Editorial: Society Should Determine How to Manage Development vs. Environmental Protection Trade Offs

In my opinion, the major takeaway from Beijing’s recent “airpocalypse” wasn’t the magnitude of the horrid pollution, but the freedom in which internet users and mainstream media organizations covered it.  There comes a point where political posturing over the technical specifics of 2.5PPM seems prosperous when you can barely make out the building across the street from you.  This was an article I came across in the indispensable Sinocism newsletter, and it is about as scathing a piece as I’ve ever read in mainstream Chinese media.

Note- There were a few sentences which gave me trouble here.  I’ve posted this article to /r/Chineselangauge, let’s see if we can figure these out.


Editorial:  Society should Determine how to Manage Development vs. Environmental Protection Trade offs

Across the country, over 30 cities have been experiencing severely bad haze, notably Beijing.  This has sparked fierce public debate with ample resentment and self deprecation coming forth across the media and the internet.  Facing the dark, gloomy urban skies, one after another people in China are asking “what is going on?” and “what are we going to do?”

Environmental pollution in China is still accumulating.  Although recent political measures have had effects, the magnitude of the problem hasn’t improved.  On a macro level, China’s industrialization is not yet complete, and infrastructure construction is in full swing.  China is still the world’s largest construction site, lives up to its name as “the world’s factory”, and is in the process of becoming the world’s “car kingdom”.  China manufacturs 70% of the world’s iron and steel and roughly half of the world’s cement.  Under these circumstances, there is no way China can be as clean as Western countries.

But the recent pollution indeed does ring alarm bells.  It tells us that without adjusting our current development model, we will be suffocated, and never reach the other side.

So how do we make adjustments?  This is one of the biggest problem China faces.  Development is both a right, and a strong wish of the Chinese people.  Simultaneously, an unpolluted, or less polluted, environment is also demanded.  Under current technological conditions in China, these two stand opposite each other   In the near term, finding the best of both worlds is a pipe dream.

The government fundamentally cannot determine the answer to this problem on behalf of society.  Past governments took a “low key approach” to information about pollution.  Today, society won’t buy this approach.  A new conflict has emerged.  

From now on, the government must publicly communicate the truth about the pollution which surrounds us without delay, and allow society to participate in the entire process of resolving this problem.  Managing the relationship between development and pollution will be a thorny issue, but in the process of democratizing China, now is the right time.  Citizens should understand the importance of development, but also the urgency of maintaining a threshold of environmental protection.  This difficult choice of confronting these trade offs should proceed through the democratic process.

Whether it is environmental protection or paying lip service to environmental protection, in reality only pursuing development is reckless; pursuing environmental protection at the expense of anything else is impulsive.  China should actively find a carefully calculated balance between the two.

All sorts of extreme and provocative viewpoints surface in Chinese public opinion, often changing directions without cause.  The government administration —– (Reddit- help with this paragraph?)

In this period, lots of anger over the pollution is directed at the government, not all of it misdirected. It is obvious the government isn’t the only responsible party when it comes to this problem, but the government must fundamentally alter its secretive and unclear practices in dealing with pollution and environmental issues.  It must be open and transparent dealing with this “pressure valve” ….

Environmental issues should be considered solely environmental issues, avoiding politics here is just complicating the issue.  Dealing with this huge problem in Chinese society should be dealt with using facts and practical experience, and can become a model for how China handles other issues.  Environmental problems have already left us suffering miserably, we shouldn’t let political issues further stir up our problems.

After fully confronting our environmental problems, Chinese society can soberly weigh the issues, and pursue decisions in our collective interest.

Original Chinese (article here)














Translation: The Internet is Not a “Lawless Land”

We all know the Chinese internet is censored.  Even with some important caveats, it is indeed very, very censored.  This so dominates the Western view of the Chinese internet (especially after the very high profile “Google exit” in 2010) that it is impossible to read articles like below outside the context of censorship.  I am by no means an internet censorship apologist, and firmly believe it unequivocally does serious detriment to the brand of China in the eyes of foreign firms considering investment (not to mention the stark violation of a basic human right) , but part of me wishes Facebook had a similar disclaimer at it’s login page.

