicted to Duolingo at the moment?My hearts come back on again and I knock through a few lessons as afternoon stretch happens.

5:30pm Mind turns towards this evening’s entertainment and I realise we’ve watched all of Netflix’s shows that surpass my 95% match. Do I or do I not dip into Outlander? The match rating of 94% seems low.

6:20pm A ‘What to do with your loved one instead of Netflix’ article has some super good ideas on. Thank-you Cosmopolitan.

6:40pm Prepare flat for evening. Draw curtains. Put on mood lighting. Top up the water int he humidifier. Switch Spotify to ‘Soul Classics’. Evening mood is ON.

7:17pm Curry two nights in a row. Not a problem.

8:15pm Cosmopolitan’s Couple Workout is a surprising hit! Until the high PM 2.5 headrush knocks us for six.

9:10pm No 7 on Cosmopolitans indoor list is Play an old computer game. Don’t mind if we do! How was I deprived of Hercules Action Game as a child?

 11:30pm Can’t sleep.

12:12am With a new set of hearts I work on building my way up the Silver League in Duolingo. It really is an addiction! If there is one thing this Coronavirus will teach me, it is Italian.

Buonanotte!

The 9 differences and 1 similarity between the Korean War Museum in Pyongyang and Seoul

195 different coloured shapes across seven continents make up the world map today. The shapes and the shades of each have been contested over time, in part to the consequences of war. One of the most contestable, and most divisive lines is the one that divides North Korea and South Korea (hereafter, ‘DPRK’ and ‘ROK’ respectively), named the 38th parallel.

This division came about due to the conclusion of the surrender of Japan after the Second World War in 1945 and then was subsequently fought over by the Communists in the North and U.S/ UN troops in the South in the Korean War of 1950-53.

In today’s society, to understand the configurations of worlds maps and the public representation of history, the role of a war museum acts as a crucial component to inform the public of its past.

A visit to both war museums in Seoul and Pyongyang offers a unique insight into the parallel cultures and views on history that these two sides have. Here is a list of the differences each side as observed in the experience of visiting both museums:

Differences

  1. Korean War Outbreak. Who invaded who?

Both sides agreed the war started on 25 June 1950 and that the aggressor attacked unannounced as the other was caught unaware. Both though had an alternative view on who was the aggressor. In Pyongyang, we were asked to sit as we watched a video of ROK forces attacking unannounced as DPRK’s children picked flowers in a harmonious state on the other side of the mountain. In ROK, there were two floors of detailed analysis and footage of such things as the type of tanks that were used (the Russian T-34), the preparation and negotiations between Kim Il Sun-Mao- Stalin, the ‘Attackers at Dawn’, the locations that were hit and more.

Western thought is based around receiving data and from that deducing a logical theory. It strangely rankles with me that a state even as aloof and repressed as DPRK can give an alternative story to the public and tourists.

  1. The tour guide experience

In Pyongyang, we were taken around and lectured to by a nice enough, but rather stiff and stubborn lady in army attire. ROK, we had the option of a tour guide but we had the freedom to learn for ourself.

IMG_4719

  1. A statue of consolidation.

In this touching statue in Seoul, where two brothers from opposite sides are embracing, ROK War Museum posed questions about consolidation, brotherhood, love, recovery, and ultimately unity in war. DPRK did not really address this softer element but rather focused on the brutality of war.

WechatIMG52

  1. Link to present day leader

One of the most bizarre exhibits in Pyeonyang was a Greek god style image of Kim Jong Un. Given that he was not involved in the war, it was a sort of self celebratory, John Terry-esqe triumphalism. In South Korea, there was a part of the museum dedicated to previous leader Park Geun Hye’s offering of repatriation to the fallen Chinese soldiers, but statues were left for the soldiers.

  1. Captured vehicles/ neutral-state vehicles

In both museums there were displays of army tanks and war vehicles from either side. In DPRK, the enemy vehicles were claimed to having been captured or shot down. In ROK, the enemy vehicles were on display alongside the other. There was no story of them being captured, so in a way they were in a neutral state.

  1. Acknowledgement of others

DPRK was chauvinistic in showcasing its achievements in pushing back the Allied Forces, giving little accreditation to the Chinese or Russians whose men and arms were essential. ROK on the other hand is grateful for the 67 other nations (a Guinness World Record) who supported them as part of UN Security Council army. That said there is a bit of a sore point that ROK were not able to sign the Armistice Agreement and push for the full unity of the country.

