July 28, 2006
The Uyghur Ray Charles
Maybe Stevie Wonder? OK, perhaps I'm stretching things a bit. There are few similarities between Ray Charles/Stevie Wonder and Muratjan Muhtar Orunligan aka Murat Muhtar, save the fact that all three are blind. Nevertheless, I'm posting two of Murat's videos below.
The first video, which I'll call "Innocent Lakeside Frolicking" for lack of Uyghur language skills, is a typical boy-chases-girl affair. I'm all for this kind of video - which features some great Uyghur dance moves - but it seems strange that Murat himself isn't featured at all. The video is the first track on Murat's new VCD, so I'm guessing it's the "big single" and producers didn't want to have a blind man's vacant stare ruining the lovey-dovey atmosphere. (His vocals are lip-synched.) In any case, it's a great tune... you'll just have to wait through the first minute or so for the Atash label's VCD intro to finish. Don't skip it, however, as the music is super-funky! (You can also watch and download this video at Google Video, where the quality is generally better.)
The second video from Murat Muhtar is of a genre I'm particular fond of: the Uyghur afternoon dance party in the countryside. In this type of video, I imagine the artists invites his friends, family, and neighbors out to a nice shaded spot amongst fruit trees, where dancing and music ensue. The whole event is videotaped and later edited for use on a VCD. You actually get to see Murat's face in this one. Be sure to check out his red shirt... it's the height of modern Uyghur fashion! (This video can also be viewed at Google Video.)
I hope you've enjoyed the videos! Leave me a comment, will ya? It lets me know you care.
P.S. I'd like to give a big shout-out to ESWN, probably the most informative and amusing China blog out there. ESWN is always kind enough to post a link to this blog whenever I put up a new Uyghur music video. Thanks, Roland!
posted July 28, 2006 at 03:55 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (30)
July 23, 2006
Oil & Apricots
Ever supportive of Korla (库尔勒) - my home away from home - I was pleased to read this morning that China is opening up the Taklamakan Desert/Tarim Basin oilfields to exploration by foreign companies. Not that I haven't occasionally spotted a Texan or two roaming through Korla's city center. Halliburton and similar outfits are responsible for supplying a good portion of the drilling equipment used by Chinese oil companies in the area... and with these new developments, I'm sure a Texas twang will become de rigeur among cutting-edge students of English.
My reasons for supporting the development are somewhat selfish: (1) I like Korla and have enjoyed seeing it's remarkable growth even during the short one-and-a-half years I've been here, and (2) I'm hoping the certain increase in foreigners (I can only count about seven at the moment) will bring improvements to my quality of life such as breakfast cereal, a reliable butter supply, and maple syrup. Can I ever dream of the day when Korla has a TGIFriday's and an Outback Steakhouse like Beijing? Mmmmm... seasoned curly fries.
(You can read the full article on the opening of the oil fields below.)
In other news, I am now officially an exporter. That's right, I made my first sale of apricot puree concentrate a few days ago. It was only a small sale (about 60 metric tons) compared with what I'm trying to move, but nonetheless I feel that things are moving in the right direction. I'll soon be slinging tomato paste and sundried tomatoes... who knows, I might even make enough money to go back home to the US and see my friends and family sometime in the next decade.
Oh, I almost forgot... everyone should go and check out Dear Internet, a site recently launched by my friend Chris Erway and a team of graduate computer dorks from Brown University. The site basically allows you to pose a question to the public, provide a list of answers, and wait for the masses to subject you to their tyranny. It's a bit of a waste of time if you ask me (not that I'm Mr. Efficient), but somehow I find myself mesmirized by age-old philosophical quandries like, "Purple vs. Green" and "Flight vs. Invisibility". Don't wait! Visit now and find out what everyone thinks about your stupid question.
IOCs May Gain Access to Tarim Basin
18 July 2006
Emerging Markets Daily News
© Copyright 2006 Business Monitor International
China is planning to allow foreign oil companies a rare chance to carry out exploration activities in parts of the resource-rich Tarim Basin in the north-west of the country, according to state-owned c (CNPC). This move will be welcomed by international oil companies (IOCs), which have traditionally been kept away from China's most prolific basins.
CNPC said that it will invite bids from foreign companies for exploration in nine potential oil and gas blocks in the basin. It said that several IOCs had already expressed an interest in participating in projects in the Tarim Basin, but provided no names.
