Reading, Thinking and Writing (2)
2. Journalistic language
II. Reading, thinking and writing
1.Education: The Pleasures of Learning
2.Culture: Go Ahead, Learn Mandarin
2.Environment: The Great Melt
How Virtuous is Ed Begley Jr.?
3.People: Michael Jackson
4.High-Tech:In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History
5.People:China's internet godfather
6.China:THE DRAGON STIRS
7.International Relations: Obama's Remarks in Shanghai
8.World/Society/Culture: How Europe sees America?
9.Culture: Shanghai's Four Hot Tables
10.Sports: Soccer's influence: Why the world 'turns around a spinning ball'
US, Russia spy swap: Why London is a hotbed of spies
The Pleasures of Learning
By Gilbert Highet
1] As more schools are set up today, learning is compulsory. It is an Ought, even worse, a Must, enforced by regular hours and rigid discipline. And the young sneer at the Oughts and resist the Musts with all their energy. The feeling often lasts through a lifetime. For too many of us, learning appears to be a surrender of our own will to external direction, a sort of enslavement.
2] This is a mistake. Learning is a natural pleasure, inborn and instinctive, one of the essential pleasures of the human race. Watch a small child, at an age too young to have had any mental habits implanted by training. Some delightful films made by the late Dr. Arnold Gesell of Yale University show little creatures who can barely talk investigating problems with all the zeal and excitement of explorers, making discoveries with the passion and absorption of dedicated scientists. At the end of each successful investigation, there comes over each tiny face an expression of pure heartfelt pleasure.
3] When Archimedes discovered the principle of specific gravity by observing his own displacement of water in a bathtub, he leaped out with delight, shouting, "Eureka, Eureka!"(I have found it, I have found it!) The instinct which prompted his outburst, and the joy of its gratification, are possessed by all children.
4] But if the pleasure of learning is universal, why are there so many dull, incurious people in the world? It is because they were made dull, by bad teaching, by isolation, by surrender to routine, sometimes, too, by the pressure of hard work and poverty, or by the toxin of riches, with all their ephemeral and trivial delights. With luck, resolution and guidance, however, the human mind can survive not only poverty but even wealth.
5] This pleasure is not confined to learning from textbooks, which are too often tedious. But it does include learning from books. Sometimes when I stand in a big library like the library of Congress, or Butler Library at Columbia, and gaze around me at the millions of books, I feel a sober, earnest delight hard to convey except a metaphor. These are not lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice, as inaudible as the streams of sound conveyed by electric waves beyond the range of hearing, and just as the touch of a button on our stereo will fill the room with music, so by opening one of these volumes, one can call into range a voice far distant in time and space, and hear it speaking, mind to mind, heart to heart.
6] But, far beyond books, learning means keeping the mind open and active to receive all kinds of experience. One of the best-informed men I ever knew was a cowboy who rarely read a newspaper and never a book, but who had ridden many thousands of miles through one of the western states. He knew his state as thoroughly as a surgeon knows the human body. He loved it. Not a mountain, not a canyon which had not much to tell him, not a change in the weather that he could not interpret. And so, among the pleasures of learning, we should include travel, travel with an open mind, an alert eye and a visit to understand other peoples, other places, rather than looking in them for a mirror image of oneself. If I were a young man today, I should resolve to see—no, to learn ?—all the 50 states before I was 35.
7] Learning also means learning to practice, or at least to appreciate, an art. Every new art you learn appears like a new window on the universe; it is like acquiring a new sense. Because I was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland, a hideous 19th-century industrial city, I did not understand the slightest thing about architecture until I was in my 20s. Since then, I have learned a little about the art, and it has been a constant delight. ...
8] As for reading books, this contains two different delights. One is the pleasure of apprehending the unexpected, such as when one meets a new author who has a new vision of the world. The other pleasure is of deepening one's knowledge of a special field. ... Learning extends our lives (as Ptolemy said) into new dimensions. It is cumulative. Instead of diminishing in time, like health and strength, its returns go on increasing, provided ...
9] Provided that you aim, throughout your life, as you continue learning, to integrate your thought, to make it harmonious. If you happen to be an engineer and also enjoy singing in a glee club, connect these two activities. They unite in you; they are not in conflict. Both choral singing and engineering are examples of the architectonic ability of man: of his power to make a large plan and to convey it clearly to others. Both are aesthetic and depend much on symmetry. Think about them not as though they were dissociated, but as though each were one aspect of a single unity. You will do them better, and be happier.
10] Much unhappiness has been suffered by those people who have never recognized that it is as necessary to make themselves into whole and harmonious personalities as to keep themselves clean, healthy and financially solvent. Wholeness of the mind and spirit is not a quality conferred by nature, or by God. It is like health, virtue and knowledge. Man has the capacity to attain it; but to achieve it depends on his own efforts. It needs a long, deliberate effort of the mind and the emotions, and even the body.
11] During our earthly life, the body gradually dies; even the emotions become duller. But the mind in most of us continues to live, and even grows more lively and active, enjoys itself more, works and plays with more expansion and delight.
12] Many people have played themselves to death, even eaten and drunk themselves to death. Nobody has ever thought himself to death. The chief danger confronting us is not age. It is laziness, sloth, routine, stupidity—forcing their way in like wind through the shutters, seeping into the cellar like swamp water. Many who avoid learning, or abandon it, find that life is drained dry. They spend 30 years in a chair looking glumly out at the sand and the ocean; on a porch swing waiting for somebody to drive down the road. But that is not how to live.
13] No learner has ever run short of subjects to explore. The pleasures of learning are indeed pleasures. In fact, the word should be changed. The true name is happiness. You can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning.
Task 1 Answer the following quesions
1. Do you agree with the author's descriptions of schools today?
What does the author mean by saying that learning is a Must？
Is learning necessarily a painful experience?
2. What is the central idea in the second paragraph? In the author's opinion, what should learning be? Do you agree with him?
How does he try to prove his point of views?
Do you agree that interest in learning is natural or inborn, rather than cultivated or implanted?
3. How does the author develop his idea in the fourth paragraph?
4. When the author says that learning is a pleasure, what kind of learning does he have in mind?
Have you experienced pleasure from learning a foreign language?
5. What does the author mean when he says that learning extends life?
Task 2 Questions for discussion:
1. What is the chief source of pleasure in human life?
2. Have you found any pleasures in learning?
3. Some people say “Pleasure of learning is missing in the current system.” Do you agree, why or why not?
Here are some comments from online for your reference:
Present education system is skill-oriented and not knowledge-oriented. This has taken away most of the pleasure of learning.
While today's education system tests the ability of students to mug up a book and reproduce its contents, it does not provide the right initiative to improve their knowledge.
Today's education, specially school education, improves only memory power not knowledge. Syllabus has remained unchanged for the last one decade. It must be updated with the latest technological advancement.
Task 3 Writing assignment
Choose any of the topics in Task 2, and write a passage about 300 -400 words.
Get Ahead, Learn Mandarin
China's economic rise means the world has a new second language—and it isn't English
By Austin Ramzy
1] It's Friday night in Ikebukuro, a Tokyo entertainment district full of cheap bars and pachinko parlors. As the office workers head to their favorite watering holes, three salarymen split from the crowd and enter a decrepit building that stands between a karaoke lounge and a tavern. Ignoring the sounds of sirens, drunken crooning and breaking glass outside, Hidetoshi Seki, Takashi Kudo and Yuji Yano huddle in a tiny room just big enough for a table for four, and open their Chinese textbooks. For the next 50 minutes the trio, all from a small trading company, practice describing their favorite foods and hobbies in Mandarin. Despite their crumpled shirts and five o'clock shadows, they are having a blast. The young female instructor at B-Chinese Language School indulges them as they crack jokes and make fun of each others' muddled pronunciation. Their language classes are the first lessons that any of them have taken since childhood, says Yano, 39. "We sort of unanimously agreed that Chinese would be a useful skill to acquire."
2] No kidding. The urge that drives those salarymen to pass up karaoke on a Friday night is increasingly common. In the past, when people set out to improve themselves by learning another language, those that didn't already speak it usually picked English. But while English may be the only truly international language, millions of tongues are wagging over what is rapidly becoming the world's other lingua franca: Mandarin. Seen as a key skill for people hitching their futures to China's economic rise, Mandarin is becoming common currency, particularly in Asia where trade ties with the Middle Kingdom are supplanting those of the region's longtime primary partner, the U.S. Indeed, because English is spoken so universally, it no longer offers companies and employees the edge it once did, according to a recent report by British linguist David Gaddol. If you want to get ahead, learn Mandarin. "In many Asian countries, in Europe and the USA, Mandarin has emerged as the new must-have language," Gaddol notes.
3] To an extent, this is a case of history repeating itself—with a twist. Just as Americans started studying Japanese in droves in the 1980s, when Japan's economy was ascendant, so today, as China rises, the world is embracing Mandarin. (It doesn't hurt that Chinese is spoken by an estimated one out of every six people on earth.) In South Korea, 160,000 high school and university students are studying the Chinese language, an increase of 66% over the past five years. The number of Japanese secondary schools offering Mandarin more than tripled between 1993 and 2005, and in Japan it's now the most taught foreign language after English. Mandarin is even being pushed within China itself, where hundreds of Chinese dialects can make communication tricky. The central government has promoted standard Mandarin, or putonghua, since the 1950s. Growing internal migration has boosted that effort, and putonghua is now commonly heard on the streets of Shanghai and Guangzhou, cities with their own dialects.
4] Outside Asia, the ranks of students studying Chinese are small but growing rapidly. From 2000-2004, the number of students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland doing Advanced Level exams (those normally taken at age 18) in Chinese climbed by 57%. In the U.S., Chinese still lags far behind traditional foreign languages like French and Spanish, but China is the fastest growing destination for college students studying abroad. "I thought about what I was going to do after I graduated from college," says Kim Ku Jin, a 26-year-old from Pusan, South Korea. "How am I going to earn money? How am I going to eat?" The answer: buckle down and learn Mandarin. When Kim completed his obligatory two-year military service, he headed to the Chinese capital to pursue a language degree at the Beijing Language and Culture University. "In China I will definitely have opportunities," he says. Claudia Ross, a Chinese-language professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, says she's hearing the same things from her pupils. "Students who enrolled in Chinese used to tell me their parents would say, 'Why on earth are you studying this?'" says Ross. "Now students regularly come in saying, 'I'm taking Chinese because my parents say I should.'" At Holy Cross, enrollment in first-year Chinese doubled last year. "There are dollar signs attached to it," says Ross.
5] Mandarin was not always so trendy. It's daunting to learn, especially for Westerners, because of the tones used in speech to shift meaning—to say nothing of the thousands of characters that must be memorized to achieve true literacy. Politics threw up another impediment. During the Cold War, when China was sealed off from the rest of the world, fluency in Chinese was considered, at best, an arcane academic pursuit for diplomats and students of acupuncture or Tang poetry. At worst, it was considered the language of the enemy. Despotic right-wing governments in some Asian countries, fearing their regimes would be toppled by the spread of communism, thought of Chinese-speakers as Maoist revolutionary threats. In Indonesia, Suharto banned Chinese-language publications and closed almost all Mandarin schools. But after then President Abdurrahman Wahid lifted the ban in 1999, six universities added Mandarin courses, as did dozens of smaller language centers.
6] Now, students who can put "fluent in Mandarin" on their résumés are seeing the payoff. Jakarta resident Imam Fanani, 26, was initially discouraged when he began hunting for work last year because many of his friends had been unable to find good-paying jobs. But a day after he submitted his résumé to several employment websites, he had three job offers. His edge? A degree from the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. "There is no discrimination against the language anymore," says Imam, who now works at a conglomerate owned by an Indonesian Chinese. "In fact, you could even say it's become kind of fashionable."
7] It's in vogue even in the backwaters of Asia's least developed countries. In 2004, China became Cambodia's biggest foreign investor, and some Cambodians now think Mandarin is as useful as English. The Chea family in Phnom Penh decided to spread its bets: Rotha, a 13-year-old boy, studies English while his 12-year-old sister, Sophea, learns Mandarin. Spending money on language lessons has earned their parents, Chea Song and his wife Sotheary, the ridicule of neighbors, who point out that the Cheas don't have a proper house—they live in their open-air coffee-and-noodle shop. "Some people criticize me, saying I have no home to live in but I send my daughter to learn Chinese," says Chea Song. "But even if I'm poor, I want the best education for my children." English may help his son find a job with one of the many aid agencies working in Cambodia, or allow him to pursue medical studies, Chea reckons. His daughter's Mandarin skills may land her a job in a private business or as a translator. As he sees it, "The whole world is speaking Chinese."
8] eager to assert itself internationally, the Chinese government is itself on a drive to promote Mandarin abroad in hopes of putting it on a par with English. "Promoting the use of Chinese among overseas people has gone beyond purely cultural issues," said Hu Youqing, a National People's Congress deputy and Chinese-language professor at Nanjing University, in an interview with the government-owned China Daily. "It can help build up our national strength and should be taken as a way to develop our country's 'soft power.'"
9] To that end, over the past two years Beijing has opened language and cultural centers called Confucius Institutes—modeled on Spain's Instituto Cervantes or Germany's Goethe-Institut—in more than 30 countries, including Australia, Japan, Kenya, the U.S. and Sweden. China has also deployed more than 2,000 Peace Corps-like volunteers to teach Mandarin overseas, mostly in Asian nations such as Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea. Meanwhile, back home, China has been rapidly upgrading Mandarin-language schools to handle a rising influx of overseas students. In Beijing, for example, Capital Normal University's North Number 1 campus features a pair of new gray steel and glass towers with polished stone floors and an indoor swimming pool. China's vastly ambitious goal is to have 100 million foreigners studying Mandarin by the end of the decade. "China is like an imperial civilization, or the U.S. or Britain or France. It tends to view the world on its own terms," says Nicholas Ostler, the British author of Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World. "In China, people talk in Chinese. More and more, they expect others to speak to them in Chinese, too."