This is front page of today’s People’s Daily (人民日报).

The Internet is Not a “Lawless Land”

Original article here

“Fantastic, but noisy…” many people agree this can describe the internet.  As a brand new platform, it brings people social interaction, information services, and the opportunity to exchange ideas, all huge benefits and conveniences.  Yet simultaneously, the internet leads to harassment, scams, malicious attacks, and the dissemination of misinformation and rumors.

With development this fast, with the simplicity of getting online, and with the virtual and anonymous world the internet provides, lots of people go online without thinking.  Yet we should recognize that the internet is not a “lawless land”.  Words and actions on the internet, intentional or unintentional, have real legal consequences.  Damage caused to individuals or society do not just exist in the virtual world.  Those who have been cheated, infringed, or attacked, suffer just as much damage as traditional methods.

An open China needs a civilized internet which operates under the rule of law.  Whether it is the regulatory authorities or internet users, we all need to cherish this platform.  We urge people to use orderly language in a proper manner.  Even though the internet may not be tangible, users should take responsibility for their words and actions and realize they have legal consequences.  Whether on or offline, this is all to build a foundation of public order and morality.

Original Chinese:




Words/phrases of note

嘈杂 (cáo zá)- Noisy, cacophonous
不假思索 (bùjiǎsīsuǒ)- Without thinking, to jump into something with no hesitation
公序良俗 (gōngxùliángsú)- Public order and morality

Translation: Girl Denied Job Because She Brought iPhone to Interview, Can’t “Eat Bitter”

Translation: Girl Denied Job Because She Brought iPhone to Interview, Can’t “Eat Bitter”

I’ve always been interested in the role the iPhone plays in the psyche of modern day white collar Chinese.  On the one hand, it is an irresistible sign of modernity and technological triumph, a device so elegant and sexy yet practical and functional that most everyone remembers the first time we held one.  Besides just adding productivity to our personal and professional lives, spawning a ruthlessly competitive market of imitators, sparking a multi billion dollar app industry out of thin air, and indirectly inflating valuations of companies from Facebook to Verizon, it looks pretty cool in your hand.  This appeal has an undeniable allure for the face obsessed, brand hyper conscious middle and upper class Chinese consumer.

The flip side of these giddy consumer impulses is illuminating.  The reporting over the past year of the dismal conditions in Foxconn factories and related labor unrest made it impossible for anybody, American or Chinese, to ignore their own personal consumption ethics.  Further, the economics of the iPhone bluntly indicate China’s still lowly position on the global economic totem pole: in 2010, the WSJ estimated that despite manufacturing and assembling the majority of iPhone components, Chinese workers capture only 3.6% of the total iPhone value.  Finally, Chinese people are painfully aware there is no legitimate domestic competition in the high end smartphone market, going so far as to question whether the next Steve Jobs could feasibly be born, raised, and educated in China.

Alas, I will spare readers my sophomoric analysis of this topic, and instead turn to a fun translation.  This is a quick and breezy article about a college senior being rejected from a job interview for bringing her iPhone, which by owning, indicated her inability to work hard and endure hardships.  I’ve included a few selected comments from the article’s original site, highlighting the range of responses.

Girl Denied Job Because She Brought iPhone to Interview, Can’t “Eat Bitter”

Original article here

These days, the iPhone has fallen into favor among the youth.  Yet for one senior college student, the iPhone has brought major trouble.  She brought along her iPhone to a job interview, giving the employer the impression that her family is very well off, and she is unable to bear hardships.  She was not hired.

On the 24th, on a Changchun University internet message board, I saw a post claiming “I am a senior seeking job training, but but was unexpectedly denied because I brought an iPhone to the interview”.

I contacted the poster, “XiaoGao”, who described to me the troubles her iPhone has brought.  XiaoGao is a senior in college.  With studies coming to an end, lots of students are seeking internships.  XiaoGao sent her resume to several companies, and a few days ago, a recruiter called her and invited her to interview.

