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Michaelmas 2010 / Vol 1. Issue 1

Globalist An interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

Sydney Schanberg

Chinese Environmentalism

Keeping Skies Blue in Beijing

A World Without Borders? Rethinking global culture and identity

A foreign affairs magazine produced by students of the University of Oxford

Globalist A foreign affairs magazine produced by students of the University of Oxford Michaelmas 2010 / Vol. 1 Issue 1 Editor-in-Chief Jemima Peppel, Trinity Managing Editor Masuma Ahuja, Somerville Production & Design Editor Rachel Chew, St Peter’s Publisher Marianne Lagrue, Trinity Online Editor & Webmaster Tom Stevenson, St Peter’s Associate Editors Scott Moore, Merton Oliver Gregory, Somerville Writers Giulio Morello, Merton Massimo Cè, Madgalen Abigail Enoch, St. Peter’s Richard Strauss, Lady Margaret Hall Tina Nandha, St. Edmund Hall Oliver Gregory, Somerville Mohamed Madi, Trinity alumnus David Barnett, St. Peter’s Brianna Beehler, Pembroke Advisors Dr Stephen Fisher, Fellow and Tutor in Politics at Trinity Richard Strauss, Lady Margaret Hall Jonathan Monk, Lady Margaret Hall

This magazine is published by students of the University of Oxford. The University of Oxford is not responsible for its contents. For the online version of the Oxonian Globalist, please visit

On the Cover:





Welcome to the first issue of the Oxonian Globalist, Oxford’s new magazine about international affairs and culture, produced and written by students at the University of Oxford. The Oxonian Globalist is a part of Global21, an international network of student foreign affairs magazines spanning five continents with chapters at Yale, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Beijing, Jerusalem, Mexico, Sydney, Istanbul and many others. We aim to provide a forum for innovative, insightful, investigative student journalism about issues and happenings from all around the world. Global21 reaches over 300, 000 students across the world and has been described by Thomas Friedman as “a student-run version of the Economist”. The Oxonian Globalist hopes to draw upon the incredible diversity of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of the student body at Oxford University. Our first issue is devoted to questioning the importance of borders in a shrinking world – on the one hand, borders between countries, people, cultures and languages seem to be dissolving and losing their relevance in the face of the mobility of both individuals and information that globalisation has caused. On the other hand, borders may begin to matter more than ever in the 21st century by defining the rights of individuals and states to access land and natural resources in the face of global warming, demographic change and ever-increasing demand for scarce resources. We hope that the Oxonian Globalist gives you, above all, a new perspective on what’s happening in our world. We would love to hear your ideas and comments to our articles – please email us at editor@ Happy exploring, and thank you,

Sand Dunes, Dubai Photo by Rachel Chew

Pictures from CreativeCommons used under Attribution Noncommercial license.

Masuma Ahuja, Managing Editor Jemima Peppel-Srebrny, Editor-in-Chief


What is Singlish Arh? Singaporeans blend several local languages into a unique dialect


The Swiss Tower of Babel The search for national identity of multilingual Switzerland


‘This is Not China!’ Investigating transnational culture and identity as Chinese migrants flood to Zambia


Get to Know the Devil But Don’t Make Friends With Him The moral dilemmas of expat working life.


Remembering the Killing Fields An interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sydney Schanberg


Keeping Skies Blue in Beijing Exploring Chinese environmental activism


Nigeria and the Benevolent Military Coup Positive implications of Niger’s military coup


Tourism in Jordan: A Coming of Age An interview with Nayef Al-Fayez of the Jordan Tourism Board


Piracy: The Price of a Booming Nollywood Nigeria’s film industry faces incredible growth, piracy, and hopes of formalization


Cuba’s Emerging Blogosphere Cuban bloggers defy government repression to make their voices heard


Green Karma Indian attitudes to global warming


Are We There Yet? To fail to benefit from travelling the world is impossible


An American in Wales Volunteering at an organic farm in Wales

What is Singlish arh?

Red lanterns crisscrossing the narrow streets of Chinatown in Singapore. ©

Singaporeans blend several local languages into a unique dialect.

Ian Tan and Karen Lee consider how this reflects culture and national identity.