10] China's efforts to spread Mandarin are managed from the 17th floor of an office building in the northwest corner of Beijing. There, school officials from around the world come to talk with Xu Lin, a voluble woman with an intense gaze who heads the National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. On a hot, smoggy day last fall, she hosted a delegation of American educational and business leaders, including a former assistant secretary of education and school superintendents from New York and California. They sat at attention as Xu outlined her agency's plans for teaching Chinese to the world. To close the meeting, Xu signed an agreement with the commissioner of education in Kentucky to help his state develop a Chinese-language program. Xu and the commissioner, Gene Wilhoit, shook hands and Xu presented him with a gift: a digital wand that reads Chinese characters aloud when dragged across text. Wilhoit tried it out. An uncomfortable silence followed. "I think it's broken," one of Xu's subordinates muttered. Someone fiddled with the gadget, and Wilhoit tried again. There was a pause, and then a mechanical voice droned out one of the phrases that Xu deemed critical to survival in China: "Ganbei!"
11] Kentucky may have to rely heavily on such technology to teach students to say "cheers" in Chinese. The state has only a handful of Mandarin classes, such as a program that started up in January at a Louisville elementary school, because there aren't enough trained Mandarin teachers. The problem is widespread in the U.S. According to a 2004 survey by the College Board, a nonprofit organization that conducts college placement exams, 2,400 high schools wanted to offer Advanced Placement classes in Chinese, far more than the few hundred schools the organization expected. "The level of interest is high, but the level of expertise is low," says Scott McGinnis, an academic adviser at the Defense Language Institute in Washington. In January, U.S. President George W. Bush announced plans to spend $114 million next year to boost the number of instructors and augment educational programs for "critical need" languages including Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi and Farsi.
12] For now, Kentucky educators are relying in large part on young Chinese volunteers such as Zhao Jing, a 29-year-old from the northern coastal city of Tianjin. A year ago, Zhao's knowledge of Kentucky was limited to visits to Ken De Ji—the Chinese name for Kentucky Fried Chicken. But after being recruited by the Kentucky Department of Education to develop the state's Mandarin curriculum, she drives hours to rural towns to talk with students and teachers about China. At noon on a recent Monday, Zhao carried her laptop to an audio-visual studio in the state education building in Frankfort, set up a PowerPoint presentation on an octagonal table, and waited for her students. One by one, department employees filed into the room and took seats around the table for the twice-weekly Chinese class. "Ni hao," they said, and then they began a lesson on the Chinese New Year and signs of the zodiac. When Zhao asked department policy advisor Debbie Hendricks, 51, to say her birth animal, Hendricks laughed, "I'm in over my head."
13] The rest of the world isn't going to wait for people like this to catch up in the race to learn Chinese. East Asians have a head start, due to the long history of interaction between China and its neighbors. China is now South Korea's biggest trading partner—having surpassed Japan in 2002 and the U.S. in 2004—and its people are signing up for Chinese lessons with zeal. South Koreans are the largest group of foreigners studying in China, representing about 40% of the 110,800 total last year. This trend is boosted by cultural ties, both new and old. Korean music and drama are among the most popular offerings on the mainland today, while 60% of Korean vocabulary comes from Chinese (similarly, written Japanese has several thousand characters borrowed from China). While that language transfer took place over centuries, Chinese now spreads across Asian borders at the speed of an instant message. Woo Jae Hoa, a 22-year-old student in Seoul, practices Mandarin by chatting online with a Chinese girl he met on the Internet. He types phonetically as he has yet to learn many Chinese characters. His new pen pal responds with simple, out-of-a-textbook answers, though they also delve into lighter topics, such as Korean pop music.
14] But a shared history can also be a curse. The widespread popularity of Chinese-language study in Japan has been hindered by the sensitive relationship between the former enemies. Last year there were 24 students in Mitsuko Yajima's Mandarin courses at Asia University. This year, following anti-Japanese demonstrations in several large Chinese cities, there are just 14. "Japan is slow to nurture a population of Mandarin students," says Yajima, who has taught Mandarin at the university for 30 years. "We are way behind South Korea."
15] That's not just an academic concern. As China's economic clout grows, the ability to reduce frictions and misunderstandings in business communications offers a strategic advantage. Even enthusiastic promoters of Mandarin aren't predicting that it will ever overtake English as the world's common language. But just as knowing English proved a key to getting ahead in the 20th century, learning Chinese will provide an edge in the 21st. It won't be easy, though. Acquiring the language requires hundreds of hours of study, countless early mornings memorizing characters, or, if you're a salaryman in Tokyo like Hidetoshi Seki and his pals, practicing sentence patterns while everyone else is out having fun. "We deal with a lot of Chinese clients," says Seki, 39. "But we weren't sent here by the company. We're drinking buddies, and decided to do something more constructive with our time than guzzling beer." Getting ahead sometimes requires a little sacrifice.
I. Find out the main idea of each paragraph.
II. Read the passage and answer the following questions.
1. What does the first paragraph suggest?
2. Why do many people begin to learn Maderin?
3. What is the purpose of listing the example of studying Japanese?
4. Why is it difficult to learn Manderin?
5. How do you understand “soft power”?
6. Why is the phrase “Ganbei” deemed critical to survival in China?
7. Summarize the reasons for Chinese mania.
III. Explain the following phrases/sentences in your own words.
2] millions of tongues are wagging over what is rapidly becoming the world's other lingua franca: Mandarin
2] Mandarin is becoming common currency…
4] There are dollar signs attached to it
7] His daughter's Mandarin skills may land her a job in a private business or as a translator
9] It tends to view the world on its own terms
12] When Zhao asked department policy advisor Debbie Hendricks, 51, to say her birth animal, Hendricks laughed, "I'm in over my head."
13] East Asians have a head start, due to the long history of interaction between China and its neighbors.
15] As China's economic clout grows…
15] Getting ahead sometimes requires a little sacrifice.
Write a passage based on the question: What do you think of English mania in China? (about 300-400 words).
Chinese gov't school grant divides SoCal community
Published April 24, 2010
| Associated Press
1]HACIENDA HEIGHTS, Calif. – HACIENDA HEIGHTS, Calif. (AP) — Bobby Fraker is taking a stand against what she perceives to be a sinister threat from across the Pacific, right here in her suburban Southern California community of tree-lined streets and stucco homes.
2]At a recent school-board meeting, Fraker and a dozen or more older, mostly white opponents of a Chinese government program that will fund a middle-school language class delivered fist-shaking denunciations.
3]"These children have young brains that are very malleable and they can be indoctrinated with things that America would not like," Fraker, a diminutive woman with tight auburn curls, implored board members, who approved the plan in January.
4]Communities across the United States, from Smithfield, R.I., to Medford, Ore., have welcomed with open palms the so-called Confucius Classroom grants from the Chinese government, like the one proposed here for Cedarlane Middle School.
5]But Confucius is not going down smoothly in Hacienda Heights, a middle-class town about 16 miles east of downtown Los Angeles with a history of racial tensions between longtime residents and relatively recent Chinese newcomers. Ethnic Chinese comprise the majority of the school board.
6]The Cedarlane student body, meanwhile, is overwhelmingly Hispanic, with three out of every five students at the school qualifying for free or reduced-price meals, a poverty indicator, according to state data.
7]The dustup may portend trouble for China's efforts to expand its cultural clout by bankrolling language programs in primary and secondary schools across the United States.
8]"I'm sure this will become a standard dispute," said University of Southern California public policy professor Nicholas Cull, who tracks China's efforts to shape its image abroad through programs like Confucius Classrooms. "People in America are very suspicious of ideas from the outside."
9]Chen Zhunmin, who directs the Chinese consulate's education office in Los Angeles, insisted the program has nothing to do with communism, as come of the local critics contend. He said Confucius Classroom and other programs were created to address misunderstandings about his country.
10]"I feel that the concerns of the neighbors are mainly caused by lack of understanding of Chinese history and culture," he wrote in an e-mail.
11]There are 60 Confucius Classroom and university-level Confucius Institute programs in the U.S., according to the Web site of China's language-teaching agency, the Hanban. Each is administered through a patchwork of educational organizations and universities that have deals with the agency.
12]The New York-based Asia Society plans to help set up another 80 Confucius Classrooms over the next two years. An additional 45 are separately planned in North Carolina alone.
13]The expansion into more communities could expose existing cultural and political fault lines, as it has in Hacienda Heights, a community that has undergone demographic change in recent decades.
14]In 1970, Hacienda Heights was less than 2 percent Asian and otherwise almost entirely white, according to state figures. By 2008, after decades of Chinese immigration into the region, Asians made up more than a third of the population, the same portion as the city's non-Hispanic whites.
15]The new ethnic and racial makeup has provided a backdrop for a spate of community disputes.
Some neighbors opposed construction of a massive Buddhist temple complex on a city hillside in the late 1980s to serve the growing Asian community in the San Gabriel Valley. Opponents feared animals would be sacrificed on the site and temple-goers would disturb the peace by banging gongs.
16]Racial tensions played a role in a failed 2003 ballot campaign to have the unincorporated part of Los Angeles County recognized as a city, with opponents whispering that an incorporated Hacienda Heights would be dominated by Asian-Americans.
17]The dispute over the Confucius Classroom program appears to be another such clash.
18]"China already owns and changed most of the shopping centers in Hacienda Heights," resident Sharon Pluth wrote in a letter to the town's closest newspaper, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. "Do we really want them to change our kids' minds, too?"
19]Under the deal with the Hanban, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District is receiving $30,000 a year for language and culture programs at Cedarlane school, along with some 1,000 textbooks, CDs and other educational materials.
20]The city originally planned to accept an offer to have the Chinese government place a teaching assistant in Cedarlane and pay his or her salary, an overture that stoked strong resistance.
21]An editorial by the Tribune called the plan "tantamount to asking Hugo Chavez to send his cadres to teach little American kids economics."
22]School board member Norman Hsu said it wasn't worth pushing the issue, since, without California credentials, the teacher would not have been permitted to operate as a full-fledged instructor anyway.
23]"Why do we need to pour oil in the fire?" he said.
24]Hsu said the district accepted the Chinese government's offer because it knew that money for a needed expansion of its language program at Cedarlane would not be forthcoming from the cash-strapped state government.
25]But opponents, who have been attending school board meetings with signs bearing such slogans as "America, Not Confucius," say they'll keep pushing the district to abandon the program completely.
26]They also say they'll seek to unseat the four members of the five-person board that voted in January to accept the Hanban's offer.
27]Teresa Macias, one of those who voiced concerns at a recent board meeting, insisted her objections were not rooted in race.
28]Like other critics, Macias said she has no children in the school system, but feels the need to protect the community's youth from communist propaganda that could be hidden in textbook passages unreadable to non-Chinese speakers.
29]She said she's also concerned about the program's identification with Confucius and his 2,500-year-old philosophy.
30]"When you Google it, it comes up as a religion," she said. "It just seems wrong on so many levels."
31]Chen, from the Chinese consulate, dismissed that concern. "It is a well-known fact that Confucius is basically a philosopher and educator, not a religious figure," he wrote.
32]Cecile Cowan, whose daughter is about to attend Cedarlane, understands critics' concerns, but plans to review the Confucius teaching materials with an open mind. She'd like her daughter to learn an important skill.
33]"I believe the whole idea behind it was sort of bringing our cultures together and exposing children to languages," she said. "It only adds to their intelligence and their marketability as they get older."
34]Jane Shults, a Cedarlane history teacher, supports the program on her campus because she can use the free texts to teach about ancient China, as mandated by the state.
35]"The community has changed. It could be that it's a way of protesting that," she said. "It's jingoistic, it's xenophobic, it's not overly rational and it's really shades of McCarthyism all over again."
The great melt
For scientists, nowhere will be hotter than the Arctic
1] It will be a busy year for the Arctic. Thanks to International Polar Year, a programme involving more than 60 nations in over 200 research projects, the region will swarm with more scientists than at any time in history. And the Arctic certainly needs urgent attention.
2] Everyone has seen those iconic pictures of polar bears sitting on tiny ice floes amid blue open water and knows that global warming is hitting the Arctic. The vast frozen seas are melting away at a staggering rate. In 1987 there were 7.5m square kilometres (2.9m square miles) of sea ice left at the end of the summer melt but by 2007 only 4.1m square kilometres remained. An area of ice equivalent to a third of the land area of America had vanished and the Northwest Passage opened for the first time. Some computer models predict that all summer ice will be gone by 2040. But accurate models are proving hard to make. Frighteningly, the actual pace of ice loss continues to outpace even the gloomiest forecast—and changes in the Arctic might have catastrophic consequences for the rest of the planet.
3] But there will be scientists in the Arctic in 2008 interested in more than sea and ice. Geologists will be searching for the oil, gas, minerals and diamonds that the melting ice might reveal. Geophysicists will be busy mapping the sea bottom as the circumpolar powers—Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and America—try to prove that the Arctic sea floors are natural extensions of their own lands and thus belong to them. Already, in an opening gambit, Russia has planted a titanium flag on the sea bed beneath the North Pole. And there are squabbles over new shortcuts for shipping around the Siberian coast and the Northwest Passage.
4] It is hard to predict where the great melt will lead because the Arctic is incredibly dynamic. The ice is not just melting away as temperatures rise. Vast currents and winds push the ice around the ocean, some of it remaining trapped in the huge Beaufort Gyre off the coast of Alaska, where it ages and thickens, and some being spat out between Greenland and Siberia in the great Transpolar Drift Stream. As the Earth’s climate has changed, once-regular oscillations in these systems have become unpredictable.