A company statement suggested that a major incentive for permitting foreign participation was to attract technological know-how from overseas. CNPC apparently plans to exploit the latest exploration methods in order to raise the level of proven reserves.
The nine blocks open to foreign exploration involve a total area of 110,000 square kilometres, the CNPC statement said. It did not provide the exact location of the blocks. but said they are located in the south-west, the centre and the east of the basin, located in the vast Xinjiang region.
This region is considered critical to China's efforts to boost its energy security in the coming years and as a possible replacement of oil fields such as Daqing in north-east China, which are approaching exhaustion.
China has traditionally limited foreign access to its onshore oil and gas resources but, as demand for energy to power its booming economy has grown, it has opened the door and, in March, PetroChina signed a deal with Total of France on exploration in the Erdos Basin.
According to the June 2006 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, China's proved end-2005 oil reserves were 16.0bn barrels (a significant downwards revision from earlier estimates), while China has 2,350bcm of gas. Exploration activity is picking up and production is relatively stable. This suggests some medium-term decline in oil reserves (to 15.3bn bbl by 2010), but more stability in the gas segment.
China's oil demand by 2010 is currently expected to reach at least 8.33mn b/d (according to BMI forecasts), from 6.99mn b/d in 2005. There is scope for upwards revisions to the medium-term projections. We see potential for relatively stable domestic oil output over the near term, with volumes in 2006 of 3.65mn b/d before settling back at around 3.55mn b/d by 2010. The import requirement is therefore expected to be no less than 4.78mn b/d by 2010.
posted July 23, 2006 at 03:11 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (26)
July 12, 2006
The Return of Uyghur MTV
UPDATE: You can now also watch the video over at Google Video. I'm hoping the quality will be better than YouTube's, although there's no way for me to check since Google doesn't allow playback in China.
My previous postings of Uyghur music videos have proved in the long run to be the most popular feature on this site. So, with that in mind I've decided to start posting them more frequently... there's no reason not to, seeing as I'm here in Xinjiang and VCDs cost less than two bucks apiece.
The video above is typical of what you might see on any given evening on Xinjiang TV (XJTV), the region's major Uyghur language channel. The VCD that this video comes from was lent to me by my Uyghur friend, Fatima, and contains a selection of music clips from a popular comedy show.
I've chosen this video for three reasons: (1) the featured artist is Xinjiang's most famous suona player, (2) the video shows traditional Uyghur dancing of both the female and male variety, and (3) the clip gives you an idea of the obsession among Uyghur women with extremely long, braided hair. Sorry if there are a few glitches in the video... blame YouTube.
For those of you who can't get enough of Uyghur music, I recommend that you check out Sanam's collection of videos. The site is very popular with Uyghurs... I've often seen them watching the available clips for hours on end in Internet cafes. You can sort the videos by origin by clicking on the links at the top of the page.The link all the way at the right will give you only Uyghur videos. Other categories include videos from Uzbekistan, Turkey, and India (Uyghurs are huge fans of Bollywood-style extravaganzas). It's a fun site to explore, despite the language barrier.
posted July 12, 2006 at 08:56 AM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (23)
July 06, 2006
There was an interesting story in yesterday's South China Morning Post about crackdowns on minority-owned businesses in China's Han-dominated east. The article focuses on the plight of Abdul Raxit, a self-made Uyghur restaurant owner who was driven to take a policeman hostage because of unfair treatment by authorities in Guangzhou. Apparently, some minor infractions such as placing a kebab grill on the sidewalk led Mr. Raxit's restaurant to be raided by a force of one hundred law enforcement officers who proceeded to smash his flower pots and tussle with his staff. Neeedless to say, Han-owned establishments next door were left untouched.
The article goes on to discuss the racist attitudes and discriminatory practices that China's minorities face when they leave their traditional homelands (e.g. Tibetans outside of Tibet; Uyghurs outside of Xinjiang). Some excerpts:
"We are not educated," said Nyima Yamtse, a Tibetan peddler. "We do as the Hans but they do not chase the Hans. As soon as we appear, they come and chase us. It's as if they have a surveillance camera watching out for us."
"The problem is if 10, 20 or 50 of them come and crowd into one place. People get the impression that more and more are coming to our town. They are worried about criminality. They think that if one Tibetan commits a crime then all of them are criminals."