WechatIMG51

 

On a side note, how on earth did the 1950’ Chinese Peoples Liberation Army who allegedly carried flute and drums push back a 67-nation UN force? Mad props to the Chinese

  1. Korea is more than one war.

The DPRK museum focused purely on the Korean War. A lot of the museum in ROK was dedicated to the same war, but it also had exhibits detailing the wars throughout the Joseon dynasty and the Japanese occupation. ROK was therefore a more comprehensive take on war and the development of it in Korea.

  1. Information

As previously mentioned, DPRK sources of information came through the tour guide, a video and some antagonising displays. ROK had displays, pictures, videos, artefacts, costumes, troves of information with Korean, Chinese and English options allowing a freer flow of absorption and understanding.

  1. Resentment

North Korean war museum was very heavily anti-imperialist/American. The Korean War had the most lasting impact on both countries, ROK have acknowledged it and moved on, DPRK appear to bear this grudge.

In Korea, there is a culture of Han, allegedly a purely Korean characteristic that leaves recipients carrying a deep long-lasting sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution. Regarding the Korean War, this Han is more evident in the North.

Similarities

  1. Long lasting dream

DPRK had a dream for curing its sick brother, ridding them of their imperialist occupiers and securing unity. ROK’s governmental message does switch between the ‘sunshine policy of consolidation to more conservative messages of retaliation action depending on who is in power. The ROK museum message hoped for ultimate unity and peace between the two.

So overall, there are more differences than similarities, for instance in the method of portraying information and in the overarching tone of the message. War museums aim to give us an idea of how the war had footprint in its citizens lives, DPRK use it as a way to antagonise its citizens that they are the victims, that they are courageous in battle and one must hate America, ROK uses the war museum as a source of information, as a way of telling its people how ROK fits into the global community and as a call for peace.

WechatIMG50

With heightened tensions following DPRK’s missile tests, what can we learn from the Korean War for today’s climate?

It is striking to note that Stalin gave his backing to the Korean War in 1950 after the Soviet Union became nuclear armed. Nuclear weapons give a country a large bargaining chip. The family in power in DPRK would clearly be happy to remain in the stale mate that is currently ensuing as long as they have nuclear weapons capability in their armoury. Will the U.N forces act before DPRK is fully nuclear armed?

There have been countless incidents concerning DPRK that have not led to a stronger retaliation yet, barring trade sanctions. How much of an effect will falling Trump approval ratings and the orange leaders’ irrational behaviour have in the U.S pursuit of intervention? Furthermore with U.S banning its citizens from entering the DPRK, how will the DPRK citizens ever be able to have any peer-to-peer dialogue, form of debate and internal idea changing surrounding American people?

China enjoys a strong trade relation with ROK. Will they learn to alienate their Northern brothers? Would they ever intervene? With the strength of the Chinese army, is there a need for the U.S troops to be stationed in ROK if this is indeed provoking China who would not like to share a border with the U.S forces and also ROK who are now an advanced nation and would like to seek self-determination?

North Korea

In mid April this year I booked myself in for a 3-day tour of Pyongyang, the capital of the secluded and misunderstood state of North Korea. During this time tensions were at a recent high following discouraging shows of force by the DPRK, the trip was held also while the late Otto Warmbier was still held following his drunken incident. My motivations for going there were based around adventure and my own inquisitiveness, as well as the thrill of running a half-marathon a little off the beaten track.

The journey started with an overnight train to Dandong, a Chinese border city, where I arrived in the morning and spent the day walking around. North Korea here was very much a novelty- memorabilia of bank notes and totalitarian-rule items like badges were on sale. A DPRK restaurant I visited for lunch also had a stream of TV showing past celebrations in DPRK, served by watchful waitresses.

In this border city the main sight to see was a half-blasted bridge where visitors could get an eerie look in on the city’s cross river neighbours.

I was the first to arrive at the meeting point. A gigantic imposing statue of Mao. The tour was filled with young professionals, mainly male, culturally interested, respectful types who were after a good time.