5] The problem is made even more difficult because the frozen ocean is layered. Snow on top of the ice insulates it and slows melting. Under the ice, cold, fresh water from the huge rivers that ring the Arctic insulates it from warmer waters that leak in from the Pacific and Atlantic. Any changes to these insulating layers can bring melting. The melting will itself generate more warming. Ice is pure white and reflects sunlight back into space. But leads of open sea are black and absorb heat. Once melting begins, more heat pours in and ever faster melting results.
6] To understand all this, satellite pictures of the shrinking ice are not enough. Scientists need to get out there to collect data. And some of them have adventurous plans for 2008. A French team working with German scientists will travel by airship from Paris to Svalbard, then on to the North Pole and across to Alaska. Special instruments suspended from the airship will measure ice thickness and create the longest profile of the sea ice ever made. A Russian expedition will go to the pole in 2008 too, but more slowly, drifting for eight months on a station built on an ice floe and studying the sea ice all the way.
7] Much more data will come from cruises by ship, plane and helicopter and, increasingly, from automated sensors that send data back south by satellite. There are “ice buoys” that drift through the Arctic on floes, and send probes into the water below, measuring temperature, salinity and other critical factors. There are robot vehicles that can travel under the ice, and buoys anchored to the sea floor to measure flows of water into and out of the Pacific and Atlantic. Sensors on land and sea will measure clouds and winds. Many scientists will also be looking at the impact of climate change on the animals and plants of the region as well as on the way of life of its 160,000 Inuit and other indigenous peoples.
8] Meanwhile other scientists will seek a global-warming silver lining. In 2008 data from the United States Geological Survey will boost estimates that 25% of the world’s undiscovered hydrocarbon reserves are in the Arctic. Exploitation has already begun. Norway will start shipments of gas from its “Snow White” field in the Barents Sea in early 2008. Gazprom of Russia and France’s Total will start work on a daunting new frontier for the oil industry: the Shtokman gas field, 600km (370 miles) out into the Arctic from Russia’s northern coast.
9] While the race is on to find oil and gas in the melting Arctic, it is the greenhouse gases that came from burning fossil fuels which caused the big melt in the first place. So the treasure-seekers should beware that the Arctic may take its revenge. One threat is of sea levels rising. Another comes from the lakes of floating fresh water amid the sea ice. If Arctic circulation patterns change, this fresh water could travel out into the Atlantic, and turn off the ocean currents that bring warm weather to Europe. Yet another is the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Let’s hope that 2008’s scientific explorers give us the knowledge to understand the risks.
I. Read the passage and think about the following questions.
Task 1 General questions about global warming:
1.What is global warming?
2.Why does it matter?
3.Is global warming just a natural cycle?
4.Can we stop the warming of the earth?
5. What do you know about Kyoto Protocol?
6.Do you consciously do anything on a regular basis to reduce your carbon footprint or to become "greener"? If yes, what do you do and why do you bother to do so? If not, why not?"
Task 2 Specific questions about the article:
1. Why is Arctic hotter than other places?
2. Why are those numbers are mentioned in the second paragraph?
3. How do people view the melting of the Arctic?
4. Why do some scientist have adventurous plans?
5. What is the real reason for the melting of the Arctic?
6. What are the possible consequences brought about by the melting of the Arctic?
II. Get online to do more reading about global warming and write about Task 1: question 6.
I. Read the passage and think about the following questions?
1. What has caused the death of Michael Jackson?
2. How do people think of Michael Jackson?
3. Did MJ have a happy childhood?
4. How do you understand the sentence “he transfixed the world”?
5. List facts to show that he was a global pop superstar and sad figure respectively.
6. What’s your opinion about Michael Jackson?
7. Who is your favorite singer? Why do you like him/her?
8. Do you want to be a superstar? Why or why not (such as a singing star, a film star)?
II. Get online to do more reading about Michael Jackson and write about Michael Jackson by focusing on several points.
Michael Joseph Jackson's story was a quintessentially American tale of celebrity and excess that took him from musical boy wonder to global pop superstar to sad figure haunted by lawsuits, paparazzi and failed plastic surgery.
At the height of his career, he was indisputably the biggest star in the world; he has sold more than 750 million albums. He spent a lifetime surprising people, in recent years largely because of a surreal personal life, lurid legal scandals, serial plastic surgeries and erratic public behavior that have turned him -- on his very best days -- into the butt of late-night talk-show jokes and tabloid headlines. He died at age 50 in Los Angeles on June 25, 2009.
Mr. Jackson's death itself became an enormous spectacle. On television and on the Internet, tens of millions of people worldwide watched a memorial service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The cause of Mr. Jackson's death was a mixture of the powerful anesthetic propofol and the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner office. The manner of death was determined to be homicide. Mr. Jackson's personal doctor, Conrad Murray, who tried to revive Mr. Jackson on the day he died, is the focus of a manslaughter investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.
The introduction to Mr. Jackson's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame entry seemed apt as a global audience followed reports of his hospitalization and then death:
"Michael Jackson is a singer, songwriter, dancer and celebrity icon with a vast catalog of hit records and countless awards to his credit. Beyond that, he has transfixed the world like few entertainers before or since. As a solo performer, he has enjoyed a level of superstardom previously known only to Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Frank Sinatra."
John Rockwell, the music critic of The Times, cited Mr. Jackson's musical and cultural influence in a 1982 review of the album "Thriller," calling it "a wonderful pop record, the latest statement by one of the great singers in popular music today." But it was more than that, he contended: "It is as hopeful a sign as we have had yet that the destructive barriers that spring up regularly between white and black music -- and between whites and blacks -- in this culture may be breached once again. Most important of all, it is another signpost on the road to Michael Jackson's own artistic fulfillment."Read More...
THE JACKSON 5
Mr. Jackson was born in Gary, Ind., on Aug. 29, 1958 and began performing professionally at age 5, joining his three older brothers in a group that their father, Joe, a steelworker, had organized the previous year. In 1968 the group, now five strong and known as the Jackson 5, was signed by Motown Records. As Mr. Jackson's career began to take off, fans and entertainment industry veterans recognized something else about the pint-size musical dynamo that was unusual: He was in possession of an outsize, mesmerizing talent.
By 1969, Mr. Jackson had already spent years in talent shows and performing in seedy Midwestern clubs under the aegis of his dictatorial and ambitious father and Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records. They were the singer's twin mentors during his early career.
The Jackson 5 was an instant phenomenon. The group's first four singles - "I Want You Back," "ABC," "The Love You Save" and "I'll Be There" - all reached No. 1 on the pop charts in 1970, a feat no group had accomplished before. And young Michael was unquestionably the center of attention: he handled virtually all the lead vocals, danced with energy and finesse, and displayed a degree of showmanship rare in a performer of any age. The Jackson brothers were soon a fixture on television variety shows and even briefly had their own Saturday morning cartoon series.
Mr. Jackson had his own recollections of those years. "When you're a show-business child, you really don't have the maturity to understand a great deal of what is going on around you. People make a lot of decisions concerning your life when you're out of the room," he wrote in "Moon Walk," his 1988 autobiography. "Berry insisted on perfection and attention to detail. I'll never forget his persistence. This was his genius. Then and later, I observed every moment of the sessions where Berry was present and never forgot what I learned. To this day, I use the same principles."
In 1971 Mr. Jackson began recording under his own name, while also continuing to perform and record with his brothers. His recording of "Ben," the title song from a movie about a boy and his homicidal pet rat, was a No. 1 hit in 1972.
The brothers (minus Michael's older brother Jermaine, who was married to the daughter of Berry Gordy, Motown's founder and chief executive) left Motown in 1975 and, rechristened the Jacksons, signed to Epic, a unit of CBS Records. The following year Michael made his movie debut as the Scarecrow in the screen version of the hit Broadway musical "The Wiz." But movie stardom proved not to be his destiny.
Music stardom on an unprecedented level, however, was. Mr. Jackson's first solo album for Epic, "Off the Wall," yielded four No.1 singles and sold seven million copies, but it was a mere prologue to what came next. His follow-up, "Thriller," released in 1982, became the best-selling album of all time and helped usher in the music video age. The video for the album's title track, directed by John Landis, was an elaborate horror-movie pastiche that was more of a mini-movie than a promotional clip and played a crucial role in making MTV a household name.
Seven of the nine tracks on "Thriller" were released as singles and reached the Top 10. The album spent two years on the Billboard album chart and sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. It also won eight Grammy Awards.
Such accomplishments would have been difficult for anyone to equal, much less surpass. Mr. Jackson's next album, "Bad," released in 1987, sold eight million copies and produced five No..1 singles and another state-of-the-art video, this one directed by Martin Scorsese. It was a huge hit by almost anyone else's standards, but an inevitable letdown after "Thriller."
OFFSTAGE, A STRANGE LIFE
It was at this point that Mr. Jackson's bizarre private life began to overshadow his music. He would go on to release several more albums and, from time to time, to stage elaborate concert tours. And he would never be too far from the public eye. But it would never again be his music that kept him there.
Sales of his recordings through Sony's music unit generated more than $300 million in royalties for Mr. Jackson since the early 1980s, according to three individuals with direct knowledge of the singer's business affairs. Revenues from concerts and music publishing -- including the creation of a venture with Sony that controls the Beatles catalog -- as well as from endorsements, merchandising and music videos added, perhaps, $400 million more to that amount, these people believe. Subtracted were hefty costs like recording and production expenses, taxes and the like.
Those close to Mr. Jackson say that his finances had not deteriorated simply because he was a big spender. Until the early 1990s, they said, he paid relatively close attention to his accounting and kept an eye on the cash that flowed through his business and creative ventures. After that, they say, Mr. Jackson became overly enamored of something that ensnares wealthy people of all stripes: bad advice.
Mr. Jackson's pre-expense share of the "Thriller" bounty -- including the album, singles and a popular video -- surpassed $125 million, according to a former adviser who requested anonymity because of the confidential nature of Mr. Jackson's finances. Those who counseled him in the "Thriller" era credit the pop star with financial acumen and astute business judgment, evidenced by his $47.5 million purchase of the Beatles catalog in 1985 (a move that served to alienate him from Paul McCartney, the Beatles legend who imparted the financial wisdom of buying catalogs to Mr. Jackson during a casual chat, only to see Mr. Jackson then turn around and buy rights to many of Mr. McCartney's own songs). Acquaintances from that period say that he would occasionally borrow gas money, and he still lived in the Jackson family home in the suburban Encino section of Los Angeles.
It wasn't until the end of the 1980s that Mr. Jackson began to exhibit more baronial tendencies. In 1988, he made his $17 million purchase of property near Santa Ynez, Calif., that became Neverland.
At the same time, Mr. Jackson was redefining the concept of spectacle in pop music. He hired Martin Scorsese, the film director, to direct a video for "Bad," a clip that one adviser with direct knowledge of the production budget said cost more than $1 million. The same adviser said that Mr. Jackson netted "way north" of $35 million from a yearlong "Bad" tour that began in 1987, and that heading into the 1990s Mr. Jackson was in sound shape financially.
By the mid-90s, though, Mr. Jackson's finances were under strain. He retreated from working regularly after the release of "Dangerous" in 1991 and settled a child-molestation lawsuit for about $20 million. More significantly in terms of his finances, he had to sell Sony a 50 percent stake in the Beatles catalog in 1995 for more than $100 million, which one adviser said helped shore up the singer's wobbling accounts. Mr. Jackson wouldn't produce another studio album of completely new material until 2001.
SEXUAL ABUSE TRIAL
In June 2005, he was acquitted of all charges in connection with accusations that he molested a 13-year-old boy he had befriended as the youth was recovering from cancer in 2003. Mr. Jackson's complete acquittal ended a nearly four-month trial that featured 140 witnesses who painted clashing portraits of the 46-year-old international pop star as either pedophile or Peter Pan.
Along with the verdict, the jury gave a note for the judge to read out in court. In it, they said they felt "the weight of the world's eyes upon us all" and that they had "thoroughly and meticulously" studied all the evidence. The note concluded with a plea "we would like the public to allow us to return to our lives as anonymously as we came."
The case arose from the February 2003 broadcast of "Living with Michael Jackson," a British documentary in which Mr. Jackson admitted sharing his bed with young boys, calling it a loving act unrelated to sex. The boy who later became the accuser was shown holding hands with the singer and resting his head affectionately on his shoulder. He was described as a 13-year-old cancer patient whom Mr. Jackson had decided to help.
DEATH AND AFTERMATH
On March 5, 2009, Mr. Jackson announced that he would perform a series of concerts in London in the summer, in what he called a "final curtain call." Mr. Jackson, 50, revealed the details of the concerts at a news conference in London, where he said he would perform 10 shows at that city's O2 Arena, beginning July 8. "When I say this is it, I mean this is it," Mr. Jackson said. "I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear."
The shows would have been Mr. Jackson's first major performances since 2001 and 2002, when he appeared at a pair of 30th anniversary celebrations and two benefit concerts; a brief appearance by Mr. Jackson at the World Music Awards in 2006 was booed by audience members.
On June 25, Mr. Jackson was found unconscious in his home. His personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, said he had a faint pulse and tried to revive him. Mr. Jackson arrived at the U.C.L.A. Medical Center in cardiac arrest and was declared dead a short time later.
According to the court documents unsealed on Aug. 24, 2009, Dr. Murray told investigators that he had administered an intravenous drip of 50 milligrams of propofol, an anesthetic, to Mr. Jackson nightly for six weeks before the singer's death to help him sleep. Dr. Murray also administered lorazepam, an anti-anxiety drug that can be addictive, and midazolam, a muscle relaxant, to treat Mr. Jackson's insomnia.
A mixture of the powerful anesthetic propofol and the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam killed Michael Jackson, according to a statement made by the Los Angeles County Coroner Office on Aug. 28. It said the manner of death was a suicide.
Dr. Murray said he tried to resuscitate Mr. Jackson and administered flumazenil, a drug to reverse the effects of the sedatives in his system. Dr. Murray waited about 82 minutes before anyone called paramedics to the home, according to the documents.