Han Chinese saw minorities simplistically - as people who sang, danced and wore beautiful costumes.... They also regarded their ways as dirty, noisy and strange. During one clash between authorities and minorities in Guangzhou, a law enforcement official told a Tibetan hawker who had drawn his knife on the Han official: "The Communist Party has taken over your country. Why should I fear your knife?"
There is pressure on landlords not to rent shops and houses to Uygurs, a tactic that's also used to harass dissidents. Mr Raxit said [that his restaurant] branch opposite the Guangta Mosque was being forced to move because the landlord would not renew its lease.
The thing that struck me upon reading the article was the striking similarity between what's going on in China now and what has happened in America over the past half-century in response to an increasing minority population. I suppose that racism is racism, no matter where it happens. You can read the full article below.
Blitz on illegal hawkers in Guangzhou is seen as crackdown on minorities, with officials accused of flouting Beijing's policy favouring ethnic groups
by Leu Siew Ying
5 July 2006
South China Morning Post
Abdul Raxit is a model of success for Uygur families in the prosperous city of Guangzhou. Having arrived there 10 years ago from Kashgar with 1,500 yuan, a pair of scissors and a razor, the former barber realised he had to act swiftly to survive and build a future for his family in a city that has experienced double-digit economic growth for two decades.
He spent his last 30 yuan on a stool, hung a mirror under an umbrella that a Hui imam gave him in Sanyuanli, an area frequented by Uygurs, and offered haircuts and shaves. The money slowly trickled in. Charging 50 yuan for a haircut, he secured enough customers to save 10,000 yuan in his first year.
Today, he is a successful restaurant manager enjoying the trappings of a comfortable, middle-class life. Smartly dressed and well-spoken, he plans to buy a house, send his three children to good schools and remit up to 600 yuan a month to struggling members of his extended family in Xinjiang .
But even with such success, Mr Raxit, 32, feels that in the eyes of the authorities, he remains foremost a Uygur. Despite having been targeted in the past by authorities - officials dismantled his barber shop when he failed to produce the proper licence - Mr Raxit was unprepared for the crackdown on illegal hawking that saw him at the centre of a police blitz earlier this month.
On a quiet midweek morning, more than 100 police and security officers descended on the Nur Bostan noodle restaurant that Mr Raxit manages in Linhe Donglu, home to many other eateries.
Witnesses said the officers kicked over pot plants and scuffled with staff over a barbecue grill that was placed on the street without authorisation. As the fracas escalated, Mr Raxit took a policeman hostage with a knife and threatened to blow up gas canisters before negotiators eventually arrived to calm things down.
"They came straight for us," Mr Raxit said. "They ignored the flower pots outside the Chinese restaurant and smashed up ours. I don't know why they did this. We are businessmen. We do not commit crimes. We do not traffic drugs. Why are they doing this to us? Are we not human beings?"
His comments are backed up by other minorities who feel the authorities are targeting them. "We are not educated," said Nyima Yamtse, a Tibetan peddler. "We do as the Hans but they do not chase the Hans. As soon as we appear, they come and chase us. It's as if they have a surveillance camera watching out for us."
The incident at Mr Raxit's restaurant was the start of a crackdown on illegal hawkers that many commentators view as an attack on ethnic minorities moving to prosperous Guangzhou. The following week, Uygur businessmen and Tibetan peddlers - many of whom came to Guangzhou a year ago to peddle trinkets along Huanshi East Road - said they had also become victims of the clampdown.
Experts say that discrimination against minorities is on the rise in Guangdong and across the mainland, despite the central government's policy favouring minorities. There are fears that local authorities are increasingly mishandling the problem.
Protection of minorities is enshrined in the Chinese constitution, which gives them considerable autonomy with regard to their culture and way of life. Minorities, for example, are exempt from the one-child policy and do not have to cremate their dead. The constitution also prohibits discrimination against minorities.
But many feel the central government views minorities as backward.
Yang Anhua, who lectures on mainland ethnic minorities in Jishou University, in Hunan province , said that in recent years, the actions of city officials in enforcing policies showed they were targeting minorities. "What they are doing is against the minority policy and the building of a harmonious society," Professor Yang said.