Initial sights of DPRK was of the customs check. We were asked to remove all electronics. Quite the bagful collected of kindles, phones, cameras etc. I find it hard to believe that they went through all of it within the time that they returned the bag. I’d heard stories of people finding pictures of Team America style King Jong Il photos and had their phone confiscated. Not on this trip though, even a copy of George Orwell’s classic 1984 got in.

Never have a tour group I’ve been on been so obsessed with what was happening outside. Through the bus window you could see pastel coloured block housing and everyone, man, child or woman working- hoeing the field. All with badges on marking their famed leader Kim Il Sun. Were these people’s movements rehearsed?

We took a domestic flight to the capital. The plane was a bit dated but the experience was nice. The airport on arrival was shiny but completely empty.

We met our North Korean tour guides who were nice but clearly tense and had a strained sense of humour.

The first couple of days were a whirlwind of sights: the National Science Museum, Kim Il Sung’s birth place, the Torch tower, the War Museum, the Kim Il Sung/ Kim Jong Il statue, the Square, we even had time to go to a local brewery for a local pint. One thing that was apparent was that it felt like the Korean War happened yesterday, there is such a victim approach to this war and they cannot stand the imperialist Americans. There is also a huge want for a One Korea. Also the leaders are absolutely adorned in every single way here.

The big day was Sunday 6:30am, we woke up from the hard bed and I prepped for the half-marathon with a packet of skittles.

The 20-30 minutes when we arrived into the stadium were quite extraordinary; we arrived and paraded around the track. This was a complete novelty to almost all 600 odd runners who had phones out and ran up to the crowd to receive large cheers. There was one Chinese guy who had kahuna style balls to go for a run off from the pack towards the other crowd who were down the other end. Dealt with swiftly.

One of the great images was of the North Korean young athletes impeccably lined up, next to this great swath of foreign runners who were not in a straight line but more a big mass of seemingly chaos.

And then we were off! What an experience running through the streets of Pyongyang. The public who had been so reticent to us in the previous days, were a lot more welcoming, cheering us on our way. We as runners felt like the frackles of a tour group had been taken off, and we were interacting gleefully with the Pyongyang locals.

I got to 10K with no qualms, 15K was manageable but the last 5K my internet bought running shoes had given way and the pain shuddering up my legs left me almost crawling my way to the finish line. Alas I made it and the great cheer of the gathered crowd was one to behold.

 

After we had some post run celebrations in the capital that involved Karaoke, beer and some sake like drink that was quite fiery. I remember meeting one Chinese guy who worked in importing goods to DPRK- he was off his trolley. Infact most of the Chinese on this trip were all also adventurous, thinking this was as bat sh*t crazy as the Westerners do too. So Monday morning we left the crazed state and reflected on the the train ride to the border. A sense of freedom, is something I would not label North Korea with having. The question I think is, is whether they actually want it or whether the concept they have of freedom is different. From my time there I got the sense it was a painfully disillusioned family run-totalitarian playground, but that people were perhaps trying to make it work.

 

Chaos on Streets of BeiXinQiao: Update

Since writing about the chaos brought on the street by February’s great swath of workers and accompanying security guard here. The street has carried on its path of “beautification” or gentrification with Chinese characteristics. The street as a whole has lost character and that certain buzz generated as passers by are unable to see the activity going on inside a restaurant due to their bricked up exterior.

The ugly brick exterior has now been plastered over, and grey, Hutong-like tiles have been put on the outside of the row of buildings. The slick feature is replicated all up the street. It is uniform and a little tourist like.

The biggest casualty has of course been the small businesses that have not being able to welcome customers off the street. Some have left a window open and bricks outside to climb up to the small entry hole to lean in and make an order. Others have pointed customers to their shop back entrance. Others have ceased to exist. That said an indoor market place has welcomed in some of these street vendors including my favourite frut seller and that area is more lively.

The Hutong ‘beautification’ project has been the story of Beijing 2017 so far, the move has been cited to be a political one. The new Mayor who came in during February was under clear instructions from Xi Jinping to make the city international, remove it of its untidiness and make it safer to live.

It is the migrant workforce who makes up 35% of the city’s population that have lost out and had to be relocated. This mass dispersement of people also corresponds in the Government plan to expand Beijing in creating the mega city of Jing-Jin- Ji- this 110 million mega city that is meant to encompass Beijing, TianJin and the province of Hebei.