Media outlets treated the weeks following Mr. Jackson's death as an expansive public funeral for the pop star, culminating in a service at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Nielsen Media Research said that the 18 channels that simulcast the service had a combined average of 31 million at-home viewers during the nearly three-hour event. The service drew a bigger TV crowd than the funerals for two former presidents, Ronald Reagan in 2004 and Gerald Ford in early 2007.
Mr. Jackson's memorial also attracted millions of online viewers. Citing internal data, CNN.com said it served 4.4 million live video streams during the service; MSNBC.com said it counted 3.1 million. Yahoo reported 5 million total streams.
On Sept. 3, Mr. Jackson was entombed in the heavily guarded Forest Lawn cemetery, several miles north of downtown Los Angeles. About 200 people, including Elizabeth Taylor, Lisa Marie Presley, Macaulay Culkin, and Quincy Jones, attended the private funeral.
I. Read the passage and think about the following questions.
1. What is the difference about today’s children？
2. What are the limitations of textbooks?
3. What are the possible reasons for using free digital textbooks in California?
4. What are the possible benefits to be brought about by digital books?
5. What are the weak points about digital books?
6. How do some educators view digital books and online books?
7. What is the alternative for present situation?
8. What is a flexbook?
9. Do you prefer digital books? Why or why not?
II. Give explanations to the following sentences:
Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet
“Kids are wired differently these days,”
But the digital future is not quite on the horizon in most classrooms. For one thing, there is still a large digital divide.
What they don’t do, generally, is take chapters from textbooks.”
III. Get online to do more reading about digital books and write about question 9.
September 14, 2009
In a Digital Future, Textbooks Are History
By TAMAR LEWIN
At Empire High School in Vail, Ariz., students use computers provided by the school to get their lessons, do their homework and hear podcasts of their teachers’ science lectures.
Down the road, at Cienega High School, students who own laptops can register for “digital sections” of several English, history and science classes.
And throughout the district, a Beyond Textbooks initiative encourages teachers to create — and share — lessons that incorporate their own PowerPoint presentations, along with videos and research materials they find by sifting through reliable Internet sites.
Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet, but many educators say that it will not be long before they are replaced by digital versions — or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web.
“Kids are wired differently these days,” said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. “They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite.
“They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear and rote,” Dr. Abshire continued. “Teachers need digital resources to find those documents, those blogs, those wikis that get them beyond the plain vanilla curriculum in the textbooks.”
In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this summer announced an initiative that would replace some high school science and math texts with free, “open source” digital versions.
With California in dire straits, the governor hopes free textbooks could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
And given that students already get so much information from the Internet, iPods and Twitter feeds, he said, digital texts could save them from lugging around “antiquated, heavy, expensive textbooks.”
The initiative, the first such statewide effort, has attracted widespread attention, since California, together with Texas, dominates the nation’s textbook market.
Many superintendents are enthusiastic.
“In five years, I think the majority of students will be using digital textbooks,” said William M. Habermehl, superintendent of the 500,000-student Orange County schools. “They can be better than traditional textbooks.”
Schools that do not make the switch, Mr. Habermehl said, could lose their constituency.
“We’re still in a brick-and-mortar, 30-students-to-1-teacher paradigm,” Mr. Habermehl said, “but we need to get out of that framework to having 200 or 300 kids taking courses online, at night, 24/7, whenever they want.”
“I don’t believe that charters and vouchers are the threat to schools in Orange County,” he said. “What’s a threat is the digital world — that someone’s going to put together brilliant $200 courses in French, in geometry by the best teachers in the world.”
But the digital future is not quite on the horizon in most classrooms. For one thing, there is still a large digital divide. Not every student has access to a computer, a Kindle electronic reader device or a smartphone, and few districts are wealthy enough to provide them. So digital textbooks could widen the gap between rich and poor.
“A large portion of our kids don’t have computers at home, and it would be way too costly to print out the digital textbooks,” said Tim Ward, assistant superintendent for instruction in California’s 24,000-student Chaffey Joint Union High School District, where almost half the students are from low-income families.
Many educators expect that digital textbooks and online courses will start small, perhaps for those who want to study a subject they cannot fit into their school schedule or for those who need a few more credits to graduate.
Although California education authorities are reviewing 20 open-source high school math and science texts to make sure they meet California’s exacting academic standards in time for use this fall — and will announce this week which ones meet state standards — quick adoption is unlikely.
“I want our teachers to have the best materials available, and with digital textbooks, we could see the best lessons taught by the most dynamic teachers,” said John A. Roach, superintendent of the Carlsbad, Calif., schools. “But they’re not going to replace paper texts right away.”
Whenever it comes, the online onslaught — and the competition from open-source materials — poses a real threat to traditional textbook publishers.
Pearson, the nation’s largest one, submitted four texts in California, all of them already available online, as free supplements to their texts.
“We believe that the world is going digital, but the jury’s still out on how this will evolve,” said Wendy Spiegel, a Pearson spokeswoman. “We’re agnostic, so we’ll provide digital, we’ll provide print, and we’ll see what our customers want.”
Most of the digital texts submitted for review in California came from a nonprofit group, CK-12 Foundation, that develops free “flexbooks” that can be customized to meet state standards, and added to by teachers. Its physics flexbook, a Web-based, open-content compilation, was introduced in Virginia in March.
“The good part of our flexbooks is that they can be anything you want,” said Neeru Khosla, a founder of the group. “You can use them online, you can download them onto a disk, you can print them, you can customize them, you can embed video. When people get over the mind-set issue, they’ll see that there’s no reason to pay $100 a pop for a textbook, when you can have the content you want free.”
The move to open-source materials is well under way in higher education — and may be accelerated by President Obama’s proposal to invest in creating free online courses as part of his push to improve community colleges.
Around the world, hundreds of universities, including M.I.T. and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia, now use and share open-source courses. Connexions, a Rice University nonprofit organization devoted to open-source learning, submitted an algebra text to California.
But given the economy, many educators and technology experts agree that the K-12 digital revolution may be further off.
“There’s a lot of stalled purchasing and decision making right now,” said Mark Schneiderman, director of federal education policy at the Software & Information Industry Association. “But it’s going to happen.”
For all the attention to the California initiative, digital textbooks are only the start of the revolution in educational technology.
“We should be bracing ourselves for way more interactive, way more engaging videos, activities and games,” said Marina Leight of the Center for Digital Education, which promotes digital education through surveys, publications and meetings.
Vail’s Beyond Textbooks effort has moved in that direction. In an Empire High School history class on elections, for example, students created their own political parties, campaign Web sites and videos.
“Students learn the same concepts, but in a different way,” said Matt Donaldson, Empire’s principal.
“We’ve mapped out our state standards,” Mr. Donaldson said, “and our teachers have identified whatever resources they feel best covers them, whether it’s a project they created themselves or an interesting site on the Internet. What they don’t do, generally, is take chapters from textbooks.”
Published in the Education section on August 9, 2009.
China's internet godfather
Published: 24 Feb 2009 22:06:25 PST
18 January 2009
China's internet godfather
Every time a salesperson at online trading site Alibaba signs up an important new account, the entire sales department cheers in triumph. But today they have been asked to keep the noise down as Jack Ma, founder and chairman of the world's largest online trading platform for businesses, is being interviewed in the open-plan office.
If Mr Ma feels most comfortable next to his sales force, it is because their work comes closest to what the 44-year-old has been doing over the past 15 years: preaching the importance of the internet and convincing companies to pay for offering their products on Alibaba's website.
Today, Alibaba has 36m registered users worldwide and generated revenues of Rmb2.2bn ($322m, €245m, £220m) in the first nine months of 2008 – 43 per cent up from the previous year. The group employs 12,000 people and intends to hire another 4,500 this year. It also controls Yahoo China and Taobao, China's leading consumer e-commerce platform, which Mr Ma founded in 2003.
Jack Ma has been called China's internet godfather. But when the slight, gaunt man – birdlike in appearance – tried to sell online advertising space on China's nascent internet in 1994, people viewed him with scepticism and suspicion. "They would think I was crazy," he says, gesturing with his bony hands.
A gift for acting runs in the family.
Mr Ma's parents made their living as performers of ping tan, a traditional art
of storytelling that originated in Suzhou, a city close to his home town of
He grew up in the shadow of the Cultural Revolution, a decade-long mass campaign launched by Mao Zedong in which millions were uprooted, families were destroyed and people lost their lives.
At the age of 12, just as Chinese society started emerging from this period of turmoil, Mr Ma, bad at maths but good at English, decided to learn the language to perfection. He worked for free as a guide for foreign tourists to improve his language and open a door to the outside world.
After failing the nationwide college entrance exam twice, he narrowly squeezed into Hangzhou Normal College to study English. He became a teacher, but soon gave up what was widely regarded as a safe and reputable profession to set up his own business, a translation agency, in 1994. The work brought him to the US later the same year, where he first encountered computers and the internet – and decided to build an internet business.
In 1995, he set up the China Yellow Pages, an online directory for Chinese businesses. But as there was no internet connection in his hometown of Hangzhou, very few of his customers were able to see if their advertisements were on the website or not. In the early days, he once put a group of prospective clients in a room with a computer and then uploaded their pages via a long-distance phone connection from Shanghai for them to see.
Four years later, Mr Ma again prompted an incredulous reaction when he founded Alibaba as an internet start-up focused on small businesses rather than consumers or multinationals.
The key to Alibaba's business model is the assumption that small- and medium-sized enterprises are those that can benefit most from the internet because it gives them access to buyers they would otherwise only meet at trade shows. With access to a wider pool of customers, it also reduces their dependency on market-dominant clients.
"Companies like Wal-Mart, these big-size buyers, killed a lot
of SME buyers," says Mr Ma. "But now most of the SME buyers and sellers started
to do business throughout the world because of the internet. So I think the
world has moved. I strongly believe small is beautiful."
Alibaba has transformed that belief into a strong revenue stream by offering Chinese suppliers a presence on its website in exchange for fixed payments. But all that could be at risk if large numbers of SMEs were to fall victim to the global economic crisis.
"We still have more than US$2bn (€1.5bn, £1.3bn) in cash reserves for the group, and the internet is growing in China, everything is fine, so surviving ourselves is easy," says Mr Ma. "But if our customers die, if the SMEs who we are serving disappear, it will be a big disaster."
Although China's economy is so far faring better than others, domestic trade has slowed, affecting a large chunk of Alibaba's business – 28.7m of its registered users are in its home market. To soften the blow, Alibaba has facilitated loans in excess of Rmb1bn to SMEs that would otherwise have struggled to get money.
"We do the same thing as Muhammad Yunus," says Mr Ma, referring to the father of microcredit who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. "Let's use the crisis to change the banks."
But a bigger change for Mr Ma's own company is the group's shifting geographic focus. "Before this financial crisis, we were helping China's products abroad. Now we are thinking about helping SMEs in the other parts of the world. Help them sell across the nations. Help them to sell to China," he says. "In the next 10 years, we are moving from a pure China exporting centre to a global platform for SMEs to exchange products."
In the past six months Alibaba has made a big push in this direction with a programme called Export to China, which offers non-Chinese sellers virtual Chinese-language storefronts.
Taobao, he announces, will also go global. Beyond Japan, where the platform already has a venture, he is targeting markets such as India or Mexico.
However, the company will not insist on applying its own business model to markets it does not know, says Mr Ma, in a dig at US rivals. "How to go global when we see [its effects on] Ebay, Amazon, Yahoo? They’re all facing trouble. We are not coming to India saying, we want 100 per cent all ourselves. This is not real globalisation, this is occupation."
This is one of Mr Ma's favourite topics – it was his company, after all, which overtook Ebay, and Yahoo came to him when its foray into China ran into difficulties.
Yahoo took a 40 per cent stake in Alibaba in 2006 and Alibaba took control of Yahoo China. Mr Ma argues that these companies failed in China because they tried to conquer the market with foreign managers and techniques.
After some discussion of this, Mr Ma's eyes begin darting about: he can hear mobile phones going off in the sales department. He offers a comment about the global economy: "The ship is moving into the most dangerous area now." And with that, he gets back to work.
Before Alibaba listed Alibaba.com, its business-to-business operation, in 2007, Jack Ma stepped down as chief executive of the unit and handed over to an outsider: David Wei, formerly head of B&Q China, the home improvement group.
Taking Mr Ma's reputed energetic and stubborn business style into account, it is hard to imagine that he would keep his hands entirely out of the business of running Alibaba.com. If one of the company presidents makes a decision he doesn't like, he says: "I will see whether I can tolerate it. And if it's wrong, well, I think it is stupid and change it again."
But Mr Ma says he has a comfortable power-sharing arrangement with the heads of the group's subsidiaries. "Jonathan [Lu, Taobao president] spends 90 per cent of his time focusing on Taobao, and I only spend 10 per cent. Why would I think I am smarter than him?"
He wants to be the "guard" of the company's values and vision. He spends most of his time trying to make sure these are deeply rooted in the minds of each employee. As Alibaba, started by 18 founders squeezed into an apartment, now has 12,000 employees, that is a huge job.
I. Read the passage and think about the following questions.
1. Why has Jack Ma been called China’s internet godfather?
2. List his studying and working experiences.
3. What is the key to the success of Alibaba’s business model?
4. What is Jack’s management concept?
5. “However, the company will not insist on applying its own business model to markets it does not know”, what does this sentence suggest?
6. What is business-to-business operation?
7. What are the values and vision of Alibaba?
II. Get online to do more reading about Jack Mar and write a passage with the title: Jack Mar, An Internet God Father.
THE DRAGON STIRS
By Geoff Dyer in Beijing 2009-09-30
Turn on the television news next Thursday and on display will be the sort of images from China that used to capture the imagination in the days of the Soviet Union. Dozens of tanks will roll down Beijing's main avenue and past Tiananmen Square, followed by immaculate ranks of goose-stepping soldiers. New military hardware will be proudly paraded, from mobile missile launchers that can reach Washington to J-10 fighter jets produced at a Chinese plant.
