During the recent Hong Kong appearances by the crew of Shenzhou 9, the astronauts’ interactions with local residents were characterized by mutual admiration filled with true sentiment. Today’s South China Morning Post shows one of them crying and another playing a harmonica…
Yesterday’s SCMP quoted a young visitor to one of these events as complaining that it had been about trivia rather than science. But that’s manned space missions in a nutshell. Putting humans into space is absurdly costly (even though China has done it on the cheap by creating the Tiangong space station out of an unmanned supply craft design). Once all the life-support systems are in place, there is little room left for serious experiments. The Hubble telescope does ground-breaking cosmology, and the Rover vehicle Curiosity just landed on Mars might tell us whether life can form beyond our planet. Fox News takes it all seriously, but astronauts are really just an expensive PR gimmick to bolster national pride.
Rather like China’s top athletes – at least those who didn’t shame the motherland with mere bronzes and silvers – who will be following the astronauts on a tour of the Big Lychee. They will demonstrate their physical skills at Queen Elizabeth Stadium (the arena’s Chinese name is less horrifying) before gathering for the modestly titled Olympic Gold Medalists’ Extravaganza, for which the government is happy to discuss TV rights if anyone’s interested. It is not known whether any of the sports stars will cry or play the harmonica, but I am assured that the evening will end with The Who playing My Generation. The Social Welfare Department is reserving some 4,000 tickets for the underprivileged – not that the government is afraid half the seats will be empty or anything.
Meanwhile, the National Education mess lurks in the background. The Hong Kong government is reduced to writing pitiful letters to the New York Times in an attempt to limit damage to its own – and actually Hong Kong’s – reputation. And the Ombudsman is investigating government grants to pro-Beijing organizations to produce teaching manuals containing now-infamous brainwashing propaganda (they also take students on trips to the Mainland to see Chairman Mao’s much-repaired pajamas). Asian Sentinel views it all with suspicion. The reality is probably more humdrum; officials threw money at the patriotic groups to shut them up and to get Beijing off their backs. Look, we’re subsidizing Leftist educational work, so we must be taking all this motherland BS seriously, right?
The same goes for the ever-shifting justification the government is using in its attempts to sell the new curriculum to the Hong Kong public. The original approach of bundling ‘national’ with ‘moral’ education led officials to claim, in effect, that nurturing national pride was all about encouraging independent thinking. For some reason, this has failed to convince, so the new spin is that this is all about filling a hitherto unnoticed but apparently yawning gap in kiddies’ schooling. Liberal Studies teaches kids how to think, and Chinese History teaches them facts, but – oh my god! – they’re not learning values. It’s a gap. We must fill the gap. Moral and National Education fills the gap by teaching values.
Pragmatic government apologists are also pointing out that students need to learn about their country. This may be true, but that wasn’t why Donald Tsang’s administration introduced the National Education policy. Sir Bow-Tie did it so Beijing would think his government was taking national pride seriously. However, because it actually did not, it introduced a half-baked policy with no credibility. (Looking back, most of his time in office was about gestures). Now a new administration – led by someone who does take patriotism seriously – is left trying to implement this rubbish. Unable to admit to senior leaders in Beijing the terrible truth that Hong Kong has been trying to fob them off with a joke National Education policy, CY Leung has no choice but to stick with it. What a tangled web we weave…
Meanwhile, away from all the infantilism and delusion, in the Western world where people are brought up to think critically, a man in Beeville, Texas, finds a taco with an image of Charles Manson on it. (He thinks it’s Jesus, but – to put it gently – the poor guy is in adult care.)
One wonders what ‘Mainland values’ are being alluded to. Speaking of Sino chest thumping, there are a number of whiny net based comments both about western officials plotting so that the glorious Motherland didn’t top the medal table and of the insipidness of the London ceremonies. Perhaps if Brian May was an example of ‘mainland values’ his Phd in Astrophysics would have been an honorary one, based on donations he had given, or his guitar, rather than being an example of hand-made endeavour, simply ‘copied’, cough. At least Freddie Mercury’s appearance was ‘fake but real’. Maybe the west are learning from China after all?
It’s sad to see that China is the only nation apparently left feeling bitter after the Olympics, despite coming second. Everyone else seems to realise that it was just a good-natured sporting event, not World War III.
The only time I mention Charles Manson is when someone tells me how long they have been married.
“Ten years? Even Charles Manson is eligible for parole.”
I presume that the girl taikonaut crying was in response to the other taikonaut playing his harmonica. You see, in space, nobody can hear you play, so that’s the best place for harmonicas. All harmonicas.
While I’m not one to piss on China’s bonfire, I can’t help but think these these forced celebrations of the Motherland’s glory are a bit overblown, after all, it’s not like manned space docking hasn’t been done before. I’m sure the Americans managed this fifty years ago. True, fifty years ago China was embarking on the Cultural Revolution when people such as (rocket) scientists were persecuted to death, so that’s not bad progress, but manned space docking doesn’t have the same “wow” factor like, say, the Mars rover.
Maybe what the Motherland is celebrating is that home-grown Chinese technology (which has not bee copied from anone else, no way) has, for once, not blown-up, fallen over or crashed. For that, I salute them.
Of course, once the Chinese get to the moon and then to Mars, I’m sure they will claim that these have historically been part of China and that anyone who says otherwise will hurt the feelings of the Chinese people … but let’s save that for another day.
But why is she crying ?
a) HK’s shocking air pollution ?
b) Forced into appearing in this one country, one CCP love fest?
c) Someone called her a locust ?
d) The shame of the glorious motherland only coming second in the medals table caused entirely by evil splittist democrats and foreigners ?
e) Being forced to read the Pro China Morning Post ?
Alright enough …
Watched some of the Mars landing on NASA’s TV channel over the internet. The program host was an ABC. She interviewed the kid who came up with “curiosity” to win the contest to name the rover–she appeared to be an ABC as well. Then they cut over to a scientist/commentator for briefing, another ABC.
But those ABCs can’t be real Americans if Hong-Born Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders isn’t a real Hongkonger, can they?
I’ve always been bemused what ‘values’ are Hong Kong’s, China’s or anyone elses.
What are they? A guess – hard work, filial piety, er… ‘harmony’….?
Or is it corruption, cronyism, speculation & lies?
You can hardly look back at the steaming turds of The Great Leap Forward & The Cultural Revolution never mind the Beijing Massacre without the CCP looking anything less than evil at worst and grossly incompetent at best – so how do you teach that to kiddies so they are proud of their country?
Okay, that’s enough China bashing.
Has any of you geriatrics bothered to check out the new Hysan Place in CWB ? Well, that’s something else as far as malls are concerned. Suddenly Times Square and Queen’s Road Central looks so dated and 1995. They even have a sit-out viewing deck on the 5th floor or so, with no Starbucks or shoppettes or anything else to distract you. Just a place to sit and relax, smack in the middle of the most expansive retail space on planet earth.
On second thought, that’s not right.