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The Book of the Week is “Disoriented, Two Strange Years in China as Unexpected Expats” by Howard Goodman and Ellen Goodman, published in 2014.
In the autumn of 2009, Howard, a journalist, moved to Shanghai to work for the newspaper, Shanghai Daily. His wife Ellen went with him. They weren’t allowed access to social media, but as foreigners, they were able to get satellite TV channels HBO, CNN and BBC Worldwide Service. Ordinary Chinese people weren’t allowed access to any idiot-box information unsupervised by their government.
Anyway, unpredictably, channels were occasionally blacked-out due to censorship. Further, Howard was continually frustrated by government censorship of his employer’s product. Nevertheless, they were floored by Shanghai’s super-fast completion of construction on buildings and infrastructure that began in the late 1990’s.
According to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, or Bibliography and an index), in a few short years, an efficient, shiny high-speed rail line graced the skyline.
BUT, “It didn’t take long for one of the two new bullet trains to crash in Zhejiang Province, killing forty people and injuring nearly two hundred. In the aftermath, the Railway Ministry was revealed to be a pit of kickbacks, corruption, construction shortcuts, and debt, skimming profits and shortchanging safety.” Americans like to think the United States, unlike China, is NOT as greedy, power-hungry and lawless as all that.
Americans also like to think that their own country WOULDN’T ban all of its media from revealing ugly truths about itself in the interest of image-management (also called “optics”) the way China’s government did. In 2010, China didn’t televise the Nobel Peace Prize awards-ceremony because a then-imprisoned Chinese dissident was the winner. Howard’s newspaper did a workaround– reporting that the Foreign Ministry: was livid about awarding a prize to a dissident, and blasted Norway as the venue of the ceremony.
The United States government is currently grappling with Big Tech’s ability to control free speech. There is great difficulty in deciding where to draw the line when a man as provocative as a “Father Coughlin” type comes along and his power surpasses that of just national radio commentator. Obviously, there are worldwide repercussions if he is a world leader.
Along these lines, here’s a song most ordinary Americans are singing right now:
WOULDN’T IT BE NICE
sung to the tune of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” with apologies to the Beach Boys.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our-courts-were nonpartisan,
then respect for justice would be strong.
And why don’t we apPLY the law-for-all,
then we’d have a better world ‘ere long.
Resolving conflicts makes us that much better.
We can’t possibly let violence stay, unfettered.
Wouldn’t it be nice if officials could take up,
all the issues IMportant to you,
and we’d get to have a say together, in our town halls,
we CAN see matters through.
But in recent decades we’ve seen hating.
We should ditch the rallies, and demand, real-debating.
Oh wouldn’t it be nice?
Maybe if, we lose the patronage and corruption,
we wouldn’t have to SUE.
Maybe then, we’d be rid of dangerous loudmouths, whose time should be through.
Please ignore THEIR rants. Please ignore THEIR rants.
Reform campaign FI-nance! Reform campaign FI-nance!
Oh, wouldn’t it be nice?
You know it seems the more we read world history,
the less the current situA-tion’s a mystery. So let’s READ world history.
Wouldn’t it be nice?
Bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah bop, bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah bop,
bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah bop, bah-bah-bah-bah-bah-bah bop…
Anyway, read the book to learn a wealth of information on what daily life was like for American expats in Shanghai and Hong Kong at the start of the 2010’s, and about the authors’ employment adventures, too.