The occasion will be the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, an event allowing the country's leaders to show off their rapidly advancing military prowess at a time when its economy is leading others out of recession. If the Beijing Olympics last year were a chance to demonstrate how successful China has become, the October 1 parade will provide enduring images of its growing power.
Yet the bigger question raised by these celebrations is: what does Beijing really think of the US? Or, more specifically, does it now believe America – embroiled in two wars and with its economy wilting after last year's financial crisis – is facing inevitable decline? If the answer is yes, it will have big implications for some of the most important global issues in President Barack Obama's in-tray, from the future role of the dollar to Iran.
The perception that the US is weakened “could imbue Chinese policymakers with the confidence to be more assertive on the international stage”, says Bonnie Glaser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Chinese leaders rarely make unguarded comments about the US, although Wen Jiabao, prime minister, has articulated fears about a future collapse in the value of the dollar. “Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am a little bit worried. I request the US to maintain its good credit, to honour its promises and to guarantee the safety of China's assets,” he said at his annual press conference in March.
Yet behind the scenes of the country's rise in recent years has been a fierce debate about the future direction of foreign policy among the think-tanks and elite universities that advise politicians – pitting academics who argue that Beijing should take a more confrontational attitude to the US against those who believe development is best supported by playing within the existing world order.
Until recently, that discussion was on hold because of a consensus that the US was by far the dominant power and would remain so for at least another two decades. The status quo is described as yi chao duo qiang – one superpower and several great powers. Even many who proposed taking a more assertive stance against America often argued that such a posture was not for now. Better to bide our time and develop our economy, they said, and follow Deng Xiaoping's advice to “hide the brightness, nourish obscurity”.
Yet there are signs the belief in US invincibility is waning. Even before the financial crisis, some scholars were questioning US dominance on the grounds that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars had damaged it both financially and morally. In 2006, Wang Yiwei at Fudan University in Shanghai sparked a huge response with an article that had the provocative title: “How we can prevent the US from declining too quickly”.
In recent months, as the US economy has floundered and China's has proved remarkably resilient, there has been a flood of declinist commentary about the US. Fu Mengzi, a professor at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, a Beijing think-tank affiliated with the security services, reckons that the high point for US power projection was 2000. “US power has been declining since then, especially with Iraq and Afghanistan,” he says. “It is just that the financial crisis has made it seem more and more obvious.”
This discussion is not limited to professional ponderers of policy. One of the most popular books in China at the moment is Currency Wars 2 by Song Hongbing, which predicts that an obscure international elite of bankers and politicians will impose a global currency by 2024 and usher in an era of world government. The US Federal Reserve supports the plan, he writes, because it recognises that the dollar will be savaged by a bout of hyperinflation.
Mr Song, who went to university in the US, has a history of popularising conspiracy theories about global finance. His book is a sequel to a 2007 best-seller which put the blame for the battle of Waterloo, the rise of Hitler and the Asian financial crisis on the Rothschild banking dynasty. But with their combination of pessimism, fascination and envy of the US, his books tap into popular views.
By no means all share the view that the US is in the midst of a rapid demise. Zhu Feng at Peking University argues that “even if the US takes a hit with the financial crisis, the gap between America and the world is so large and other markets are so firmly enmeshed with the US, that no fundamental shift will occur to America's relative position in the world”. There is also a self-serving element to some of the talk. Projecting the decline of the US is a way for academics to grab headlines, fill lecture theatres and perhaps win the ear of senior leaders.
Yet the fact that so many researchers are analysing the US and its problems suggests a Chinese belief that the underlying dynamics of global geopolitics are already shifting. Moreover, the heightened debate about the future of the US has coincided with numerous indications that China is throwing its weight around much more on international issues in which the US has a large stake.
For a start, China appeared to be taking the fight to the US this year when Zhou Xiaochuan, central bank governor, called for the eventual replacement of the dollar as the global reserve currency.
China has also become much more aggressive in doing energy deals, including in parts of the world that are politically sensitive in the US. Chinese companies used to be cautious about Latin America, in part because it was considered to be the US backyard, but PetroChina is making a large investment in Venezuela and Sinopec is trying to become involved in Brazil's new oil discovery.
Chinese oil companies are also investing heavily in Iraq and Iran. Indeed Iran, the country which arguably presents the toughest diplomatic challenge facing the Obama White House, is now China's third-largest supplier of oil and China has started selling refined gasoline to Iran, in a move that could complicate US efforts to limit the supply of fuel to the country.
Diplomats in Beijing say China is meanwhile taking a more assertive approach than before in the South China Sea, where long-running territorial disputes exist involving several countries. ExxonMobil of the US came under pressure from Beijing to pull out of an exploration deal with Vietnam, while the US navy reports six incidents in recent months in the South China and Yellow seas in which Chinese ships have harassed US surveillance vessels.
China also sent ships to the Gulf of Aden this year to take part in operations against pirates and some scholars say the government will need to become much more involved in protecting Chinese citizens abroad, due in part to rising public pressure. That could lead to it becoming more involved in places such as Pakistan and Sudan, where its citizens have been caught up in kidnappings.
Yet even if China is convinced US power is waning, it will still be keen to avoid open confrontation. In military terms, the US dwarfs China and will do so for many years, even with Beijing's heavy investment in its armed forces. An overconfident China would also revive fears of a threat in the rest of Asia and elsewhere in the world that Chinese diplomats have worked hard to quash. And although China often complains about US policy towards Taiwan, it would not favour a rapid US security withdrawal from east Asia, in part because this could spark an arms race between China and Japan. “China might be more assertive towards the US but it will not be aggressive,” says Ms Glaser at CSIS.
Indeed, for many of the analysts talking up America's woes, the result they see is not confrontation but an opportunity to exert more leverage. China wants to rein in the US and mould its engagement with the rest of the world – and if that sounds familiar, it is because it is exactly how western countries claim to be dealing with China.
When he was US deputy secretary of state in 2005, Robert Zoellick urged China to be a “responsible stakeholder”, by which he meant China should be tied into the existing web of international rules and institutions. Whether through the World Trade Organisation or non- proliferation initiatives, some of this has been achieved. China is one of the biggest contributors to United Nations peacekeeping missions and is taking a more proactive role in climate change talks by saying it will set a target for reducing the amount of carbon emissions for every unit of output.
But a more confident China will also want to use its influence to define the terms by which the US behaves. That partly means making it much harder for the US to embark on what China sees as unilateral adventures such as the Iraq war. But it also means trying to establish a multilateral order on Chinese terms, where countries co-operate on global problems but where China is able to ring-fence its political arrangements and neuter discussion of its human rights record. Defending Beijing's view of sovereignty remains one of the main goals of its foreign policy.
“Some foreigners have nothing better to do after filling their stomachs. They keep picking on things Chinese,” said Xi Jinping, vice-president, during a visit to Mexico this year.
Prof Fu at CICIR tells a story about a US state department official who told a Beijing seminar that democracy promotion was one of the main priorities of US policy. “I asked her, what good is that for dealing with bird flu?” he says. The sort of multilateralism that Beijing seeks is based on a form of moral equivalency, where no country's political system is superior to others. “We have to overcome our differences over morals and values in order to solve the problems we have in common,” he says.
Wang Yong, director of the Center for International Political Economy at Peking University, says the crisis will make it much harder for the US to “impose” human rights issues. “For the US, this is not a good time to be interfering in other countries' issues,” he says. Americans “ought to be minding their own business, repairing their economy, their own human rights record and their overseas image, which needs a lot of mending”.
What should Americans do according to Wang Yong?
For all the gleaming military hardware that China will put on display next week and all the signs that it is becoming more engaged overseas, there is still a strong defensive element to its foreign policy, the product of deep suspicions about US intentions. A weaker US gives China chances to expand its influence. But it also gives its leaders a stronger platform to resist Americanisation.
Practical problems of a banker's proposal to demote the dollar
Perhaps the boldest statement of intent from Beijing this year has come not from the military or even from an academic with a nationalist bent, but from the country's mild-mannered and scholarly central bank boss.
Zhou Xiaochuan caused a storm in March when he in effect called time on the US dollar as the main global reserve currency. In an article on the bank's website, Mr Zhou argued that the international monetary system was too vulnerable to crises and said the dollar should eventually be replaced by special drawing rights, a basket of currencies managed by the International Monetary Fund.
The politics of Mr Zhou's article were deft. The proposal was something of a challenge to the US – a shift away from the dollar as the reserve currency would inhibit Washington's ability to borrow heavily in its own currency. Yet, as Arthur Kroeber at the Dragonomics consultancy in Beijing points out, the proposal involved giving more power to an international body and therefore avoided being seen as a power grab by a rising China.
The suggestion also helped to shift the conversation about the global financial crisis, which ahead of the Group of 20 leading nations' London summit in April had begun to focus on China's huge trade surplus and undervalued currency. Mr Zhou managed to transfer some of the attention back on to the US.
But the practical implications are less obvious. As Mr Zhou admits, reserve currencies are decided not by bureaucrats but by powerful economic forces. Some economists in China also question whether the proposal is in the country's interests – a system based on SDRs might be more stable but could also imply lower growth for the global economy.
“Even in China, the idea is heatedly debated among economists,” says Zhang Yuyan of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
“It is very difficult for any other national currencies or international currencies like SDRs to replace the dollar, at least in the next 10 or 20 years. There is no way.”
I. Read the following questions and think about the following questions.
1. According to the writer, what does the military parade show?
2. How do Chinese leaders comment on the United States?
3. How do you understand the sentence: Yet behind the scenes of the country's rise in recent years has been a fierce debate about the future direction of foreign policy?
4. How do you understand: hide the brightness, nourish obscurity?
5. What are the popular views about the United States according to Mr Song?
6. How does China begin with the challenge against the United States according to the writer?
7. Why does Ms Glaser say “China might be more assertive towards the US but it will not be aggressive” ?
8. What is the expectation of the Western world on China?
9. According to Wang Yong, what should Americans do to face China’s rise?
II. Get online to read more about Sino-US relations and write about the question 4.
What are the major points of Obama’s speech?
What is Obama’s impression upon Shanghai and China?
List the historical events mentioned by Obama.
What are the common things between the two countries?
What are the major achievements made by China according to Obama?
Do you know the Chinese for "Consider the past, and you shall know the future"?
How did the two countries achieve successful engagement according to Obama?
Find out the similarities and dissimilarities between the two countries.
What is the core principle of American society ?
How did Obama preach those principles?
Will the US seek to contain China? Why or why not?
Why did Obama want to conduct a dialogue with Chinese youth?
November 16, 2009
Remarks by President Barack Obama at Town Hall Meeting with
Future Chinese Leaders
Museum of Science and Technology, Shanghai, China
1]Good afternoon. It is a great honor for me to be here in Shanghai, and to have this opportunity to speak with all of you. I'd like to thank Fudan University's President Yang for his hospitality and his gracious welcome. I'd also like to thank our outstanding Ambassador, Jon Huntsman, who exemplifies the deep ties and respect between our nations. I don't know what he said, but I hope it was good. (Laughter.)
2]What I'd like to do is to make some opening comments, and then what I'm really looking forward to doing is taking questions, not only from students who are in the audience, but also we've received questions online, which will be asked by some of the students who are here in the audience, as well as by Ambassador Huntsman. And I am very sorry that my Chinese is not as good as your English, but I am looking forward to this chance to have a dialogue.
3]This is my first time traveling to China, and I'm excited to see this majestic country. Here, in Shanghai, we see the growth that has caught the attention of the world -- the soaring skyscrapers, the bustling streets and entrepreneurial activity. And just as I'm impressed by these signs of China's journey to the 21st century, I'm eager to see those ancient places that speak to us from China's distant past.
4]Tomorrow and the next day I hope to have a chance when I'm in Beijing to see the majesty of the Forbidden City and the wonder of the Great Wall. Truly, this is a nation that encompasses both a rich history and a belief in the promise of the future.
5]The same can be said of the relationship between our two countries. Shanghai, of course, is a city that has great meaning in the history of the relationship between the United States and China. It was here, 37 years ago, that the Shanghai Communique opened the door to a new chapter of engagement between our governments and among our people. However, America's ties to this city -- and to this country -- stretch back further, to the earliest days of America's independence.
6]In 1784, our founding father, George Washington, commissioned the Empress of China, a ship that set sail for these shores so that it could pursue trade with the Qing Dynasty. Washington wanted to see the ship carry the flag around the globe, and to forge new ties with nations like China. This is a common American impulse -- the desire to reach for new horizons, and to forge new partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
7]Over the two centuries that have followed, the currents of history have steered the relationship between our countries in many directions. And even in the midst of tumultuous winds, our people had opportunities to forge deep and even dramatic ties. For instance, Americans will never forget the hospitality shown to our pilots who were shot down over your soil during World War II, and cared for by Chinese civilians who risked all that they had by doing so. And Chinese veterans of that war still warmly greet those American veterans who return to the sites where they fought to help liberate China from occupation.
8]A different kind of connection was made nearly 40 years ago when the frost between our countries began to thaw through the simple game of table tennis. The very unlikely nature of this engagement contributed to its success -- because for all our differences, both our common humanity and our shared curiosity were revealed. As one American player described his visit to China -- "[The]people are just like us...The country is very similar to America, but still very different." Of course this small opening was followed by the achievement of the Shanghai Communique, and the eventual establishment of formal relations between the United States and China in 1979. And in three decades, just look at how far we have come. In 1979, trade between the United States and China stood at roughly $5 billion -- today it tops over $400 billion each year.
9]The commerce affects our people's lives in so many ways. America imports from China many of the computer parts we use, the clothes we wear; and we export to China machinery that helps power your industry. This trade could create even more jobs on both sides of the Pacific, while allowing our people to enjoy a better quality of life. And as demand becomes more balanced, it can lead to even broader prosperity.