‘Singlish,’ Singapore’s unique brand of colloquial English, is the linguistic product of a society whose official common language is English, but which comprises ethnic Chinese, Malays, and Indians in a ratio of roughly 7:2:1. Borrowing freely from various dialects for its vocabulary, grammatical structures and spoken accent, Singlish has evolved into a creole that often leaves uninitiated outsiders laughing, or reeling from incomprehension. Singaporeans themselves don’t seem to know quite what to think: opposing camps either see it as a cultural treasure or a national embarrassment. The Singaporean government’s infamous ‘Speak Good English’ campaign of the past decade has met, arguably, with little success, but has provoked much heated debate over what the government’s role can, or should be, in language. It is clear that Singlish is a live issue, but aiyoh, why they so extra? [“For goodness’ sake, why all the fuss?”] One might reasonably suggest in kind that everyone just jan-


7 gan tension [“Calm down, take it easy.”] Why so much fuss over a few lahs and lohs? This little exchange in itself, more closely examined, sheds some light on the subject in question. It is a well-worn cliché that Singlish reflects Singapore’s cultural diversity: ‘Aiyoh’, ‘lah’ and ‘loh’ are generic Chinese exclamations; the familiar English word ‘extra’ is used here to mean any kind of excessive behaviour, in an example of characteristic fast and loose Singlish treatment of other languages; and ‘jangan’ is a Malay word meaning “don’t”, here colourfully blended with the English word ‘tension’. In a single cosmopolitan stroke, terms and expressions with their origins in the myriad languages spoken by Singaporeans have been casually integrated into a single tongue. An English speaker coming to this topic with no background knowledge – and discovering there’s more to faking a Singaporean accent than tagging a ‘lah’ on to every beautifully-formed Standard English sentence – would be forgiven at this point for experiencing an urge to vomit blood, which is the literal translation of the Hokkien expression ‘tor hwee’. Singlish, however, is a strangely intuitive language, and during its evolution away from its original sources, it has developed an internal logic of its own. Often the expressions are vivid and simple images – a large imagination is not required to understand the extreme frustration implied by “vomit blood”. Certain roughly common grammatical features of the Chinese and Malay languages and their variants have also been major influences on the structure of Singlish due to demographic and cultural prevalence. For example, the English verb ‘to be,’ which in Standard English plays the special and compulsory role of linking subject and predicate, is almost invariably omitted in most forms of Singlish – ‘why [are] they so extra…?’ The complex relationship Singlish has with Singapore’s multiculturalism raises the question: to what extent can language be used as an example of a Singaporean ‘national identity’ as opposed to a fragmented society? Whilst the apparent mixture of different mother tongues seems to suggest literal inter-cultural understanding and interaction, it must be acknowledged to be more complex than that. Many words are commonly understood in Singlish to have a particular meaning, but it’s often one totally divorced from their meanings in the original source language. Sekali, a common Malay word, is used in Singlish to convey a cautionary sentiment [‘What would happen if, unexpectedly…?’], as in, ‘You everyday go to work late and leave so early, sekali your boss find out, how?’ But it doesn’t mean that at all in Malay: it means ‘once,’ denot

ing a one-time occurrence. It’s doubtful that most Singlish speakers know this. There are as many sub-variants of Singlish as there are social groups in Singapore. More than just a linguistic phenomenon, Singlish is also a window into the soul of Singaporean society. The official governmental response to Singlish illustrates Singapore’s duality: desiring to be at once standard and distinctive. The view of the government is that English proficiency is a sine qua non of economic competitiveness. This means that the proper place of ‘lah’ and all its embarrassing suaku friends (suaku being Hokkien for ‘mountain tortoise’, implying “country bumpkin”) can only be in the dustbin of history. This debate about the Speak Good English campaign is often subsumed into the greater debate of how much the nation should give up for policy goals of stability and economic performance. More importantly, perhaps, language can be used as a marker of identity. Insofar as Singlish may play such a role, it must be raised to a standard; the perception that Singlish is a mere linguistic error has to be overcome. This standardisation would involve clearing the air on the deeply political issue of who has been deciding, and who gets to decide, the “truth” of Singlish. Variance and society While certain features are mutually intelligible, Singlish, like any language or variant, is far from homogenous. The blanket term ‘Singlish’ spans and obscures myriad variations of generation, class, and ethnicity. As in the case of regional dialects, social groups in Singapore may be distinguished by the variant and style of their Singlish. Someone of an older generation inviting you out for a togo session might leave today’s younger Singaporeans flummoxed; it is a derivation from a Malay word, ‘gogok’, which means to gulp, and as a word for a night out drinking has largely fallen out of use with the younger set. Chinese, Malays and Indians in Singapore speak Singlish with obviously different accents, which are partly dependent on the other languages they speak. There is also an occasional tendency to insert non-English words in speech, which often leaves other Singaporeans of different language backgrounds confused. Singaporeans with higher educational qualifications often pronounce the finer consonants, such as the ‘th’ in ‘three’ or ‘t’ in ‘don’t’, whilst those with lower educational qualifications or non-English-speaking backgrounds often substitute them for “simpler” ones or altogether omit them, WORLD WITHOUT BORDERS