It can also be seen as an economic policy.  These small businesses do contribute 35% of the city’s revenue, yet they only make up 7.5% of the tax. Replacing them with large chains can help provide them with that extra source of income for the local government.

On the most part, the local Beijing people are quite satisfied. The migrants leaving the city create extra space for them to take back the Hutongs. The project is meant to restore cultural values to the Hutong- only time will tell if this is the case or if it is another advertised policy with a sinister undertone.

A good story that has come out of it, from a purely selfish point of view, is the relocation of Israeli popular food chain, Moxi Moxi. Once a beacon of FangJia Hutong- as I rode back home last night I saw it beginning to set up shop just 200 metres from my house. Bring on the Falafel diet!

So overall, this project has made me realise the true unexpected force of the government. They really give its citizens no notice at all, and very little reason before diving into remaking the city. There is little scope for organic growth here and a development of a business has to really fall in line with the government’s vision.

Stuck in the middle with Chu

The days are warmer now and walking with someone is a much better option than meeting to do face-to-face conversation. Reasons being: if you are with a good listener then its like thinking out loud and keeping the body active can surely only activate the mind!

Plus an evening walk always throws up items worthy of blog material. The orderly chaos of the day ceases, and the crazy lax rules of night-time begin.

Tonights walk around Liang Ma He river, a personal fave, was memorable not just for the conversation but for the actions of the owners of two vehicles who brought the walk to 15-minute and the on coming traffic to a halt.

As we approached Liang Ma He river bridge in the middle of a busy 6-lane road , the scene we witnessed was of a white new looking car stopped with two men out the front full-on brawling.

The car was in the middle of the three lanes and vehicles, bendy buses, electric bikes were all making their way around this fracas.

The deal was that one man who was on a scooter and wearing orange overalls would not let a short man go further on. So the short man would go in and out of his car wanting the orange overall dude to get on and move, while orange overalls would incandescently remonstrate his views at him.

There is only so long you can stare at this situation and it was unbelievable that it did not change in like 15 minutes of observation. Two guys were quite literally on a busy road pushing each other around. The only change that really happened was that a few peacekeepers advised for them to at least move off the middle lane to the outside one. After quarter of an hour, we really chose to move on eventually because it got a bit boring after a while!

The idea of not backing down is so prevalent in the idea of ‘Face’ in China. Chinese are very stubborn when it comes to these situations.

I think in this situation there were certainly instances of orange overalls feeling he would not get defended anywhere else so it had to be dealt with right there or then or short man for whatever he did would get away with it. The idea of Law is historically and probably still very much now done and dealt with mano el mano

To be fair it does make for a better spectacle than someone shouting ‘I’ll sue you’ at eachother!

10 Lessons from Organising a Birdwatching Trip

Having organised a number of events in Beijing, I kind of get a little bit critical of myself over how they are managed and turn out. However yesterday’s trip to YeYaHu Wetland National Park to go bird watching with Terry Townshend, was properly kick-ass.

People had a lot of fun and gained a lot from it, which is what it is all about!

 

So here are my 10 reasons why:

  1. Invite an expert

Beijing is fortunately blessed with one of the world’s renowned birders, originating from Norfolk, Terry Townshend, runs a Birding Beijing Blog, consults the Chinese Government on Climate Change and is also a really nice fellow. The initial date of the event depended completely on his schedule. He chose a day that coincided with the start of a 3 day Chinese holiday. Not great for traffic leaving Beijing, but he provided the intellectual knowledge that enabled attendees to learn something from coming. Terry’s expertise was the marketing and the focal point of the day.

  1. Power of WeChat

Baring three cash payments, all 50+ transactions for the day (accumulated worth: RMB 5030) were done through this messaging app, as well as that: communication to attendees, marketing the event, sharing pictures was all over WeChat- it goes without saying to organise an event in China- you 100% need a solid WeChat game.

  1. If it is niche enough, then there is no need to over promote, people will come

Me organising a Birding event even a month ago is laughable. I’ve never given two hoots about the art. However because it is such a peculiar hobby, it was perfectly engaging for the British Young Professionals and the Beijing Energy Committee (two groups I’m a part of) for one day people to give it a try. I was confident it would fill up so there was no need to over share. Over promoting raises expectations, people get sick of reading about seeing this event advertised and allows the people who have found the event to feel like it is more valuable and almost edgy!

