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Keeping Peace, Building Power: China & International Peacekeeping (Liveblog)

Recently, the Chinese government has made historical moves involving China’s role in international peacekeeping. Today’s seminar focuses on the China’s role within the international peacekeeping community.

Manya Koetse

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Seminar: China’s Role in International Peacekeeping

Date & Place: Nov. 25, 2014, The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Organized by: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Blogged by: Manya Koetse 

 

Recently, the Chinese government has made historical moves involving China’s role in international peacekeeping. In early 2014, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) send a motorized infantry brigade to Mali. In September this year, a 700-strong infantry troop was send to South-Sudan as part of a UN peacekeeping mission – the first Chinese battalion to participate in such a peacekeeping operation (GT 2014; ECNS 2014). The recent behavior of Chinese leaders in issues of international conflict contrasts with Chinese participation in peacekeeping operations in the 1970s and 1980s. Today’s seminar focuses on China’s role within the international peacekeeping society.

 

Introduction (14:00 GMT+1)

Peter Potman, Director Asian and Pacific Affairs Department (Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is the first speaker on today’s seminar.

China as an actor in the international political arena is gradually gaining significance, Potman says, as its role in global politics is transforming: China is becoming more assertive. China’s position within international conflict situations is profoundly changing. Its role used to be one of non-interference, but is now changing as the political leadership is getting more involved in issues playing in Sudan or Syria.

Today’s seminar has two keynote speakers: Frans-Paul van der Putten from the Clingendael Institute and Dr. Jing Gu from the Institute of Development Studies. But first Christina Jansen shortly addresses the role of China today in international peacekeeping. Jansen recalls how she first arrived in China in 1978, and remembers how she would involuntarily cause a traffic jam because so many people would stare at this foreigner standing next to the road. “How China has changed!” Jansen says. The central question of today is: does the quick transformation of China as a nation also have implications for the international order in security issues, and if, how?

 

China and International Security (14:20 GMT+1)

Balance is crucial for China as an actor within international security issues, Van der Putten says. He states that China has to find its balance in different areas. First, it has to deal with the growing number of Chinese people and companies outside of China, and has to think about how to protect them without becoming over-involved and making the same ‘mistakes’ as western nations have made in the past. Secondly, it has to find its role in the international system where the national identity of China has to be communicated on an international level in such a way that it preserves the Chinese identity. Lastly, China also has to balance between its role as being one of the global powers and being one of the leaders within the developing world.

How does this translate to security issues? China already is a permanent member of the Security Council but is still looking for ways to strengthen its position. China finding its balance is noticeable in how it acts, Van der Putten states, not only as a member of the International Security Council but also as a leader in regional security organizations, where China increasingly is taking in an assertive position as a regional power.

 

“There’s a big difference between China’s principles and how it acts in reality.” 

 

China and International Security (14:40 GMT+1)

China’s role within international peacekeeping cannot be compared to that of other nations, according to Jing Gu. China’s international peacekeeping framework should be seen within China’s development at large. What one can now discern, says Gu, is the difference between China’s principles and how it acts in reality. According to principles, the Chinese government strictly respects the sovereignty of other countries and has a non-intervention principle. But in reality, their principles turn out to be much more flexible than they are on paper.

Dr. Gu is convinced that one can never leave out the economic perspective when talking about China’s engagement in peacekeeping operations. Business plays a big role in China’s international development cooperation; the business sector is increasingly important for China in, for example, Africa. Western nations have to take this perspective in account when cooperating with China in international security matters.

 

“For China, ‘peacekeeping’ truly is about peace keeping, not about peace building.”

 

There are differences in what Western nations and China consider ‘international peacekeeping’. From the Chinese perspective, it is very much about actual ‘peace keeping’ and not ‘peace building’, Gu says: a major difference with what most western powers consider to be ‘peacekeeping’. Using force is not something Chinese leaders want to do, as non-interference is a high principle for the government. But, Gu stresses again, “principles are just principles; in reality these principles are very flexible, as we’ve seen in Africa.”

What can be done on the long term to involve China in international security collaborations? “It has to be taken case by case,” Gu says. It is not the right time for general talks about future collaborations and shared frameworks- step by step and case by case, China will become more involved in international peacekeeping, Gu predicts, as is happening in Sudan right now.

 

Discussion (15:20 GMT+1)

“Over the past 500 years there have been many power shifts that have not led to war,” panelist Tim Sweijs of The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies says. However, every transformation in global power systems do have major consequences. States in the international system start harboring different expectations as power relations shift. This is what is also happening as China starts behaving differently within the international arena and takes on a different role in security issues. Different political actors seem worried that China is concerned about protecting its own national interests. These “worries” are “suspicious,” Sweijs says, because: “are western powers not concerned about own national interests?”

