Friday, October 12, 2007

Ultranationalism at the Local Watering Hole

Nightlife down here on the southern frontier is pretty limited, and recently the crowd out at night seems even more homogeneous than normal. It used to be that you could walk into the one decent bar downtown, Sunglow, and come across a handful of Shantou's foreign community. The three or four times I've been down there in the last couple of months, however, there's been nary a foreign face to be seen.

Where have they all gone? Perhaps they were dissuaded from entering by the big freestanding posterboard that's now up in the bar's entrance. The sign lists all the kinds of people that are not permitted to enter the bar.

They include: Anyone who supports a militaristic Japan. Anyone who supports Taiwan independence. On a note that might find more common consensus, international terrorists and drug users and dealers are also banned.

Perhaps this was all pomp and circumstance in honor of National Day; unfortunately, the owner of the bar, a friend of mine, was not around for comment. Large posters of Mao were hung around the bar. They made interesting counterpoint to the two young ladies singing Latin and English jazz up on stage.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

MyShantou website

My apologies for the long absence to the one or two Melon readers that might be out there. I've been concentrating my attention on writing and trying to get writers for, a website all about our fair southern city here. (

There's something attractive about the website, despite the fact that it runs on a system which can't even handle correct punctuation. I guess it's the fact that it has a genuine audience: the small foreign community here constitutes one part, and the Chinese English-speaking community here, (a bigger group than I would have expected) constitutes another. But the biggest group, as far as I can gather, is the expatriate Chinese who have roots here in the Chaoshan area and are now spread across the globe from Malaysia to Canada.

I've been confronted with ultimate Chinese dilemma in becoming involved in writing and recruiting writers for the site: How much of the content should reflect positively on the city, and how much negatively? In the States there would be no question -- publish what you want. But it's just different here. A student of mine, for example, has written a great piece on interning at a local newspaper over the summer. Along the way, she came face to face with official corruption and buffoonery. It's a great story, and I have no doubt about it's authenticity. But publishing it on the site might result in the site getting shut down. Hmmmm...if a tree falls in the forest, and officials deny that there was ever a tree, does it make a sound?