  1. Building a Tribe

People want to feel special upon joining the tour group before coming. A simple message welcoming each member into the WeChat group goes a long way. It encourages people to feel comfortable and confident to speak out and allows for better cohesion amongst each other. A friendlier tour group makes for a more memorable time.

  1. Hire people who are reliable

In terms of the logistics planning, hire people who you have a prior relationship with and you know are reliable. First impressions are not so important in China, it is developing a relationship which really ensures rewards. Our long term relationship with one bus company has ensured we get a decent rate with friendly, punctual drivers and comfortable plush buses. My 100% reliable man, Li ShiFu, never lets me down.

6. Give honest communication

The traffic to YeYaHu Wetland National Park was seriously  jam packed. We’d left at 6am and it was now 9:00am, I’d stated we’d get there by now but instead we were in a big jam on the G6. Pressure was rising. People needed to receive verbal communication in times of uncertainty. So I got on the mic and told the bus honestly that the initial estimations were off but also promised hope from receiving the (real) news that a person in the group who travelled by car had arrived and the traffic would subside. Soon enough it did!

    7.Always value your group

During this mega jam, we had two people asking for a bathroom break. The thought crossed my mind to open the doors and get people to relieve themselves at the side of the road. We were moving pretty slow and that is what we’d do in my family car!

Thankfully the thought subsided, I acknowledged the calls for the bathroom, and after trundling on for a little longer, we pulled up at a roadside toilet. If overall the day is a great experience, people forget that you arrive 20 minutes or even 2 hours late to a place, but they would never forgive someone showing a lack of respect by asking them to pee behind a tree!

  7.1 …...but especially value your guest speaker/tour guide

Without a doubt, your guest speakers or tour guides are the most important part of a trip or event. They are giving up their time (usually for free) and to ensure that you as an organiser are seen positively for future events, it is imperative that a thoughtful gift is prepared (a card is more personal). The day after all must not be a chore for them but an enjoyable, mentor-led experience.

   8. Networking is most important

Despite the education that took place: to do with bird watching and a wetlands ecosystem; the biggest gain from any event is meeting new people. Allowing time for breaks, picnic lunch, extra time at ice cream stalls and the countless spottings of birds gave people ample time to chat with each other which when you compare that to typical panel/speaker-led events, is a rare and valuable thing.

   9. Altruistic marketing

The day in itself was pretty budget- the cost of a ticket was RMB120 ( I even sold some for RMB80-100), overall that included a 6 hour bus ride, Terry’s expert advice and a flat RMB 50 entry fee. That said all proceeds from the profits (of which there were some!) went to the environmental charity volunteering group- Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots. This attracts attendees who are conscious of where there money goes.

  1. Pictures sell

First off, to my delight birding is actually a very subtle art. We spotted over 25 different species during the day and experienced some great sights. Everyone shared their photos at the end of the day which allowed you to create a bank of great photos from which to market the next event whenever it comes 🙂

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At the end of the day, organise things that excite and interest you, and quite honestly going bird watching was one of them! Beijing Birders For Life!

Education and Innovation: How the two are linked and can unearth Chinese student’s hidden potential?

There is nothing better than seeing words put into action.

In a space of a week I’d turned from audience member, to mediator, to finally a mentor all within the area of Chinese innovation.

I’d heard from top minds talking about innovation and educations role within it, and then saw it put into practice with China’s next generation of leaders.

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Monday saw Steve Hoffman, CEO of Founders Fund speak on Innovation, which he explained is formed when people fumble around in the darkness instead of going to straight to the end goal. To take things to market in China, the seller has to be innovative nowadays. The market is saturated and domestically there is a higher quality of product.

Tuesday as Chair of the British Chamber Young Professionals, it was a pleasure to hold a talk with Zhu Bei– Co-Founder at TSL Education, and serial tech entrepreneur Rich Robinson directed at answering the question of innovation through education, centred around the principle of learning how to fail. Education’ as Zhu Bei observed is best attained by a student when they are cognitively focused and passionately interested into a subject. Innovation, Rich stated is formed by embracing the suck and the creation of a new category. The connection starts with coaching parents and the students to embrace the idea of failure to allow yourself to come up with new ideas and concepts.