On the 23rd, XiaoGao arrived at the company for an interview, but after just a few minutes, the interviewer said the company wasn’t interested in hiring her.  What was the hardest to accept for XiaoGao was that she was denied was because she had brought an iPhone to the interview.

The employer was worried she can’t “eat bitter” (bear hardships).

“Just because a student uses an iPhone means we can’t do work?” XiaoGao questioned.  The interviewer said that she hasn’t yet graduated, and the phone was purchased by her parents, not by her own means and efforts.  He deduced she was a rich girl unable to bear hardships.  The work requirements at the company were substantial, requiring employees prepared to work hard, so they denied her.

“Sure, my family did buy my phone, but does this really say anything?  I didn’t bring it to flaunt my wealth” she said, still surprised her phone could wreck her interview chances.

I consulted several employers about their hiring policies.  An HR manager at another Changchun electronics company told me “The phone an employee uses or the car they drive have no relationship to work.  We look at the candidates talent, everything else is ‘floating clouds'”.

After visiting several high schools in Changchun, I found there are lots of students using iPhones.  A classmate surnamed Sun told me “Having an iPhone is completely normal, tons of my classmates have one.”

What are your views on XiaoGao being rejected for having an iPhone?  Let me know in the comments below.

Selected comments:

– “Support!  A student who hasn’t earned any money and buys a high end phone which costs thousands of RMB, this definitely is hard to accept!  There are lots of attractive phones on the market which are only several hundred RMB, students should learn how to work hard and live modestly.  After making money, paying back your parents and family is the proper way.”

– “Next time bring a Nokia”

– “F*** your mother for buying a foreign good”

– “I also doubt her work ethic”

– “From this cell phone incident, we can see the student didn’t take the interview seriously.  It is common sense to put your phone in your pocket- how will others know what phone you have?”

– “As soon as I saw this, I know this company doesn’t have a future”

– “She should say it is a fake, the interviewer would be comforted”

Original Chinese












– “支持!一个还没自己挣钱的学生消费数千元的高档手机,的确让人难以接受!市面上几百块的手机很多,也很漂亮,作为学生应该学会艰苦朴素,挣了钱先回报父母和家人才是正道”

– “以后拿个诺基亚去吧…”

– “买外国人的产品.死你妈的”

– “我也会怀疑她的工作态度”

– “确实是从手机里面看到这位同学对面试的不重视,按常理你的手机是放在口袋里,别人怎么知道你用什么手机呢?”

– “一看这见识。。就知道这公司没什么前途”

– “说自己拿到的是山寨,考官心理里平衡了!”

Word/phrases of note

青睐 (qīnglài)- In favor, accepted by
家庭条件 (jiātíng tiáojiàn)- Family (financial) conditions
实习单位 (shíxí dānwèi)- Internship, company offering internship
用人单位 (yòngrén dānwèi)- Employer
吃苦耐劳的员工 (chīkǔ nàiláo de yuángōng)- Hard working and dilligent staff
炫富 (xuàn fù)- Flaunt wealth, show off
高档手机 (gāodàng shǒujī)- High end cell phone
艰苦朴素 (jiānkǔ púsù)- Working hard and living simply
理里平衡 (lǐlǐ pínghéng)- Peace of mind, at ease  (NOTE: the kind folks at the Chinese language subreddit noted this is probably a typo of 心理平衡, roughly meaning the same thing.  I’m humbled people read this closely enough to find a one character typo all the way at the bottom, and a bit nervous such a discerning audience found their way here.  I love you Reddit, please don’t bite).

Original article- http://edu.sina.com.cn/l/2012-11-25/1917222366.shtml

Translation: The Communist Party of China is Completely Different from Western Political Parties

In light of current events in both the US and China, it was natural I’d choose a political post to translate this week.  I’ve always had a strange affinity towards very wooden and archaic political Chinese.  Living in China, you are constantly surrounded by red propaganda banners espousing party rhetoric, and I remember the feeling of being supremely frustrated not understanding what they said (and the budding addiction of deciphering them).  Dammit, I demand to know that “The Great Chinese Nation is in the Process of a Historical Revival, and it Requires Contributions from All Citizens!”  I rarely talked politics with Chinese friends and colleagues, and never needed much in daily life or business, so learning these words and phrases was solely for personal fulfillment.  As a recovering political science major, seeing the phrase “有中国特色社会主义“ (“Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”) will always warm my heart.

