Home > Josephine Johnson, Music > Local dispatch from China

Local dispatch from China

Dear Heraldo,

When I’m not teaching in China, I live in Eureka, California. I’m a singer and songwriter there :) Here’s my blog: www.josephinejohnson.wordpress.com

Mostly, I’m writing about China at the moment, but the students I teach will attend Humboldt in the fall. I will follow them there…I’m working on a cross-cultural education book.

So, it’s indirectly Humboldt-y, I suppose.

Maybe you could check it out? There are lots of pics from China :)

**Ok, that I can even type this message right now is keen–here’s some news, though not Humboldt-related. The internet in China is being very strictly monitored right now–some speculate middle east plays a part; others say student protests in Spain are significant. But the real news is that there is major upheaval in Inner-Mongolia right now. The Han Chinese operate and want to expand coal mining there, but they are facing much resistance from native herders and tribes people. According to some students from whom I’ve gotten information, situation more on par with Tienanmen 1989 than what CNN is portraying.

That’s all I got.

Hitting send–let’s hope it goes…


Josephine Johnson

  1. The Big Picture
    June 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Youths around the globe have been protesting, in no small part, against the ubiquitous demands of U.S. imperialism.

    25% of the world’s resources are being forcefully extracted by 5% of its population and all that “trickled down” to U.S. citizens was a crippled welfare state.

    The empire’s young subjects are cynical, largely numbed, mainlining anesthetics that induce torpor. Few bother to vote.

    In this context, the conformity of mild dissent is often mistaken for outspoken moral acuity.

    For every “Josephine” traveling with purpose, there are thousands of the world’s “privileged and deserving” each consuming a ton of fuel every day to enjoy a meal and hotel in distant ports, oblivious to future generations that will need that fuel to build new energy economies, a civilization that doesn’t look anything like ours, if humans are to survive.

  2. Josephine Johnson
    June 1, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Heraldo, I’m surprised by your posting my email–was merely hoping to have my blog listed in your side bar. But this is better. Thank you.

    More outlets are picking up the unrest in Inner-Mongolia–LA Times, Guardian UK & this AP/ Yahoo link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110531/ap_on_re_as/as_china_inner_mongolia_unrest

    Others are noting China internet crackdown.

    Inner-Mongolia isn’t Humboldt, but the region’s issues are similar to local resource issues. Instead of old growth redwoods being destroyed for timber, road widening, in Inner-Mongolia complex grassland ecosystems are being eradicated to make way for coal mining and processing. Similar to Humboldt’s past (present?), indigenous people with the least amount of power are also disregarded, usurped and their heritage and ways of life destroyed.

    Final thought–Big Picture, the students, herders, and tribes people aren’t directly rallying against U.S. imperialism. Certainly, though, the U.S. has set the paradigm of imperialism that China–as much as they despise us (yes, that’s bold)–has embraced and now forces on out-lying minority territories for the sake of energy security and consumption.

    Again, H, thanks for posting.

  3. June 1, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I’m leaving on my sixth trip to the independent and democratic country of Mongolia in August. I’d say over a third of my Facebook friends are Mongols, mostly scientific researchers, but also NGO and political figures. There is lots of chatter and links to media coverage being posted every day by them about what is going on to the south.

    I and my fellow Mongolphiles are following the news from what the Mongols are starting to call “Southern Mongolia” (currently the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in China) very closely.

    For anyone who is interested, the organization, based in New York, which seems to have the best information on what’s going on day to day is the Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center. http://www.smhric.org/index.htm. When you read about the Chinese whining about foreign interference or unfair coverage, this is one of the orgs. they are undoubtedly referring to.

    Inner Mongolia has been flooded by Han Chinese to the point that ethnic Mongols now make up only 15% of the population. The kids are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese instead of their own language and the cultural oppression is similar to what has been done to the Tibetans and Uighurs.

    The Mongols have a deeply engrained land ethic. Without grass for their animals, they cannot survive on the land, so the destruction that coal or other mining brings is a real problem for them.

    The irony is that in Mongolia itself, resource extraction is the economic hope of the country. The world’s largest copper mine (I know three Mongols who work there) will come online next fall and plans are proceeding for one of the world’s largest coking coal deposits. China will be the main customer, another irony, given the dislike and distrust the Mongols justifiably feel towards them. Both are located in the Gobi. The copper mine also has significant deposits of silver. There are national environmental laws and the contract for the copper mine (Oyu Tolgoi) covers restoration, but enforcement will be the issue.

    There are also important deposits of the same rare earths that the Chinese currently control the market for. You can bet the Mongols are planning to be ready for business in that area also, as the mining licenses are awarded.

    Mongolia’s GDP is expected to start to increase by up to 30% a year in the next couple of years, which will make them the fastest growing economy in the world. After 500 or so years, the Mongols are about to enter the world stage again. What this may mean for “Southern Mongolia” remains to be seen. But I know what my Mongol friends want….reunification.