In the conclusion of the seminar, Peter Potman stresses that nations in peace operations need to be fully aware of their differences before they can work on collaboration. There are often mutual and shared benefits to participate in a peacekeeping mission. While those shared interests are often clear, it is crucial to also elucidate the different interests in these operations. Who is participating for what reasons? Understanding these underlying motives helps in unraveling the web of international cooperation in global security issues – finally building on peacekeeping missions where all participating nations, including China, are looking in the same direction.

 

(This liveblog is now closed.)

 

References

 

ECNS. 2014. “Peacekeeping forum opens in Beijing.” ECNS, 15 Oct.  http://www.ecns.cn/2014/10-15/138449.shtml (Accessed November 25, 2014).

Global Times (GT). 2014. “Peacekeeping can help China stand tall.” Global Times, 19 Nov. http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/892646.shtml (Accessed November 25, 2014).

Images

http://www.uscnpm.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/un.jpeg

Liu Rui/Global Times

 

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Memes & Viral

“Bye Bye Biden”: Biden’s Many Nicknames in Chinese

Throughout the years, Biden has received many nicknames on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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Our Weibo phrase of the week is Bye Bye Biden (bài bài Bàidēng 拜拜拜登). As news of Biden dropping out of the presidential race went viral on Weibo early Monday local time, it’s time to reflect on some of the popular nicknames and phrases given to US President Joe Biden on Chinese social media.

 
🔹 Biden in Chinese: Bàidēng 拜登

Biden in Chinese is generally written pronounced and written as Bàidēng 拜登. Although the character 拜 (bài) means “to pay respect, to worship” and 登 (dēng) means “to ascend, to climb,” they’re used here primarily for their phonetic similarity. The characters chosen are neutral to avoid any negative implications in the official translation of Biden’s name.

Why are non-Chinese names translated into Chinese at all? With English and Chinese being vastly different languages with entirely different phonetics and scripts, most Chinese people find it difficult to pronounce a foreign name written in English. Writing foreign names in Chinese not only standardizes them but also makes pronunciation and memorization easier for Chinese speakers.

 
🔹 Bye Biden: Bài Bài Bàidēng 拜拜拜登

Because Biden is Bàidēng, and the Chinese for ‘bye bye’ is written as bài bài 拜拜, some netizens quickly created the wordplay “bài bài Bàidēng” 拜拜拜登 (“bye bye Biden”) upon hearing that Biden would not seek reelection. Try saying it out loud—it almost sounds like you’re stammering.

 
🔹 Old Joe: Lǎo Dēng Dēng 拜拜拜登

Another common farewell greeting to Biden seen online is “bài bài lǎo dēng dēng” 拜拜老登登, which sounds cute due to the repetition of sounds.

“Old Biden” or “lǎo dēng dēng” 老登登 is a common online nickname for Biden in Chinese. The reduplication of the 登 (dēng) makes it sound playful and affectionate, while the “old” prefix is commonly used when referring to someone older. It’s similar to calling someone “Old Joe” in English.

 
🔹 Biden Variations: 拜灯, 白等, 败蹬

Let’s look at some other ways Biden is nicknamed online:

Besides the official way of writing Biden with the 拜登 Bàidēng characters, there are also other variations:

拜灯: bài dēng
白等: bái děng
败蹬: bài dèng

These alternative ways of writing Biden’s name are not neutral. Although the first variation is not necessarily negative (using the formal Biden 拜 bài character but with ‘Light’ 灯 dēng instead of the other 登 ‘dēng’), the other two variations are usually used in more negative contexts.

In 白等 (bái děng), the first character 白 (bái) means “white,” which can evoke associations with old age due to white hair (白发). The character 等 (děng) means “to wait,” and the combination can imply being old and sluggish.

败蹬 (bài dèng) is typically used by netizens to reflect negative sentiments towards the American president. The characters separately mean 败 (bài): “to be defeated,” “to fail,” and 蹬 (dèng): “to step on,” “to kick.” This would never be used by official media and is also often used by netizens to circumvent censorship around a Biden-related topic.

 
🔹 Revive the Country Biden: Bài Zhènhuá 拜振华

Then there is 拜振华 Bài Zhènhuá: revive the country Biden

In recent years, Biden has come to be referred to with the Chinese nickname “Revive the Country Biden,” also translatable as ‘Thriving China Biden’. This nickname has circulated online since 2020 and matches one previously given to former President Trump, namely “Build the Country Trump” (Chuān Jiànguó 川建国).

The idea behind these humorous monikers is that both Trump and Biden are seen as benefitting China by doing a poor job in running the United States and dealing with China.

 
🔹 Sleepy King: Shuì wáng 睡王

Shuì wáng 睡王, Sleepy King, is another common nickname, similar to the English “Sleepy Joe.” During and after the 2020 American presidential elections, there were numerous discussions on Chinese social media about ‘Trump versus Biden.’ Many saw it as a contest between the ‘King of Knowing’ (懂王) and the ‘Sleepy King’ (睡王).