This is not a particularly interesting or unique take on the CPC, but offers some pretty fun translation challenges.

The Communist Party of China is Completely Different from Western Political Parties

With the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress underway, the world is intently focused on the world’s largest political party.  With very different sets of values and historical experiences, a rich and interesting set of perspectives are being offered around the world.  Yet in light of this commentary, the Chinese Communist Party’s historical experiences and special relationship with the fate of Chinese society is still relatively unfamiliar to political scientists.

It is obvious that the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) is not a standard political party in traditional western terms, perhaps even incomparable.  The CPC currently has 82.6 million members, bigger than populations of large European countries.   It is not a party which mobilizes once every few years for an election, but penetrates through to the most basic levels of Chinese society, a force highly integrated into national and societal management systems.

The current situation has slowly taken shape over the course of almost a century.  In the long, painful Chinese revolution, the CPC led in mobilizing citizens to overthrow the old system, and has continuously strengthened links with the great Chinese population. Since the establishment of “New China”, every step in the Chinese national mission has been difficult, requiring high levels of unity and hard work to accomplish.  The CPC’s large and efficient social mobilization efforts are in order to realize the goal of “National Revival”.

China fundamentally cannot have “rotating political parties”.  In Western democracies, rotation of political parties is merely rotating power.  Yet if China “rotated parties”, it effects more than just who is in power, it would cause earthshaking turmoil and unrest across all society.

The CPC attaches great importance on party building, a necessity for long term governance.  In its early days, the CPC learnt from the experience of the Soviet Union, but soon paved its own path uniquely suited for China.  The CPC emphasizes unity, strict organizational discipline, and close ties with the masses, thus creating a party with strong internal cohesiveness, uniting a large and complex country.

What China fears most is chaos.  When the party was formed, China was not a democracy, was not an independent sovereign state, and was in a state of national disunity.  The process of building a modern China has been difficult and painful, and the CPC’s experience and practice of uniting China has been far from perfect.  However, China has made it to today, becoming the world’s second largest economic power, a road which should make the Chinese people feel fortunate and proud.

The party has undergone many transformations in 90 years, incessantly adopting and meeting the challenges of a variety of problems and crises.  The extreme tests it has experienced are more than any other political party in the world, shaping its special tenacity and fighting will.   By learning from historical experiences and close contact with society’s grass roots, the CPC can fulfill the ambitious national development mission.

The objective of Western political parties is governance, with their governing prospects simply depending on not disappointing the electorate’s expectations.  The CPC is a “long term political party”.  Besides satisfying the population’s expectations, it is also closely linked with the destiny of the state and nation, realizing the great national resurgence the Chinese people are eagerly awaiting.  This requires struggle and real competence.

Yet the long term nature of the party also brings many problems.  For instance, unchecked power and corruption of officials are obvious problems, and they are undoubtedly bringing increasingly harmful effects to the country.  There has yet to be a systematic solution to resolve these issues.

The CPC does not represent any interest groups, and its members come from all societal classes and ethnicities.  In this diversified era, balancing the interests of all levels of society and creatively constructing a way for grassroots society to participate in politics is a worldwide problem, and Socialist China is no different.  Especially, as Chinese society is becoming more empowered, seeming to overwhelm the traditional realm of Chinese government, the CPC must stay on top of these changes.

The opening of Chinese society includes a complex web of activity, influencing the honesty of a party 80 million large, adding to its complexity(?).  In the internet era, the CPC’s credibility will always face an uncountable number of pressures and traps.  The problems and challenges are great, but the foundation of the party is strong and firm.  Facing the future, a united party is very important.  On this basis, as long as the party continues in the direction laid out in the Congress Report, embedding itself in China and its people, the CPC will naturally create a steady stream of power, the party and its leaders will be invincible.