8 to the extent that ‘three’ is often pronounced as ‘tree,’ and ‘don’t’ is often pronounced as ‘don.’ Grammar usage also corresponds to these strata: the more highly educated one is in the English language, the closer to standard English one is likely to speak. For now, while Singlish is spoken in a large variety of contexts, there continues to be an implicit recognition amongst Singaporeans that Singlish remains a colloquial tongue and that its proper place remains in informal, “private” settings. Standard English continues to be recognised as the proper medium of communication in official, “public” settings, such as in the mainstream media, government publications, and public notices. Transactions and translations

years old, whose citizens still face internal debate and uncertainty over the nature and future direction of their national identity. One might reply that bilingualism is open to compromise; preferential treatment could be given to English education over that of all other languages from Mandarin Chinese and Malay to the various Indian languages. This approach, however, raises still larger questions about what the conception of Singapore’s future is, and whether it is one of a genuinely multicultural society, or a nation which aspires to cultural homogeneity. The truth of (a) language Is Singlish really just a “wrong” version of English?

The government argues that Singlish is detrimental to the Singaporean economy, and endangers its perceived economic edge over other Asian countries. More importantly, it is about building and maintaining impressions; if Singapore wants to truly take on the global market, it must

Critics argue that it is, and that it is consequently a reflection of the failure of Singapore’s linguistic education system. A certain degree of Singlish “exceptionalism”, however, persists in the more strident rhetoric of the Speak Good English campaigners. Those who argue for the cultural value of Singlish point to other examples of linguistic variance, from internationally incomIn a single cosmopolitan stroke, terms and prehensible Geordie, Scots or Irish English in the expressions with their origins in the myriad United Kingdom itself, to the various creoles and patois of the Caribbean. languages spoken by Singaporeans have been

casually integrated into a single tongue. (so the argument goes) be able to truly straddle East and West, and present itself as an equal part of both. To this end, the government of Singapore’s infamous Speak Good English Movement, conceived in 2000, has taken the form of organized Standard English courses and related promotional events, resources for schoolchildren and workers seeking to improve their business communications, as well as simple, forceful publicity. Results have been mixed at best; there is little indication that the majority of Singaporeans now speak more Standard English than when the movement was first launched. It has also been noted that all the helpful posters that read, ‘Don’t say [Singlish phrase], say [Standard English phrase] instead!’ only serve to highlight how much more vivid and succinct Singlish can be. The correct conclusion to draw from this argument would not be the straightforward eradication of Singlish, but the evaluation of a more complex tradeoff between the additional economic benefits of full-blown bilingualism and the social and cultural value of an organically-evolved, indigeneous dialect. This value could turn out to be very substantial, not least for a nation that is barely forty-five WORLD WITHOUT BORDERS

Moreover, sophisticated observers may note that linguistic variance occurs more or less constantly across most societies and between different countries, especially in the case of English. It is not surprising if an Australian is unable to immediately understand a thick Scottish accent or Cockney slang. If what critics mean is that all English-speakers ought to speak “standard international English”, then perhaps they should just say so, and apply the terms ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to local accents of English elsewhere in the world. If not – if one accepts some relativity in linguistic standards – some other additional justification is required for condemning Singlish as a mere linguistic mistake. At the moment, no such justification appears forthcoming. Similarly, the Singapore government’s Speak Good English campaign has often been derided as an example of characteristically Singaporean nanny-state behaviour. Unsurprisingly, however, it finds counterparts in the Indian and Chinese governments’ reactions to “Hinglish” and “Chingrish” respectively. The common thread between these phenomena is a concern that everyone ought to speak Standard English. The mentality that states “Singlish is just wrong” is unsympathetic to the development of local variations that