These nicknames were attributed to Trump, who frequently boasted about his unparalleled understanding of various matters, and Biden, who gained notoriety for being older and tired. Viral videos, some manipulated, showed him nodding off or seemingly disoriented. The name ‘Sleepy King’ then stuck.

 
🔹 Grandpa Biden: Bài Yéyé 拜爷爷

Throughout the years, Biden has also been nicknamed Bài yéyé 拜爷爷, “Grandpa Biden.” This is usually more affectionate, though it emphasizes his age—Trump is not much younger than Biden and is not nicknamed ‘Grandpa Trump.’

Another similar nickname is lǎo bái 老白, “Old White,” referring to Biden’s age and white hair. 白 (bái, white) can also be a surname in Chinese. This nickname makes it seem like Biden is an old, familiar friend.

On Weibo, many speculate that American Vice President Kamala Harris will be the new candidate for the Democrats, especially since she’s been endorsed by Biden. Many have little confidence that she can compete against Trump. Her Chinese name is Kǎmǎlā Hālǐsī 卡玛拉·哈里斯, commonly referred to as ‘Harris’ (Hālǐsī).

In light of the latest developments, some netizens jokingly write: “Bye bye Biden, Ha ha ha, Harris.” (Bài bài, Bàidēng. Hā hā hā, Hālǐsī 拜拜,拜登。 哈哈哈,哈里斯). With a new Democratic candidate entering the presidential race, we can expect a fresh batch of creative nicknames to join the mix on Chinese social media.

Want to read more? Also read: Why Trump has Two Different Names in Chinese.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Memes & Viral

Enjoying the ‘Sea’ in Beijing’s Ditan Park

This “seaview” spot in Beijing’s Ditan Park has become a new ‘check-in spot’ among Chinese Xiaohongshu users and influencers.

Manya Koetse

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“‘The sea in Ditan Park’ is a perfect example of how Xiaohongshu netizens use their imagination to change the world,” a recent viral post on Weibo said (“地坛的海”完全可以入选《红薯人用想象力颠覆世界》的案例合集了”).

The post included screenshots of the Xiaohongshu app where users share their snaps of the supposed seaview in Beijing’s Ditan Park (地坛公园).

Ditan, the Temple of Earth Park, is one of the city’s biggest public parks with tree-lined paths and green gardens in Beijing, not too far from the Lama Temple in Dongcheng District, within the Second Ring Road.

On lifestyle and social media platform Xiaohongshu, users have recently been sharing tips on where and how to get the best seaview in the park, finding a moment of tranquility in the hustle and bustle of Beijing city life.

Post on Xiaohongshu to get the seaview in Ditan Park.

But there is something peculiar about this trend. There is no sea in Ditan Park, nor anywhere else in Beijing, for that matter, as the city is located inland.

The ‘seaview’ trend comes from the view of one of the park’s stone walls. In the late afternoon, somewhere around 16pm, when the sun is not too bright, the light creates an optical illusion from a certain viewpoint in the park, making the wall behind the bench look like water.

You do have to capture the right light at the right moment, or else the effect is non-existent.

Some photos taken at other times of the day clearly show the brick wall, which actually doesn’t look like a sea at all.

Although the ‘seaview in Ditan’ trend is popular among many Xiaohongshu users and influencers who flock to the spot to get that perfect picture, there are also some social media commenters who criticize the trend of netizens always looking for the next “check-in spot” (打卡点).

There are also other spots popular on social media that look like impressive areas but are actually just optical illusions. Here are some examples:

One Weibo user suggested that this trend is actually not about people appreciating the beauty around them, but more about chasing the next social media hype.

The Ditan seaview trend is not entirely new. In May of this year, Beijing government already published a post about the “sea” in Ditan becoming more popular among social media users who especially came to the park for the special spot.

The Beijing Tourism Bureau previously referred to the spot as “the sea at Ditan Park that even Shi Tiesheng didn’t discover” (#在地坛拍到了史铁生都没发现的海#).

Shi Tiesheng (1951–2010) is a famous Chinese author from Beijing whose most well-known work, “Me and Ditan,” reflects on his experiences and contemplations in Ditan Park. At the age of 21, Shi Tiesheng suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Ditan Park became a place for him to ponder life, time, and nature. Despite the author’s deep connection with the park, he never described seeing a “sea” in the walls.

Shi Tiesheng in Ditan Park.

If you are visiting Ditan Park and would like to check out the ‘sea’ yourself in the late afternoon, there are guides on Xiaohongshu explaining the route to the viewpoint. But it should not be too difficult to find this summer—just follow the crowds.

By Manya Koetse and Ruixin Zhang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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