Original Text:












Words/phrases of Note:

聚焦到 (jùjiāo dào)- Focused on
视角 (shìjiǎo)- Viewpoint, perspective (literally “sight corner”)
紧密关系 (jǐnmì guānxì)- A strong relationship
可比性 (kěbǐ xìng)- Comparability
渗透到 (shèntòu dào)- Penetrate to, to reach…
高度融合 (gāodù rónghé)- Highly integrated
国家使命 (guójiā shǐmìng)- National mission
政党轮替 (zhèngdǎng lúntì)- Changing/rotating political parties in power
翻天覆地 (fāntiānfùdì)- Earth-shattering, tremendous
动荡 (dòngdàng)- Unrest, upheaval
纪律 (jìlǜ)- Discpiline
凝聚力 (níngjùlì)- Cohesion
韧性 (rènxìng)- Toughness, tenacity
历史经验 (lìshǐ jīngyàn)- Historical experience
基层社会 (jīcéng shèhuì)- Grassroots society
伟大复兴 (wěidà fùxīng)- Great revival
权力缺少制约 (quánlì quēshǎo zhìyuē)- Political power lacking constraints, no checks/balances
利益集团 (lìyì jítuán)- Interest groups
社会所有阶层 (shèhuì suǒyǒu jiēcéng)- All levels of society
参政 (cānzhèng)- Political participation
世界性难题 (shìjiè xìng nántí)- Worldwide problem
互联网时代 (hùliánwǎng shídài)- The internet era
公信力 (gōngxìnlì)- Public credibility
不可战胜 (bùkě zhànshèng)- Invincible, cannot be defeated

Translation: Apple stock price falls below $600

As a devoted denizen of the Google/Android-verse, I feel a bit sheepish choosing a negative Apple story as my first translation piece. The smartphone wars have reached a  comically “us vs. them” point (as if we need more wedges in our society this election season), and I refuse to judge people by the suite of online services or mobile hardware they personally prefer. However, it is with borderline schadenfreude that I watch Apple stumble, perhaps to the direct benefit of my beloved Android ecosystem in the long run.  Smartphone politics aside, this is a fun, short, and easy piece about 7 大问题 (big problems) Apple is currently facing.

Words or phrases I find particularly useful or interesting are bolded, and listed at the end.

Original Story: http://tech.sina.com.cn/it/2012-10-31/23487757806.shtml

English Translation:
Apple stock price falls below $600: 7 Recent Problems

Story Lead: Foreign media reporting today that due to changes in management, Apple stock price fell below $600 on Wednesday, reaching its lowest price since July. Will Apple fall even further from here?

In early trading Wednesday morning, Apple stock fell below $600, mainly because of the management changes on Monday. Yet regarding the resignation of iOS Software Department VP Scott Forstall and Sales Manager John Browett, Wall Street Analysts are not all particularly worried.

Even before the resignation of these upper management, several problems had emerged at Apple:

1) First 3 day sales of the iPhone 5 were lower than industry forecasts
2) iOS 6 Mapping app riddled with errors
3) Fourth quarter profit lower than Wall Street’s forecasts
4) Apple warned 2013 fiscal year’s first quarter (until the end of December 2012) gross margins will decline significantly
5) Fourth quarter iPad sales were below expectations
6) Wall Street not satisfied with the relatively high price of the iPad Mini ($329)
7) Overall the reaction to the iPad Mini was positive, but there was no lack of detractors

Is this the sign of the beginning of a slump for Apple? No! However all of this happened at a very critical time, just as the smart phone and tablet market is entering a period of intense competition.

Microsoft is seeking business opportunities in the tablet market, and the recently unveiled Windows 8 is impressive. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed that since the official release of Windows 8 Friday, 4 million units have been sold to individual consumers. Next up are a wide array of phones coming from Samsung, Nokia, HTC, among other firms all featuring Windows 8.

In summary, Apple watchers will have a hard time avoiding this question: is Apple headed downhill?  In trading Wednesday, Apple stock fell 2.4% to $589.60, the lowest on record since July.