9 are expressions of linguistic adaptation to local contexts. In a closely related matter, though, it also tends to neglect the essential fact that language is an expression of culture, thought and way of life. Accordingly, such “linguistic authoritarianism” may have far larger implications for a society than its authors expect. This explains what distinguishes the reaction of the Singaporean government from that of others. It is not their paternalism. It is the fact that Singapore aspires towards having English as the first language of the country, in contrast to the situation in India and China.

Ultimately, the outcome of what is to be deemed “correct” and “wrong” language depends on conflicting views of society, and is hence a deeply political issue. The government, in giving Singaporeans a piece of its mind on the issue, is merely one among many with interests at stake. A disagreement of ideals demands compromise and dialogue, and not well-intentioned but ill-informed exhortations to “Speak Good English”: can we truly expect a piece of mind to translate into peace of mind? Ian Tan is a third-year undergraduate in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Hertford College. Karen Lee is a third-year undergraduate in History at Lady Margaret Hall.

Translation from Singlish- ‘Stop being such a douche and buy a drink!’ Photo by erikland


The Swiss Tower of Babel

Warning sign at the border of a ski area in the Alps, Switzerland. ©

Searching for national identity in multilingual Switzerland, Massimo Cè does not find much.


Imagine travelling 75 km, a distance not unlike a bus-ride from London to Oxford, and having to speak four different languages on the way – within the borders of the same country, that is. Such has been the reality in Switzerland for many centuries. A small Alpine country in central Europe, Switzerland can pride itself in having four official languages, German, French, Italian and Rumantsch, the last of which is only spoken in Switzerland and, with fewer than 35,000 speakers left, is on the verge of linguistic extinction. These various languages are closely tied to their respective cultural environments, and are therefore the chief indicators of a division of the country into dis-

11 tinct sub-regions. Thus, whilst providing the country with a special kind of cultural diversification, Switzerland’s small-scale multilingualism is also a threat to the development of a sustained sense of national identity and cohesion, affecting the country both internally and externally.

the Röstigraben, the de facto border separating the German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland, is not the more prominent boundary than the actual frontiers with Germany and France respectively? Little seems to prevent Switzerland from gradually being torn apart.

As regards both population and area, the German-speaking part of Switzerland is by far the largest, and outcries against its cultural dominance are neither uncommon nor entirely unwarranted. Given that out of the eight most densely populated Swiss cities only two are located outside German-speaking Switzerland, the potential for economic competitiveness of German is enhanced to the detriment of the two other major official languages. But simply to learn German is not enough: for whilst the Swiss variants of French and Italian differ only slightly from their respective counterparts in France and Italy, the idiosyncratic German dialect referred to as Schwyzerdütsch is – at least initially – unintelligible even to speakers of ‘standard’ or ‘high’ German. Schwyzerdütsch, whilst uncommon in writing and more formal contexts, is widely used in everyday language, business relations and cultural activities. This diglossia, it is argued, hampers attempts to integrate regional ‘outsiders’. A member of the National Council from the French-speaking Romandie has recently complained in the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) that, because of the peculiarity of Schwyzerdütsch, “for anyone who wasn’t born into it, the Swiss-German culture has to remain impenetrable” and goes on to warn against the “Belgianization” of Switzerland. This segmentation is reinforced by the fact that regional and linguistic groups, much as they may deny it, seek identification or at least propagate discourse with communities in the neighbour states of Switzerland that speak the same language rather than with other parts of the same country.

Surely, however, the linguistic situation can only be part of the question of national identity? What about shared history and common values? Indeed, Switzerland is able to look back on a rich history; yet it is questionable to what extent a legendary battle that took place in the 14th century or Switzerland’s leading role in the Industrial Age of Europe’s more recent past can or should have any impact on its people’s conception of their country today. Even if we turn to more deeply entrenched and therefore somewhat timeless values that Switzerland has long since been associated with – neutrality, solidarity, and direct democracy, to discuss but three – these do not seem to straightforwardly support national cohesion either.