10]In 1979, the political cooperation between the United States and China was rooted largely in our shared rivalry with the Soviet Union. Today, we have a positive, constructive and comprehensive relationship that opens the door to partnership on the key global issues of our time -- economic recovery and the development of clean energy; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and the scourge of climate change; the promotion of peace and security in Asia and around the globe. All of these issues will be on the agenda tomorrow when I meet with President Hu.
11]And in 1979, the connections among our people were limited. Today, we see the curiosity of those ping-pong players manifested in the ties that are being forged across many sectors. The second highest number of foreign students in the United States come from China, and we've seen a 50 percent increase in the study of Chinese among our own students. There are nearly 200 "friendship cities" drawing our communities together. American and Chinese scientists cooperate on new research and discovery. And of course, Yao Ming is just one signal of our shared love of basketball -- I'm only sorry that I won't be able to see a Shanghai Sharks game while I'm visiting.
12]It is no coincidence that the relationship between our countries has accompanied a period of positive change. China has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty -- an accomplishment unparalleled in human history -- while playing a larger role in global events. And the United States has seen our economy grow along with the standard of living enjoyed by our people, while bringing the Cold War to a successful conclusion.
13]There is a Chinese proverb: "Consider the past, and you shall know the future." Surely, we have known setbacks and challenges over the last 30 years. Our relationship has not been without disagreement and difficulty. But the notion that we must be adversaries is not predestined -- not when we consider the past. Indeed, because of our cooperation, both the United States and China are more prosperous and more secure. We have seen what is possible when we build upon our mutual interests, and engage on the basis of mutual respect.
14]And yet the success of that engagement depends upon understanding -- on sustaining an open dialogue, and learning about one another and from one another. For just as that American table tennis player pointed out -- we share much in common as human beings, but our countries are different in certain ways.
15]I believe that each country must chart its own course. China is an ancient nation, with a deeply rooted culture. The United States, by comparison, is a young nation, whose culture is determined by the many different immigrants who have come to our shores, and by the founding documents that guide our democracy. Those documents put forward a simple vision of human affairs, and they enshrine several core principles -- that all men and women are created equal, and possess certain fundamental rights; that government should reflect the will of the people and respond to their wishes; that commerce should be open, information freely accessible; and that laws, and not simply men, should guarantee the administration of justice.
16]Of course, the story of our nation is not without its difficult chapters. In many ways -- over many years -- we have struggled to advance the promise of these principles to all of our people, and to forge a more perfect union. We fought a very painful civil war, and freed a portion of our population from slavery. It took time for women to be extended the right to vote, workers to win the right to organize, and for immigrants from different corners of the globe to be fully embraced. Even after they were freed, African Americans persevered through conditions that were separate and not equal, before winning full and equal rights. None of this was easy. But we made progress because of our belief in those core principles, which have served as our compass through the darkest of storms. That is why Lincoln could stand up in the midst of civil war and declare it a struggle to see whether any nation, conceived in liberty, and "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could long endure.
17]That is why Dr. Martin Luther King could stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and ask that our nation live out the true meaning of its creed. That's why immigrants from China to Kenya could find a home on our shores; why opportunity is available to all who would work for it; and why someone like me, who less than 50 years ago would have had trouble voting in some parts of America, is now able to serve as its President. And that is why America will always speak out for these core principles around the world. We do not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation, but we also don't believe that the principles that we stand for are unique to our nation. These freedoms of expression and worship -- of access to information and political participation -- we believe are universal rights. They should be available to all people, including ethnic and religious minorities -- whether they are in the United States, China, or any nation. Indeed, it is that respect for universal rights that guides America's openness to other countries; our respect for different cultures; our commitment to international law; and our faith in the future.
18]These are all things that you should know about America. I also know that we have much to learn about China. Looking around at this magnificent city -- and looking around this room -- I do believe that our nations hold something important in common, and that is a belief in the future. Neither the United States nor China is content to rest on our achievements.
19]For while China is an ancient nation, you are also clearly looking ahead with confidence, ambition, and a commitment to see that tomorrow's generation can do better than today's. In addition to your growing economy, we admire China's extraordinary commitment to science and research -- a commitment borne out in everything from the infrastructure you build to the technology you use. China is now the world's largest Internet user -- which is why we were so pleased to include the Internet as a part of today's event. This country now has the world's largest mobile phone network, and it is investing in the new forms of energy that can both sustain growth and combat climate change -- and I'm looking forward to deepening the partnership between the United States and China in this critical area tomorrow. But above all, I see China's future in you -- young people whose talent and dedication and dreams will do so much to help shape the 21st century.
20]I've said many times that I believe that our world is now fundamentally interconnected. The jobs we do, the prosperity we build, the environment we protect, the security that we seek -- all of these things are shared. And given that interconnection, power in the 21st century is no longer a zero-sum game; one country's success need not come at the expense of another.
21]And that is why the United States insists we do not seek to contain China's rise. On the contrary, we welcome China as a strong and prosperous and successful member of the community of nations -- a China that draws on the rights, strengths, and creativity of individual Chinese like you.
22]To return to the proverb -- consider the past. We know that more is to be gained when great powers cooperate than when they collide. That is a lesson that human beings have learned time and again, and that is the example of the history between our nations. And I believe strongly that cooperation must go beyond our government. It must be rooted in our people -- in the studies we share, the business that we do, the knowledge that we gain, and even in the sports that we play. And these bridges must be built by young men and women just like you and your counterparts in America.
23]That's why I'm pleased to announce that the United States will dramatically expand the number of our students who study in China to 100,000. And these exchanges mark a clear commitment to build ties among our people, as surely as you will help determine the destiny of the 21st century. And I'm absolutely confident that America has no better ambassadors to offer than our young people. For they, just like you, are filled with talent and energy and optimism about the history that is yet to be written. So let this be the next step in the steady pursuit of cooperation that will serve our nations, and the world. And if there's one thing that we can take from today's dialogue, I hope that it is a commitment to continue this dialogue going forward.
So thank you very much. And I look forward now to taking some questions from all of you. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
How Europe Sees America
Ask people what they think of America's cultural and political
influence in the wider world and you're sure to get a mixed response, even from
One thing is clear: Most Europeans think America's political influence in the world was negative over the past five years, but say it has taken a sharply positive turn since Barack Obama's election as U.S. president.
When it comes to culture, Europeans' view of America's contributions is more complex. Some aspects are loathed, others are loved. Large numbers of Europeans say they detest American food, but cite films and television shows as the country's best exports.
To study this issue and broader questions about what the world thinks of America and what Americans think of themselves, The Wall Street Journal asked market-research firm GfK to poll more than 18,000 people in 18 countries -- 16 European nations, plus the U.S. and Russia. GfK polled respondents about the facets of American culture they admire and those they dislike and asked them whether they viewed U.S. political influence in a positive or negative light.
Some of the results fit well-established stereotypes. For example, French respondents didn't like the Bush years and voiced a stronger distaste for American cuisine than any other country surveyed. But other features of the poll proved surprising, particularly when Americans were asked how they view their own country's role in the world and its contribution to global culture.
'The views of American political influence show a very, very positive change with the election of Obama,' said Mark Hofmans, a managing director in GfK's Brussels office, who analyzed the survey results. 'Attitudes toward American cultural influence are far more nuanced.'
GfK asked respondents to rate, in broad terms, America's cultural influence in the world. It then identified several categories -- movies and television, fashion, food, sports, music, architecture and literature -- and asked respondents to identify the best and worst aspects of U.S. cultural influence in the world. Respondents were also given the option to say 'other' or 'nothing.'
In total, more respondents (39%) said America's cultural influence in the world was negative than those who said it was positive (22%). Among European respondents, 32% said U.S. cultural influence was negative, compared to 26% who gave a positive response. Americans were slightly more downbeat than average, with 46% of those surveyed saying their country has a negative cultural influence in the world, compared with 33% who describe it as positive.
Several countries surveyed had more positive than negative votes. In Italy, 39% of respondents had a positive impression of U.S. cultural influence, compared with 25% who gave a negative answer. The U.K. (38% to 31%), Poland (32% to 24%), Bulgaria (29% to 25%) and Romania (29% to 26%) also logged more positive than negative responses.
Luigi Mattirolo, an Italian civil servant in Rome, said it isn't specifically books or movies that he likes most about American culture, but the country's ethic of initiative and free enterprise.
The American 'way of thinking makes it possible for the people who really believe in something to achieve their goals. At least [in the U.S.] it happens more frequently than in Europe,' Mr. Mattirolo said.
The most negative impressions of U.S. cultural influence were found in Greece, where 58% criticized America's cultural influence. Americans were the second-most critical group, followed by Russia (45%) and Hungary (40%).
In the breakdown of what people like best about American culture, a total of 30% of those surveyed cited movies and television shows, making this by far the most popular category. Among Europeans, the number was even higher: 40% said movies and TV were the best American cultural export. Sports (12%) and music (11%) were the only other categories that received high marks (each was the choice of 13% of Europeans). American fashion, literature and food each were given positive marks by only 4% of all respondents, while 21% of those surveyed said 'nothing' or 'I don't know' when asked about the best American contribution to world culture.
Greeks, who gave American political and cultural influence some of the most negative reviews in the survey, were the most enthusiastic admirers of American movies and television, with 52% citing these as America's best exports. Hungarian (51%) and Dutch (50%) respondents, who also gave U.S. political and cultural influence negative scores, also professed admiration for Hollywood.
Surprisingly, when asked to identify America's worst contribution to world culture, 32% of Americans pointed to film and television, a far higher proportion than in any other country and the single most popular response among U.S. respondents. It turns out Americans see their films and TV shows, which broadly are admired around the world, as having a negative cultural influence.
Still, 18% of American respondents cited films and television shows as the country's best contribution to world culture, followed closely by food (11%) and sports (10%). The most popular response, however, was 'other,' showing that Americans likely have a far more nuanced view of their country's cultural worth than others around the globe.
Other countries all singled out American food as the country's worst contribution to global culture. Sixty-five percent of French respondents gave this answer, the highest in the group. Swiss (56%) and German (52%) respondents were close behind.
The French numbers are interesting, considering that McDonald's is virtually ubiquitous in the country and another U.S. edible export, Starbucks, has been spreading around Paris over the past few years.
'I think that in France we are not influenced by American food,' said Amaury de Saint-Ours, a business consultant in Paris. 'We don't have a good opinion of it. We think of McDonald's hamburgers.' He explained that people go to McDonald's in France because it is cheap and quick, not because the food is good. 'We are lucky in France. We have great cheese, great meats and great wine.'
When it comes to politics, almost two-thirds of those surveyed said the U.S. was a negative influence in the world over the past five years. The most downbeat country was Greece, where 88% of respondents said U.S. political influence was either 'negative' or 'very negative.' Other countries, including the Netherlands (80%), Switzerland (80%) and Belgium (78%) also had predominantly negative views of American political influence.
Maybe this result isn't surprising, given that over the past five years the U.S. presence in Iraq -- never popular in Europe -- has continued, with regular reports of violence. But some of the sharply negative views are colored by other factors, including history.
In Greece, for example, the U.S. backed a military junta between 1967 and 1974 that curbed civil liberties and used harsh tactics against dissenters. U.S. President Bill Clinton later expressed regret for U.S. involvement in this era of Greek history, but suspicion and anger still linger.
'There is a very strong and common belief in Greece, especially among young people, that the USA, being the leading capitalistic country, has a detrimental impact on every affair or situation it tries to solve or influence,' said Yannis Loizos, a lawyer in Athens.
None of the countries included in the survey gave U.S. political influence more positive than negative marks for the past five years. But some countries were less negative than others. Thirty-two percent of Romanian respondents said U.S. political influence was negative, the lowest level in the survey. Bulgaria (40%) and Poland (41%) were close behind.
The largest share of positive votes in this category was in Poland where a total of 22% of respondents gave the U.S. 'positive' or 'very positive' marks. Romania (19%) and the U.K. (19%) trailed in the category, but still were more complimentary than the Americans polled. Only 18% of U.S. respondents praised their country's political influence in the world over the past five years.
Countries in Central and Eastern Europe have tended to be more pro-American than other parts of the globe in recent years. Many cite the U.S. as a positive force against a resurgent Russia, which shrouded the region under Communist rule only a generation ago.
'During the cultural gulag and oppression [of the Soviet years], America was a beacon of hope and light to Romanians. America symbolized the land of the free,' said Eugen Babau, a Romanian who until recently worked for an energy company. Many Romanians, he said, 'still aspire to America as the promised land.'
Even though the U.S. war in Iraq continues and President Obama has promised to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the survey respondents were clear: The Obama era marks an about-face for U.S. political influence in the world.
Europeans are even more optimistic about Mr. Obama's presidency than Americans. In Belgium and Sweden, 84% of respondents believe America's political influence in the world will change in a 'positive' or 'very positive' way as a result of Mr. Obama's election. In Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, 82% of respondents gave the same answer. In the U.S., 61% of those surveyed gave a 'positive' or 'very positive' reply.
Elsewhere in Western Europe, Greece (59%), Spain (63%) and France (68%) gave the same reply about U.S. political influence since Mr. Obama's election, showing that while most of the world sees the new U.S. president in a positive light, countries aren't uniformly elated.
Many of the countries that had a less negative view of U.S. political influence over the past five years were among the least enthused about Mr. Obama's presidency. In Poland, 45% of those surveyed said Mr. Obama's election marked a 'positive' or 'very positive' change in U.S. political influence. Romania (47%) and Bulgaria (48%) were close behind.
Russia led this category, with only 27% saying Mr. Obama's election marked a 'positive' or 'very positive' change. This result could be skewed, however, since 32% of Russians surveyed gave no answer to the question, by far the highest level among the countries polled.