Original Chinese:



对于iOS软件部门高级副总裁斯科特·福斯特尔(Scott Forstall)和零售主管约翰·布罗维特(John Browett) 等人的离职,华尔街大多数分析师都不是特别担心。


1)iPhone 5上市后前三天销量低于业内预期;
2)iOS 6地图应用错误百出
6)华尔街对iPad Mini较高的定价(329美元)不满
7)关于iPad Mini的评价,整体而言是积极的,但不乏指责声。


微软正在企业市场挖掘平板电脑商机,最新发布的Windows 8也表现不俗。微软CEO史蒂夫·鲍尔默(Steve Ballmer)周二表示,自上周五Windows 8正式上市以来,已面向向个人消费者售出了400万套。接下来,还将有大量来自三星、诺基亚和HTC等厂商的Windows Phone 8手机上市。


Source: http://tech.sina.com.cn/it/2012-10-31/23487757806.shtml

Words/Phrases of Note:

管理层- (guǎnlǐ céng) Company management, management level
下坡路- (xiàpōlù) Going downhill, downhill path
跌破- (diē pò) Fall below, below the…
错误百出- (cuòwù bǎichū) Full of mistakes, riddled with errors
发布预警- (fābù yùjǐng) Issue a warning
低于预期- (dī yú yùqí) Lower than expectations
不满- (bùmǎn) Dissatisfied
迹象- (jīxiàng) Mark, indication
关键时期- (guānjiàn shíqí) Critical period, crucial time
强劲挑战- (qiángjìng tiǎozhàn) Strong challenge, intense competition
商机- (shāngjī) Business opportunities
表现不俗- (biǎoxiàn bùsú) Doing well, solid performance
观察家们- (guānchá jiāmen) Observers, watchers

Blog Introduction: Thematic Gravity

After finishing up a very rewarding work project which involved extensive blogging on topics related to learning Chinese, I’ve decided to keep up the momentum by starting this site.

This will be a personal project, starting with translating at least one article from Chinese into English per week.  I will choose from various topics and articles I happen to encounter in Chinese during the week, ranging from posts on spunky tech-startups to wooden political propaganda to love advice from my former employer.   I’ve done translation work before in various capacities, and when the topic is genuinely interesting to me, it is great fun.  A rewarding translation project combines two of my favorite intellectual activities: reading and deciphering Chinese, and distilling it into coherent and hopefully elegant English.

There are a wide array of sites which do great work translating entertaining, controversial, bizarre, and engaging content from the Chinese internet into English.  Tea Leaf Nation and ChinaSMACK are the two which immediately come to mind, but there is a very fun ecosystem of sites and blogs out there.

I’m doing this primarily to maintain my Chinese translation skills, giving a structured framework to the Chinese reading I do on a fairly regular basis.  However, I do hope that by having a regularly updated personal website, I am inspired to begin writing and sharing more personal essays.  Sure, I think that in this day and age anybody who hopes to make a living working in the online marketing space (me) needs to have a compelling ”online presence” to be taken seriously.  With such little friction to get a basic website up and running, there is no excuse to not spend 30 minutes a week jotting down ideas and thoughts for the world to see.  But what I found really inspirational was coming across this piece written by a friend of mine.

The entire post is well worth reading, but this in particular struck me.  Certainly couldn’t have phrased it better myself:

“That’s the promise: you will live more curiously if you write. You will become a scientist, if not of the natural world than of whatever world you care about. More of that world will pop alive. You will see more when you look at it.

It’s like what happens to a room during a game of “I Spy”: if your friend spies something red, the red stuff glows.

When I have a piece of writing in mind, what I have, in fact, is a mental bucket: an attractor for and generator of thought. It’s like a thematic gravity well, a magnet for what would otherwise be a mess of iron filings. I’ll read books differently and listen differently in conversations. In particular I’ll remember everything better; everything will mean more to me. That’s because everything I perceive will unconsciously engage on its way in with the substance of my preoccupation. A preoccupation, in that sense, is a hell of a useful thing for a mind.”

Thanks for reading.  Excited to get started.

This is where my writing occasionally goes