In recent years, there has been an increase in immigration of highly qualified Germans into Switzerland, but the new immigrants were welcomed by the Swiss with mixed feelings. Swiss resentment and prejudices against Germans are fuelled by the media and the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which tend to oversimplify and exploit the difficult relationship between Germany and the Germanspeaking part of Switzerland. Although the overgeneralizations that feature in the discourse are doubtlessly out of place, they do point to an underlying truth: that SwissGerman culture and society are heavily directed at and influenced by Germany. German television and newspapers are widespread and many alleged ‘values’, such as industriousness and seriousness, seem to be shared by the two communities. The case is similar with the two other major languagegroups of Switzerland. Thus, the question arises whether


Neutrality, as political commentators and historians agree, is, at least in its origins, a direct consequence of Switzerland’s internal non-cohesion. To put it bluntly: if different regions of a country find themselves utterly unable to agree on any substantial issue, the smallest denominator in political terms will lead to a policy of neutrality in foreign affairs. Neutrality therefore is not a possible means by which to create communality, but is rather a result of the lack thereof.


Ever since Henry Dunant in the nineteenth century dedicated his life to helping victims of international conflicts, Switzerland has been at the forefront of propagating solidarity on an international level. The very concept of solidarity, however, has been heavily assaulted by recent political trends in the country. One initiative in particular, passed by a popular vote on November 29, 2009, that effectively bans the construction of minarets, has aroused international uproar and domestic embarrassment. It has also raised questions as to how seriously the founding country of the Red Cross is really still taking its pledge to uphold human rights and tolerance.


Switzerland has developed the notion of democracy and, in its implementation, has taken it further than any other country in the world. The small dimensions Switzerland dwells in and its comparable stability have enabled its populace to participate in the political process to a great extent. But in spite of its intellectual appeal, it is not clear how a concept as abstract as democracy can be utilized to create a stronger sense of national unity, especially if the very reality of the concept is taken for granted by everyone in the country. WORLD WITHOUT BORDERS

12 Thus, not unlike what we can observe in the case of multilingualism, the emergence of a solid national identity is hindered, on the one hand, by the fact that the ‘values’ proposed are too intellectual to contribute to any sense of national cohesion and, on the other hand, by the fact that the attempted ‘implementation’ of such values in people’s minds proves to be complicated or ineffectual. In fact, the failure of too strong an emphasis on the intellectual side was exemplified by an unsuccessful campaign of the centralist Free Democratic Party (FDP), which precisely stressed concepts such as multilingualism, using slogans like “Four Switzerlands” and quadrilingual advertisements. While the FDP tried to appeal to all four parts of Switzerland by showing their awareness of linguistic minorities, it seemed that many voters were more interested in employment guarantees and immigration issues than in ‘high-brow intellectualizing’.

It seems then that disputes about Swiss national cohesion can often be reduced – though not without simplification – to the question of multilingualism. Unsurprisingly, therefore, there have been several attempts to ‘solve’ the problem of multilingualism: a marked tendency towards this goal is displayed by the fact that primary school children are encouraged to learn English rather than a second national language alongside their mother tongue. Some officials have even suggested that English be made an official language of Switzerland: but there is little doubt that this would cause politicians from different parts of the country to converse in a tongue foreign to all of them. Inevitably, understood thus, to ‘solve’ the problem of multilingualism means to abolish it, with disastrous effects for plurality and diversity.