'In Central and Eastern European countries, the response to Obama has been a little less positive, but on the whole, the 'Obama effect' is very noticeable,' Gfk's Mr. Hofmans said. 'I hadn't expected such overwhelmingly positive figures.'
Why does the Greece hold the most negative impression of America?
Greeks, who gave American political and cultural influence some of the most negative reviews in the survey, were the most enthusiastic admirers of American movies and television, with 52% citing these as America's best exports.
What does this sentence suggest?
What do you think are America’s great and worst contribution to the world culture?
What are America’s worst contribution to the world culture according to the survey?
Why do most countries hold negative opinion on America’s political influence?
Why does Obama’s presidency help improve people’s opinion on America?
China and the G20
China takes centre stage
Mar 31st 2009 | BEIJING
Chinese officials assume an increasingly self-confident tone towards the rest of the world
IF ONLY the rest of the world were run like China, the global financial crisis would be over much sooner. So the governor of China’s central bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, implied recently. China, he said, had responded with “prompt, decisive and effective policy measures, demonstrating its superior system advantage when it comes to making vital policy decisions”. At the G20 summit in London on Thursday April 2nd, China’s President Hu Jintao sees a chance for his country to take centre stage.
Chinese leaders are not accustomed to that position. The late Deng Xiaoping gave warning, in the wake of the collapse of European communism, that China should keep a low profile in world affairs and bide its time. He had good reason then to be cautious. It was still by no means certain how China’s Communist Party would weather the political storm. The country’s economy had yet to take off and China was still viewed as a pariah by many in the West because of its bloody crackdown, in 1989, on pro-democracy campaigners in Tiananmen Square.
Now, with the West in economic disarray, China’s leaders see an opportunity if not to supplant American power, at least to start wielding a bit more of the clout that they feel they deserve given recent, rapid economic growth and the country’s importance to a global recovery. Notwithstanding the enormous social stresses that China is facing at home as a result of rising unemployment, caused by an export slump, Chinese officials recently have assumed an increasingly self-confident tone when speaking to the rest of the world.
Mr Zhou had some advice for Western governments. They should give powers to ministries of finance and central banks “to use extraordinary means to contain systemic risk”. This, he said, would allow them to “act boldly and expeditiously without having to go through a lengthy or even painful approval process.” China has avoided any such difficulties with its 4 trillion yuan ($586 billion) stimulus package announced in November. Officials have provided only the barest of details of this. The rubber-stamp legislature has not been consulted.
In another article, Mr Zhou suggested the creation of a new international reserve currency, managed by the IMF, to replace the dollar. Western officials have given that a lukewarm response, but there has been greater interest in China’s proposals for a restructuring of voting rights at the IMF to allow developing nations more say. With almost $2 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves, China is seen by Western countries as a big potential lender to the IMF, and thus to countries in need of financial rescue.
China, however, is still reluctant to stick its neck out far. It has not made public any detailed plans for IMF reform. Neither has it made explicit whether or how any lending by China would be conditional on such changes. In an article in the Times on March 27th, Wang Qishan, a deputy prime minister, said that it was “neither realistic nor fair to set the scale of contribution simply by the size of foreign-exchange reserves”. But he did not offer a sum.
China remains wary of its own economic predicament. Although the goal remains to achieve 8% GDP growth this year, this would still be slow by the double-digit standards of much of this decade. The World Bank predicts 6.5% growth. Even Mr Zhou sounded a note of caution. Asked whether China’s economic slowdown had ended he told reporters on March 28th, during a visit to Colombia, that it was “still uncertain”. The answer, he said, depended on whether the global financial crisis had yet “reached bottom”.
As China Daily, a state-owned English-language newspaper, put it, “what China is going to do is be seen and be heard” at the G20. President Hu will bask in the limelight of his first meeting with President Obama on the sidelines of the London summit and do little to brush off comment that it is really a “G2” of China and America that counts most. But China’s leaders appear uncertain themselves how far they can push their diplomatic
The EU-China summit
The world does not shake China
29th 2007 | BEIJING
From The Economist print edition
On trade or the exchange rate
“LET China sleep, for when she wakes the world will shake.” So, purportedly, said Napoleon some 200 years ago. In Beijing this week European leaders have been telling their Chinese counterparts that such unease is at risk of spreading. Once content to let the Americans do the worrying, the EU is joining in.
In the build-up to an annual China-EU summit in Beijing on November 28th, European officials raised hackles by complaining about Chinese trade practices and exchange-rate policy in the kind of direct language that China had thought an annoying American trait. The European Commission's president, José Manuel Barroso, told Communist Party officials that the emergence of China risked being seen by Europeans “as a threat”. Mr Barroso gave warning of “protectionist pressures which would be very difficult to contain” if nothing were done to curb the EU's huge trade deficit with China.
Peter Mandelson, the EU's trade commissioner, was similarly blunt on China's rampant abuse of intellectual-property rights. “The problems continue to get worse, and the world—particularly China—is changing too fast to wait longer,” he said in Beijing. It was hard, he said, to see how much longer Europe's patience would last. He also took a swipe at China for suggesting that European concerns about the safety of Chinese products were being used to excuse protectionism. Wu Yi, a deputy prime minister, said she was “extremely dissatisfied” with his remarks.
Europe's disquiet is likely to grow. Last year its trade deficit with China reached €131 billion ($164 billion), say EU figures. This year it is expected to grow to €150billion-160 billion, on a par with America's record deficit with China in 2006 (see chart). That is the more disturbing for Europeans because they are not used to it: for years, their trade deficit was China was modest. The yuan has been appreciating slowly against the dollar in the past couple of years. But it has been declining against the euro. This is making Chinese imports even cheaper for Europeans—good news for consumers and companies making products in China for export to Europe, but bad news for exporters and uncompetitive industries in Europe itself.
China is showing little sign of yielding to European and American complaints about what those countries see as a grossly undervalued yuan. The official line remains that any change should be gradual. Nor is it anxious to take up the grouses of European and American companies about the difficulties of doing business in China. A survey released last week by the European Chamber of Commerce in China showed that many responding companies felt that China was trying to circumvent the market-opening commitments it made to the World Trade Organisation.
Once hopeful that the EU might act as a counterbalance to American power, China's expectations have receded as more pro-American leaders have taken over in Germany and France. The EU may be China's biggest trading partner, but it ranks far lower in China's political calculations. A report from Chatham House, a British think-tank, says China believes Europe lacks strategic vision and suffers from internal discord, impeding its credibility.
It also argues that China has a clear understanding of EU institutions. It is certainly true that China has been exploiting EU divisions to the full. Following an unprecedented meeting in September between Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Tibet's exiled leader, the Dalai Lama (see article), China has vented its rage by cancelling a number of engagements with Germany, its largest export market in the EU.
By contrast it gave a warm welcome to France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who visited China just before the EU summit, conspicuously neglecting to bring his human-rights minister along. Mr Sarkozy oversaw the signing of a deal worth $11.9 billion for the sale of two French nuclear reactors to China and another for the sale of $17 billion-worth of Airbus aircraft.
China takes America more seriously. Its punishment of Germany has been tougher than its response to the first public appearance by an American president with the Dalai Lama in October. But even with the Americans, China let its pique be known. Last month it abruptly blocked a Thanksgiving visit to Hong Kong by the American aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and her escorting ships, until it was too late for them to change course before the holiday. At least America's Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, is still due to visit Beijing this month. But like those of Europeans, his concerns about the yuan and trade imbalances will receive a polite brush-off.
Task 1 Answer the following questions
Read the following passage and answer the questions:
1. What is special with the restaurant Chun?
2. What is Ms.Qu's philosophy of running business?
3. How do people feel about Shanghai dishes/cooks?
4. How to make a typical Shanghai dish?
5. What can you learn from this passage? (cooking, Shanghai, life, China...)
6. Underline the words/phrases that you think can enrich your writing.
Task 2 Group work
Make a presentation of China's food.
Task 2 Write a passage about "Food can reflect the culture of a country" (approximately 300-400 words)
Shanghai's Four Hot Tables
Thirty years ago, Deng Xiaoping plunged China into the capitalist era when he said that 'to get rich is glorious.' Qu Minglan is having none of it.
Ms. Qu, known universally by her nickname Lan-Lan, runs Chun, a restaurant that's one of the hottest meal tickets in Shanghai, with just four tables, 18 seats and a reputation for the best home-style Shanghainese food in the world. All day the phone rings for reservations, and during meal hours the door swings open constantly with people hoping to find a couple of places vacant. They rarely are.
The dinner I had there recently began with a visit from Ms. Qu, whose smooth, round face and pixie haircut make her look younger than her 50 years. She came out of the kitchen and sat at our table with a notepad in hand. But the notepad was a stage prop; there's no menu, and the fixed-priced dinner consists solely of what looked good in the market that day. The only question she asked was, 'How hungry are you?'
Woe unto those who answer, as we did, that we were very hungry. For the six of us, 11 courses came out in short order -- and not little tastes, but heaping platters. We had crab with sticky rice rolls and stir-fried shrimp in their shells, and the chicken -- salted, cold chunks as an appetizer -- was of the free-range variety that never spent a day cooped up in a factory cage. The whole fish couldn't have tasted fresher, with a thick black sauce that should have been leaden but somehow sparkled. Everyone marveled at a purée of broad beans with Chinese pickles, but the portion was so big that six of us hardly made a dent in it.
All over China, owners of restaurants with far less reputation than Chun's have transformed themselves from little storefront eateries into glitzy palaces, with branches near and far. One example is Zhang Sen Ji, a tiny restaurant that started out years ago in Hangzhou and now has several branches there and in upscale settings in Shanghai and Beijing. But in a country that prizes financial success, Ms. Qu may be unique among entrepreneurs: She values her leisure time and the integrity of her food far more than money.
'Look at my competitors in big
restaurants,' she scoffs. 'They use every minute to make money. But why make
your life miserable?' To illustrate her point, she quotes a Chinese
aphorism far different from Deng Xiaoping's:
'If you're easily contented, you'll be happy for a long
Her 20-year-old restaurant, called Spring Dining Hall in English, occupies the ground floor of a dumpy, three-story building surrounded by international boutiques and five-star hotels in Shanghai's upper-crust French Concession district. Ms. Qu's family has owned the space for more than 70 years, using it as their home before she turned it into a restaurant.
The neighborhood has tilted sharply to the upscale side over the years, especially with the arrival of nearby frou-frou fusion restaurants like 'The Chinoise Story,' which serves 'pan-seared foie gras on grapes salad with nuts' and 'stewed Martini lamb shank with garlic froth.' (Yes, the restaurant confirms, the lamb is marinated in gin and vermouth.) Chun's only change has been to put a fresh coat of white paint on the unadorned white plaster walls, which are paneled halfway up with cheap plywood. For a bathroom, there is the communal neighborhood toilet facilities down an adjacent alley; the ancient kitchen is ventilated by keeping the back door open.
Chun's fame in Shanghai has produced a new phenomenon: The street is filling up with competitors hoping to absorb Chun's overflow. Three restaurants nearby look almost identical to Chun: plain décor, just a few tables, serving home-style Shanghai cooking. None has siphoned off much if any of Chun's loyal following.
But the fame isn't going to Ms. Qu's head. When I asked her if she wants her son, a recent college graduate, to take over the restaurant, she looked at me, astonished. 'Why would I let him do this?' she exclaimed. 'To run a restaurant, with all the problems? I wouldn't allow it.'
If the atmosphere at Chun speaks of eating in someone's unpretentious home -- Ms. Qu says for her regular customers, 'it's like going to their aunt's house for dinner' -- the food only bolsters that perception. 'We've been coming here for four years since we heard about Chun on a TV cooking program,' says Wu Wejuan, enjoying dinner with her husband, Ding Zhenjia. 'If we don't feel like cooking at home, we come here and feel just like we're at home. It's really local Shanghai food, and it's very tasty.'
Many connoisseurs in other Chinese cities would say great Shanghai cooking is an oxymoron. Largely unadorned by modern touches and unaffected by trends, Shanghainese food is based largely on oil, soy sauce and sugar. In the view of devotees of more complex cuisines, like Sichuanese or Cantonese, Shanghai cooks take perfectly good ingredients and make them repulsive by dousing them in sweet, oily sauce.
But those devotees probably haven't tasted the cooking of Wu Weiguang, the cook at Chun for the past 11 years. Mr. Wu, 34, says his family 'goes back countless generations in Shanghai'; the cuisine is all a matter of measuring. 'Other restaurants just can't get the right proportions of ingredients that produce the authentic local flavor,' Mr. Wu says. 'Our customers are here because they want the original taste of Shanghainese food. They don't want anything fancy or fusion.' As a concession to the times, however, he acknowledges that he has cut back on oil.
Mr. Wu about the meal I had eaten the night before, and his answers surprised
me. I'd perceived the food as being highly sophisticated, because every sauce
tasted different and seemed to complement the
ingredients of the dish perfectly. But he said there was nothing in the
sauces beyond the staples of Chinese cooking --
perhaps only some vinegar or a dash of sesame
oil added to the trinity of soy sauce, sugar and
At my first meal at Chun, six years ago, Ms. Qu was the hostess, the waitress and the busboy. Now, the restaurant employs two young women to clear tables and help the chef with prep work. Prices have crept up too, although no one was complaining. Six of us, drinking more beer than I want to think about, were presented with a bill for the equivalent of $75.
Ms. Qu has little interest in getting rich. She brags that she closes on Sundays and national holidays and ends dinner service at around 8. She also claims to eschew publicity. Only two days after my meal would she consent to an interview, and she made clear it was to be for 20 minutes only. She kept her word, stirring pots and jotting down reservations the entire time. She says she isn't keen on foreign tourists as customers, because they frequently make reservations and don't show up.
Soccer's influence: Why the world 'turns around a spinning ball'
By Simon Hooper, CNN
June 9, 2010 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
CNN) -- "There is absolutely no question that the world turns around a spinning ball," Eduardo Galeano wrote after Brazil beat Italy on penalties to win the 1994 World Cup final.