  4. The Big Picture
    June 1, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    I sat on a plane to Asia with atmospheric scientists from CA who had a special airplane shipped ahead that captures and analyzes samples of the massive tons of Mongolian dust that absorbs deadly pollutants from China’s ubiquitous reliance on coal…creating a yellow haze so pervasive that it can be observed from the CA coast in certain wind conditions. (Ask field workers from Redwood National Park).

    Travel often leaves us scratching our heads and asking, “why don’t these people and their government do something”?

    Then, we return home to our own unbridled environmental, economic and social disasters.

    Thoreau never understood American’s lust for travel, writing: “If it’s not paradise where you live, go downtown and change it”.

    If only we were as enlightened as we act.

  5. June 1, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Josephine- you and I were writing at exactly the same time. A couple of comments:

    The Mongols are not an “indigenous people” or a “tribe”. To filter them through that kind of western anthropological terminology is inaccurate and really rather offensive. They are a modern, educated people. The country people, or herders, are roughly equivalent of American ranchers. I believe this to be equally true in both Mongolia and Inner Mongolia. One of the joys of my life is when I get to visit a herder family, sit with them, drink milk tea and learn a little about their lives and traditional Mongol values.

    Secondly, if you study the history of China you will find that the pattern of China’s current behavior goes back, back, back..to around 200BC, far beyond the existence of the USA. We’re a flyspeck in time compared to them.

    What we see now with China actually has very little to do with us, although their prickliness towards western foreigners does date back only a couple hundred years and is quite justified (see British Empire, opium trade).

    Hard as it may be for many Americans to accept, we are not the measure of all things in the world, or even most things. Representative government of, by and for the people is probably our best gift to the world. Which ain’t half bad.

  6. June 1, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    So, is “indigenous people” a pejorative?

  7. Greg Gehr
    June 1, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I was skimming Josephine’s blog when I realized I kept seeing pictures of my daughter’s mother! She is the “Mary” that Josephine was staying with and posted several pictures of, as well as the Dean of the Humboldt college over in Xian. The internet really is a very small place. Hi Josephine! Tell Mary we miss her, and hope all is well! Maybe we will get to meet you Josephine if/when you come back to Humboldt.

  8. June 1, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Thanks for your email, Josephine. I enjoyed your songs on your blog.

  9. June 2, 2011 at 1:52 am

    To the first couple of commentators…………..Dude.

    Well you’ve demonstrated the cool immediacy of blogs again by linking us to someone who is “Boots on the ground,” in a distant land. Ms Johnson can speak from a unique point of view. I would like to thank her for sharing her thoughts.
    Is this the future? We follow journal-blogists, or Blogger-journs, or Journal-Bloggerismists; in far-flung parts of the earth, reading their daily entries?
    It’s still pretty wide open.

  10. Sharon Letts
    June 2, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Hey, Jo, look at you on the Herald! Love and miss you! Keep up the good work and be safe. xo

  11. June 3, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Joel- not so much perjorative, but, in this case, inaccurate and uninformed.

    moviedad- Dude. I’m not. Interesting assumption on your part.

  12. Anonymous
    June 3, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    Most U.S. media pulled their foreign correspondents years ago, accelerated by media deregulation and the consolidation that follows.

    The LAST THING our corporate “betters” want us knowing is how the rest of the industrialized world, among many others, are rapidly changing to new energy economies.

    What motivation do corporations have to retool when they enjoy a revolving door to the highest gov. offices, author its energy, tax, and free-trade legislation, and can loot the richest treasury on Earth to maintain outdated technologies?

  13. June 7, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Hi Susan,

    Josephine is blocked from leaving comments for some reason, but she wanted to respond to your comment. She says:

    If I may:
    My knowledge of Inner-Mongolia is limited– I’m not an expert. Shaanxi Province, where I teach, shares a northern border with Inner-Mongolia, so there are a number of students here from that ‘autonomous region.’ I interact with several Han Chinese from Inner-Mongolia, and one of them relayed to me information about tanks and military in the streets of his home town. My student friend ( who is sympathetic to the situation) referred to Inner-Mongolians as ‘tribes people,’ which apparently is not an accurate description. That Inner-Mongolians are an ethnic group different from Han Chinese and not ‘indigenous people’ was a key fact lost in translation in our conversation. One more point–when I did a search to find news about the issue, several pieces came up, but I was only able to read the one I posted a link to in my comment. Currently, I can’t open any news stories related to Inner-Mongolia.

    Clearly, Susan Fox knows much more about this region and the conflicts there–I am glad that she could shed more light on the issue. But because I do have pride and an ego, I regret not being able to share how I knew what I knew and to underscore how highly restricted I am to political information.

    Please don’t publish but do know I strive to be as informed as possible when I write and speak.

    There, I feel better!

    Kindest regards,
    Josephine Johnson

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