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It was after this talk that Andy from Centre for Youth Business Facilitation asked if I’d like to be a part of one of their mentor weekends happening in Tianjin. I would certainly be down.

The innovation workshop put six teams of Chinese high school students against each other. Their task was to reimagine a business idea from a real company in China and adapt it to the Western market. I was brought in to sit in and mentor the students as they devised their plans. I was genuinely impressed by their rich capabilities, energy and inventiveness throughout the day, as well as their teamwork.

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Innovation is a buzzword in China. The State’s message of ‘Made in China 2025’ aims at delivering innovative world leading technology to China that focuses on new technological business. In many ways the State’s initiative to innovation is protective but then also quite forward thinking, it has protected Chinese companies from global competitors allowing them to expand and they are different on their own terms. China’s famous tech brands (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent- BAT) would not have achieved such growth if restrictions had been put on their Western counterparts- Google, Amazon and Facebook. Great article by Niall Ferguson on this here.

The State realises though that for this grassroots innovation to follow, it needs more international minds. One policy for instance in Zhongguancun, a tech hub in Beijing, allows foreigns to attain resident visas a bit easier. It now needs to learn how to grow these international mindsets domestically by implementing more of these CYBF educational initiatives that get the students to think more rather than recite.

Education is inextricably linked to the characteristics that the graduate leaves University with. For graduates to show creativity and willingness to make decisions and potentially mistakes they need to be brought up this way in school. Despite this and the common held belief that China has a copycat culture, I believe innovation is certainly apparent in China but internationally minded brains mostly fuel it.

Chaos on the Streets of BeiXinQiao

Monday 9:10am

Coming outside for the first time in the day is a great part of living the nomad life. You’ve just woken up and lo and behold you are in this chaotic, characterful and compulsive fast-paced place.

This Monday morning was a bit more chaotic and fast-paced than most.

Today the routine route to work by bicycle was anything but. Cycling out on to BeiXinQiao San Tiao- the truly non commercialised, local Hutong I reside upon, most famous for its lamb legs, had some noisy, disruptive visitors.

img_4405An assembly of workers were all flanking the street, spades in hand, ready for action. What action I was by no means sure. Big diggers were trundling up towards me. It may have just been a routine project had it not been for the large amount of security personnel. Some armed with riot shields and batons. Trouble was expected.

My bike weaved between the masses of people all congregating at 9am on a Monday. Behind my smog mask I was aghast with the mess and noise the diggers were causing, as they tore into a used to be salon at the bottom end of the street. Gathered crowds watched on.

Coming from a home back in England, which has been painstakingly worked on for the last 4 years. I found the whole operation initially quite refreshing albeit mental. This was a clear indication of things getting done with a quite a large force.

I had read something about second rate service based businesses in Beijing being moved out to provincial cities to make room for new-age technological industry. Perhaps it was that. It is also well known that the Hutongs have experienced a lot of redevelopment in the past so many years to make way for more space or for tourists. Perhaps people like me are to blame.

It was at work that I found out that the Government does do routine destruction jobs on properties which have been built on Government land. The property prices are so high in Beijing it is not surprising though. Luckily my house sits on the 5th floor of a building off the street, surely they can’t tear this down I thought!

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 Monday 6:30pm Update: Post work the hutong has changed pretty dramatically there was shards of grass on the floor, there was piles of rubble outside buildings. Workers smoking, smiling post work happy with their days demolition. A lot of the places were bricked up. I am not sure if this is paid-for-workmanship by some atrocious bricky or they are closing off a shop.

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Tuesday 22:20pm Update

I had initially thought that the work was being done on just a collection of businesses. As I returned tonight it appeared that most if not all buildings have been severely affected. Any businesses that stray out into the road have been dramatically cut back. Grotesque brick jobs that would make my lime loving, cement hating Mother shake in her boots have been replaced.

I am actually quite furious. It’s quite extraordinary how ugly this job is. I am sure it has happened before but to see it done so quickly and emphatically is just mind-blowing.

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I regularly go to the fruit and veg stores, seen above, and other convenience stores, and it broke my heart to see the owner shrug his shoulders and laugh at my shocked expression. ‘Xi JinPing’ he said.

The Party Secretary sneezes and the country shudders.