Remarkable day on the blog, responses, footy tipping result, and seriously good posts on China

When I checked the blog’s stats this morning I had a surprise in store, See for yourself.

Two partial explanations. The first is an email I received from Paul Harapin, the President of the Sydney High Old Boys Union.

I am wondering if you taught at Sydney Boys High as Tony Hannon made mention of a blog tht no longer exists so am looking to a few and yours was first that came up

I replied as soon as I saw that affirming I was indeed a former colleague of Tony Hannon who used indeed to read my blog in the early 2000s when it was on Diary-X among other places. I referred him to the post last week about Tony on this blog.

The second reason is my long-term blog friend in Kalimantan, Tikno — a friend of Jim Belshaw as well. Lovely man. He responded at length by way of comment on one of the recent Russia/Ukraine posts — particularly making some points about the Western approach to NATO and the actions of Russia, drawing attention to the way China tends to be regarded these days. I rather prefer to keep those issues separate, but I get what Tikno is saying. Should you be reading this, Tikno, you may also be interested in this item: When words matter: Reviewing the Wong-Wang meeting. On the author: “Jocelyn Chey is Visiting Professor at the University of Sydney and Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and UTS. She formerly held diplomatic posts in China and Hong Kong. She is a member of the Order of Australia (AM) and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.”

When we look at the wording of the Embassy’s text in Chinese, we see that it was exactingly considered and carefully worked over. Unfortunately, the English translation, which appeared on Sunday, was less than perfect. For instance, anyone with more than a cursory level of ability in the Chinese language could tell you that one major difference between Chinese and English is the framing of requests and instructions. Let me give some comments by way of explanation.

English language speakers tend to soften requests, using “Could you please…” or “It might be better if you…” and similar circumlocutions. Chinese language is very lacking in these constructions and speakers tend to use simple verbs such as “Come”, “Sit” etc, whether they are speaking in Chinese or English. Those who have lived and worked in China soon learn to ignore this brusque language, realising that it is not impoliteness.

Another feature of Chinese language is its frequent use of phrases drawn from classical literature. These aphorisms are also often moralistic, referencing the widespread influence of Confucian culture. Their use can make life difficult for a foreign learner who has not studied classical Chinese.

The Chinese Embassy English language report on the meeting between Penny Wong and Wang Yi reveals the importance of these linguistic nuances. Failure to recognise them partly explains the misinterpretation of the meeting by Birtles and other journalists. Having read the report in both languages, let me highlight some critical passages.

Very wise. My friend and former colleague Russell Darnley who has long and intimate knowledge of Indonesia and South-East Asia generally referred to another article on the same site: Misconstruing China’s ‘demands’, Australian media beat the drums of war. The author: “Wanning Sun FAHA is Professor of Media and Communication Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UTS.” On Twitter Russell wrote:

@SenatorWong Hoping that the expression of Australian foreign policy continues to be fine tuned, particularly in relation to the #PRC. I’m more comfortable with the nuanced approach you’ve demonstrated & certainly not the current #MSM or #ASPI rhetoric

Plenty of good meat in all that! I suggested to Tikno that he search China Policy on my blog. Now you can too! For example you will find a 2019 post that is still relevant: China, M&M, Hastie. Quite a bit of history in that post, personal and otherwise.

Thanks, Tikno, for your thoughtful responses.

And now we come to Round 18’s Footy Tips!

Could have been worse!