Guangzhou is not the only mainland city to have widespread illegal hawking. But while Beijing and Shanghai have had minorities illegally hawking there for years, the migration to Guangzhou is more recent, sparking tension between established locals and the minorities.
The Uygurs, chased away by authorities in 1999, have returned, drawn by an influx of Middle Eastern traders to Guangzhou. Tibetans and Hui Muslims have followed close behind.
Thomas Heberer, an expert on China's minorities at the University of Duisburg in Germany, said Guangzhou authorities are concerned about the recent minority influx but have yet to develop better and less heavy-handed ways of dealing with the situation. "Now the Tibetans are coming," he said. "The problem is if 10, 20 or 50 of them come and crowd into one place. People get the impression that more and more are coming to our town. They are worried about criminality. They think that if one Tibetan commits a crime then all of them are criminals."
Professor Heberer said minorities, who make up 80 per cent of the poor on the mainland, are coming to coastal boom cities to escape poverty after being driven out by Han Chinese migration into their regions.
He said the children of these minorities had no future in their home towns so they left for the cities. Having no contacts among the established locals, they exercised self-segregation and the few who were forced into crime to survive had seemingly tarred all the minority groups with the same brush.
Han Chinese saw minorities simplistically - as people who sang, danced and wore beautiful costumes, Professor Heberer said. They also regarded their ways as dirty, noisy and strange.
During one clash between authorities and minorities in Guangzhou, a law enforcement official told a Tibetan hawker who had drawn his knife on the Han official: "The Communist Party has taken over your country. Why should I fear your knife?"
Such attitudes have helped foment tensions in Guangzhou, leading to the formation of a special squad of about 300 dedicated officers charged with targeting street hawkers. Squad members have been issued with special uniforms to protect them from potential attacks with hot oil and fire by angry hawkers.
A Xinjiang government representative in Guangzhou said he supported the use of the normal powers of the law against illegal hawkers, but said the attitude of officers is creating tension among the minorities.
"The policy is there to protect minorities," the official said. "It is the same everywhere. It is not possible that enforcement officers do not understand it. They have to be serious about adhering to the policy, otherwise there will be problems."
Tibetans in the city number no more than 300, according to Mr Yamtse who said there were another 400 throughout Guangdong, mainly in Dongguan and Shenzhen. Acting as a community support network, the groups keep in contact with each other in case they need help. Uygurs are estimated to number about 10,000 in Guangzhou, but the population has dropped by half from 1999 when the authorities razed Uygur restaurants and sent many home.
Over the past two weeks, the latest crackdown seems to have reached a stalemate. Minorities are aware of the laws protecting their rights and they are using those regulations to challenge the authorities: the Tibetans calmly roll up their blankets when enforcement officers arrive and unroll them when they leave. If the officials spot any journalists, they drive away.
Mr Raxit has moved the charcoal grill back out on the pavement, which regular customers say does not block the street. "We are not afraid because we know we are in the right," he said.
But the crackdown on illegal hawking is just one form of discrimination, the Uygurs say. There is pressure on landlords not to rent shops and houses to Uygurs, a tactic that's also used to harass dissidents.
Mr Raxit said the Nur Bostan branch opposite the Guangta Mosque was being forced to move because the landlord would not renew its lease.
Guangzhou is not alone in mishandling minorities. Professor Heberer said that in Chengdu , Sichuan province , Yi minorities and Tibetans were not allowed to stay in hotels, while in Panzhihua, also in Sichuan, armed police had driven thousands of Yi back to the mountains in a clampdown that began in 1997.
The bias against minorities was increasing but the central government viewed it as a problem to be addressed on the local level, he said.
The Uygurs bore the brunt of the discrimination, Professor Heberer said. "Every time there's a bomb blast, it's blamed on them. The conflicts increase the perception that Hans don't like them, that China is not their country."
Professor Heberer said the solution to the problem lay in changing the Han perception of minorities, while Professor Yang advocated understanding minority behaviour from their cultural perspective.
"Conflict is unavoidable and the solution lies in leading, not punishing them," Professor Yang said.
Like it or not, Guangzhou has to learn to live with its minority population just as the minorities have to learn to adapt to southern ways.
"I am used to living here," Mr Raxit said in fluent Putonghua. "When I go back to Xinjiang, I can at most stay there two, three months and then I think of coming back here."
posted July 06, 2006 at 05:21 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (36)