In his elegiac history of 20th-century soccer, "Football in Sun and Shadow," the Uruguayan author comes closer than any other writer to capturing our obsession with the "beautiful game" and its showpiece event, charting football's emergence as an all-consuming global spectacle.
Short of aliens landing on earth anytime soon -- or mankind landing on Mars -- the World Cup final is the closest thing the planet has to a collective viewing experience. Hundreds of millions will watch the final on July 11, while world governing body FIFA predicts a cumulative audience for the tournament of 26.29 billion viewers.
Kevin Alavy of sports analysts Futures Sports + Entertainments said that in terms of televised sport, the World Cup final is "on a different plane" to any other event. He puts the near-universal appeal of football down to its simplicity.
"Many sports want to grow themselves internationally by exporting their products, but the simpler the product the easier it is to export it. The rules of football are very, very simple," Alavy told CNN.
He said FIFA had also helped boost soccer's popularity with its commitment to free-to-air broadcasting, allowing the sport to reach its maximum audience.
Who will be the World Cup's best player?
Meanwhile, FIFA's policy of taking the World Cup to previously untapped markets, such as the U.S. in 1994, South Korea and Japan in 2002 and South Africa in 2010 -- the first time the tournament has been staged in Africa -- has extended its reach beyond its traditional heartlands in Europe and South America, Alavy said.
While attention now focuses on the 32 finalists, part of the World Cup's appeal lies in the fact that it touches virtually every society on the planet.
The month-long finals are actually the climax of a three-year competition which began in August 2007 when New Caledonia beat Tahiti 1-0. More than 200 FIFA member states -- it's an organization with more members than the United Nations -- have taken part, playing more than 850 qualifying matches.
Football also turns the normal order of the world on its head. Global giants such as China, India and Russia are not even represented in South Africa's showpiece, while tiny nations such as Honduras, Slovakia and Algeria will enjoy their moments in the spotlight.
Even reclusive North Korea can expect some positive coverage for once, especially if its players can match the legendary performances of their 1966 predecessors -- who sent Italy home to an early reception of rotten tomatoes on the way to the quarterfinals.
For the world's leading football-playing nations, the World Cup has been woven into their modern histories, with triumphs and defeats, both glorious and ignominious, firmly fixed in the collective memory.
"In Europe today, there may be nothing that brings a society together like a World Cup," write Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski in "Why England Lose."
"Other than sport, only war and catastrophe can create this sort of national unity."
Who will win the World Cup?
In Brazil, where perhaps the tournament means more than anywhere else, even the country's five World Cup wins still go only some way to exorcizing the memory of the infamous defeat by Uruguay in the final game of the 1950 tournament in Rio de Janeiro's Maracana stadium -- a match described by Brazilian author Nelson Rodrigues as an "irredeemable national catastrophe."
Traumatized by the defeat, Brazil's football authorities launched a competition to design a new kit, reasoning that the team's white jerseys were not patriotic enough. The result was the world's most famous yellow shirt.
The simpler the product the easier it is to export it. The rules of football are
very, very simple
The country's subsequent victories have only heightened Brazilians' hunger for World Cup glory -- and misery when things go wrong.
In 2001 the country's star player Ronaldo was called to testify in front of a Senate commission investigating the circumstances surrounding the national team's 3-0 defeat by France in the 1998 final.
Other countries have their own complicated relationships with the World Cup.
For English fans, persistent failure on the sport's greatest stage, with the exception of the country's home triumph in 1966, will always be tainted by the idea that English football once ruled the world -- even if only by virtue of the fact that no other country outside the British Isles had yet to discover the sport.
"England always harks back to this golden age which realistically only exists between 1886 and 1900," football writer Jonathan Wilson, author of "The Anatomy of England," told CNN.
"It's a source of why we're so frustrated at World Cups -- when actually having won only one World Cup is a perfectly reasonable thing for a team of England's size and standing."
Will 'the Force' be with Capello at World Cup?
Wilson said that the rarity of achieving success at the World Cup -- just seven countries have ever won the four-yearly competition -- has also enhanced its magical appeal.
Even for footballing greats such as Pele, Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane, the tournament may arrive only once or twice at the peak of a player's talents, making legends of those whose careers have the good fortune to coincide with World Cup success.
"One of the key things of fandom is this yearning, this sense of loss, revelling in failure, and the World Cup appeals to those instincts," Wilson said.
"Because England have only won it once, everyone knows every detail of that 1966 triumph. Most fans would be able to name the 11 that won it, so they become revered in a way that much better players aren't."
But there may be other benefits to watching the World Cup, regardless of how your favored team performs. Kuper and Szymanski claim the tournament actually makes people happier by creating a collective event that helps us value relationships with family, friends and the world.
"It seems that football tournaments create those relationships: people gathered together in pubs and living rooms, a whole country suddenly caring about the same event. A World Cup is the sort of common project that otherwise barely exists in modern societies," they write, even claiming that suicide rates in many countries fall in World Cup years.
Galeano, perhaps writing as a native of a country whose World Cup glories belong in a distant golden age, would surely appreciate the therapeutic qualities of a great football match.
"When good football happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don't give a damn which team or country performs it," he wrote.
At the start of "Football in Sun and Shadow," Galeano dedicates the book to a group of children who had crossed his path "once upon a time, years ago."
The kids had been playing football, Galeano recalled, and were singing: "We lost, we won, either way we had fun."
So many World Cup finals are dark affairs, with one shadow or another looming over them. This final had no taunting or head-butting like the last one; no team played with an undetected Hand of God in its recent past.
And in the long run, the very long run, this final did not end with the gloomy coup de grâce of penalty kicks. Instead, it had two crack teams, two grand soccer traditions, testing each other for a long time until overdue Spain defeated the overdue Netherlands, 1-0, with a goal by Andrés Iniesta in the 116th minute, that is, four minutes away from the dreaded penalty kicks.
This is worth remembering as Spain celebrates and the Netherlands rages at a few officiating calls: both teams knew how to move the ball, and tried to do so. They nullified each other, not themselves. There have been darker finals.
While Spain’s players rejoiced and Iker Casillas, the great goalkeeper, sobbed and sobbed, the Dutch players and their fans did not go quietly.
They raged at many things, including a claimed offside on the only goal of the long night, which was not supported by replays. Iniesta was onside when the ball was released and then he pumped it off the fingertips of the diving Dutch keeper.
Afterward, the fans booed at the mention of the English referee Howard Webb, who did not have a good match, issuing too many yellow cards and touching off more acting and marginal play.
The Dutch were down one player for the fatal goal, the only goal, because of a second yellow card in the 109th minute that banished defender John Heitinga. Iniesta helped sell the yellow card to Webb by toppling easier; he had sustained worse whackings this night.
Even in the normal exhausted state of overtime, the Spanish knew how to exploit the extra space on the field. They are one of the best passing teams of this generation, moving the ball like a pinball being operated by remote control. Even their defensive headers have a purpose higher than merely clearing the ball. So they had the skill, and the coaching of Vicente del Bosque, to take advantage of this sudden one-player advantage.
This is the proper way for a World Cup to end — with a real goal, not the necessary but sour punctuation of penalty kicks. That solution was looming as Fernando Torres, who had become an injured bench-warmer as the tournament progressed, came on as a late substitute. Torres, who scored the goal that won the European championship in 2008, showed his grit, controlling a ball in the left corner and sending it toward the center. He had not even warmed up with his teammates before the game, standing around like a man who knew he was not going to play.
But Torres is part of this greatest generation of Spain, that perpetual underachiever that had never even played a semifinal match in a World Cup until it slayed the potent dragon of Germany last Wednesday night in Durban.
The Spanish have often wobbled and folded, despite their talent. But this is a team that earned its World Cup victory and brought glory to its nation by playing intelligent and hard and brave soccer. They had to, in order to beat the Dutch. The Netherlands lost finals in 1974 and 1978, which is mere history to these final players, who were a match for the Spanish for 116 minutes.
They counterattacked and sent some hard shots ricocheting toward Casillas, who has openly hated and feared this convoluted gimmicky match ball, calling it a “beach ball.” He had to scramble a few times to keep it from ending up behind him, but he did.
The Dutch clutched and grabbed and yapped and dove a bit more than the Spanish, but they also had skill and they also had heart. Arjen Robben chased the referee and railed at him, claiming he had been interfered with in the penalty area, but that was gamesmanship. The Dutch could not afford a letdown or a gap on the field.
This World Cup final ends without the most dreaded words of all: nil-nil. It will be remembered, and rightfully so, as the first World Cup held in the continent of Africa, and it will be remembered for the kind and hopeful people who ran this tournament, and it will be remembered for the multiple stages of this monthlong marathon.
It seems like just the other day that South African fans cheered for their team, Bafana Bafana, and just yesterday that Landon Donovan scored in added time to save the United States against Algeria, and just a few hours ago that Germany demolished the English and Ghana outlasted the United States in overtime, and Brazil and Argentina went down in the quarterfinals. Now these two soccer nations have played a final that was not an epic match, but, not negative or dark, either. Spain has waited a long time. For the next four years, Spain is the champion.
The US-Russia spy swap today in Vienna was aimed at bringing a quick close to spy tales that have transfixed the media. But London – a magnet for Russians – is likely to remain a hotbed of spies.
By Ben Quinn, Correspondent / July 9, 2010
Alex Chapman had an inkling that something had changed toward the end of his marriage to the sultry young woman who was to become the glamorous public face of the Russian spy ring busted in several US cities.
“She became very secretive, going for meetings of her own with ‘Russian friends,’ and I guess it might have been because she was in contact with the Russian government,” the trainee British psychiatrist recalled in an interview with the Daily Telegraph as the “London years” of Anna Chapman (formerly Anya Kushchenko) came under the spotlight.
The spy-ring affair that has transfixed both Americans and Britons should conclude with the quickly arranged prisoner swap July 9. The 10 people who were arrested and charged with spying in the United States landed at Domodedovo airport in Moscow today, even as four prisoners held for spying in Russia arrived in London.
But as her ex-husband’s account would have it, Ms. Chapman’s time in Britain from 2002 to 2007 was when she evolved from a naive but ambitious young student to a sophisticated jet-setter with a taste for intrigue and the high life.
Close watchers of British-Russian affairs were not surprised that London – dubbed variously as “Moscow on the Thames” or “Londongrad” because of its emergence as a magnet for Russians – quickly made an appearance in last month’s cold-war-style narrative. Suspicion has been a feature of relations since the 2006 death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent living in London who was poisoned with a rare radioactive isotope.
“You could argue that the spy ring in the US was a mere sideshow to the activities of the Russian security services in London,” says Jonathan Eyal, director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute.
Indeed, recent reports in
Britain quoted unnamed intelligence experts suggesting that
Russia spies here with the same intensity as during the Soviet-era KGB.
The most obvious explanation is London’s preeminent position as a base for rich oligarchs opposed to the power of Russia’s prime minister and former president, Vladimir Putin, and Russia’s secret service, now dubbed the FSB.
“If you look at the real opposition to the Kremlin,” says Dr. Eyal, “it is not inside Russia, where the opposition is completely impotent, but in London. It is here that you have the people who have the money to actually put together any movement in the future.”
Putin’s foremost enemy in London is Boris Berezovsky, who fled to Britain in 2001 after falling out with the Kremlin, which has repeatedly failed to have him extradited. Mr. Berezovsky has survived at least one assassination attempt in London, from where he announced in 2007 that he was plotting a new Russian revolution. Now the holder of a British passport, his allies in London include a former Chechen warlord, Ahmed Zakayev. (At one stage Berezovsky employed Mr. Litvinenko, who came here in 2000 after turning whistle-blower on the FSB, claiming he had been ordered to assassinate the oligarch.)
“The history of relations between Britain and the USSR were full of intelligence problems and spats,” says Alex Pravda, at the Chatham House think tank. “Recently though ... Britain has become seen in Moscow as a center for potential Russian opposition, and the presence of Berezovsky and Zakayev in London are seen as evidence that Britain is willing to give them safe haven.”
Aside from dissidents, the Russian community is present at almost every level of London society. Tens of thousands of Russians have made Britain their home since the first waves of bankers, students, refugees, and others began arriving in the early 1990s. In some years, the British authorities issued more than 100,000 visas.
The sound of Russian is commonplace on the upmarket shopping thoroughfare of King’s Road in Chelsea. At least four Russian-language newspapers have sprouted, along with grocery stores with Russian foods, Russian-language schools, and Russian legal firms.
Olga Yartseva, a student at University College London who moved here at age 11 when her father came here to work, tells of a trend: wealthy Moscow parents sending their children here for school. The children then return to Russia to work in the family business.
Admitting to a happy ambivalence about her own identity – “I spend half of my life in Moscow and the other half in London” – she admires how Russian oligarchs have connected with their adopted homeland. “What I like ... is the way that they contribute to British society, through charity but also by investing. They don’t isolate themselves. They integrate.”
The best-known oligarch is Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, a self-made billionaire listed by Forbes as the 50th richest man in the world. He is joined by Oleg Deripaska, a banking and aluminum tycoon (the world’s 57th richest man), and Alexander Lebedev, a former KGB spy in London in the 1980s. He owns London’s Evening Standard newspaper and The Independent.
In some ways, a two-way flow of money between Britain and Russia is shifting relations to a post-Soviet level based more on economic interests. British firms accounted for $20.5 billion of the $265.8 billion Russia has attracted from abroad since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.
But among those released by Russia in return for the 10 agents arrested in the United States was Igor Sutyagin, a scientist convicted six years ago of passing atomic secrets to US intelligence. After being flown to London, via Vienna, he is expected to start a new life in Britain.
With yet another Kremlin enemy living in London, Russia’s secret oversight is unlikely to fade anytime soon.