Therefore, the best thing Switzerland can do is to fully acknowledge the linguistic and cultural diversity within As for the ‘implementation of values’, the process of esits borders. It would be wrong to dramatize the situation, tablishing and reinforcing a sense of national identity in striving to remove the putative torch from the national Switzerland cannot and should not be forced upon the womb, for this is both impossible and undesirable. Nor is country and its people. It cannot be forced, for national it advisable to trivialize multilingualism as an ‘intellectual phenomenon’, since it is clearly Switzerland’s small-scale multilingualism is a threat to the of great importance to the politics of the country. Furdevelopment of a sustained sense of national identity. thermore, in spite of the fact that, to those accustomed to identity itself is a concept of such subtlety and fragility the more traditional and widespread concept of the nathat it defies an entirely rational assessment, thus making tion-state, Switzerland’s de facto multi-nationalism must it almost impossible to be grasped and implemented. Also, seem paradoxical, the country’s experience with multithe assumption that having a ‘strong’ sense of national lingualism and other related phenomena may prove to be identity in a country has great advantages, which has been advantageous, for itself and for others. For even though taken as given throughout this analysis, must be called Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, it into question at this point: why, after all, is strong nais faced with issues of cohesion similar to members of the tional cohesion beneficial? Surely, to make it possible for latter: if Ireland, Britain, and other member-states seem decisions to be taken in the interest of all, and to provide reluctant at times to fully identify with the EU, this has for a unified stance in the face of external challenges; but a close parallel in the Swiss tightrope walk between cenas long as Switzerland continues on its path of neutrality, tralism – and its promise of straightforward national coand political and economic conditions remain relatively hesion – and federalism – and its indispensable plurality. stable in Europe, it seems that a stronger sense of national Switzerland must find its own national identity not in the cohesion must not necessarily be of primary concern. In realms of cohesion alone but somewhere in between the any case, for many people in Europe strong emotional ties two poles of state and nation(s), of centralism and federalto their country have been loosened – for better or worse ism, of unity and pluralism. If the Swiss Tower of Babel – in the wake of globalization and individualism: perhaps can be built, it is not by making everyone speak the same particularly so in Switzerland, which has one of the highlanguage, but by making everyone speak one another’s. est proportions of foreigners in Europe, making up almost one quarter of its overall population. This results in many people falling between (at least) two national stools, thus Massimo Cè is a second-year undergraduate studying Classics reinforcing effects that are also typical of multilingualism. at Magdalen College.


‘This is not China!’ As more Chinese migrants flood to Zambia, Giulio Morello investigates their transnational identity and culture. Old and young Thirty-two years after his birth in Henan Province in central China, I meet Paul in his uncle’s restaurant in Lusaka, Zambia. After completing his secondary education, Paul moved to Beijing in search of better opportunities. He unsuccessfully tried to enter university and changed jobs dozens of times, finally settling as a tourist guide. “This is not China,” Paul tells me, “we must adapt to local conditions and to the local way of working and doing business”. Paul belongs to a new generation of Chinese migrants in Lusaka, which is rather different from the old one in terms of adaptation to the new environment. He is sharp and speaks good English, and his relationship with the African waiters of the restaurant doesn’t seem hampered by language and cultural barriers. This is quite rare: it is common to see African workers making fun of the shyness of their Chinese employers, and striving to use an overly simplified English to talk to them, especially when they are old. Dr. Zhang represents this older generation. He came to Zambia fifteen years ago as a volunteer and decided to open a small clinic in a dusty street in central Lusaka. His wife helps him out in the clinic; they have a son at one of the city’s secondary schools. Dr. Zhang cannot speak Nianja, the most common language in this part of Zambia. His poor English is of little use; I wonder how he manages to talk to his patients. Indeed, his relationship with patients does not seem smooth, and he keeps complaining that many of them often fail to pay. The world of Dr Zhang is all here: a wife, a child, his clinic and his poor patients. He doesn’t interact with other Chinese or mix with locals. He is a world away from home.

while some others work for Chinese companies active in the mining, construction or service sectors. The former do not generally plan to return to their home country; the latter usually spend no more than two years in Zambia, avoiding responsibilities required by permanent residence. They fit well into Aihwa Ong’s notion of flexible citizenship, which can be understood as a new form of relational identity based on transnationalism and induced by global capital circulation. In both situations, the centre of social life is a closed circle: family in the first case and work colleagues in the second. As a result, the Chinese community in Lusaka is quite loose, and people have few opportunities to meet outside their closed circles. This seems to me a fundamental feature of Chinese community in Lusaka, and it is probably reinforced by the fact that Chinese people in Lusaka tend to come from all around China. While Paul and Dr. Zhang are both involved in small businesses, Micheal represents the world of Chinese big business in Africa. He works for a large Chinese company, and his offices are in a tall glass building in the centre of Lusaka. He has already worked in India and Egypt for the same employer. “Zambians”, he declares, “are the best people”. Michael came here one month ago and will stay for only three months. His main concern is safety: “Here you don’t feel as safe as in China; it is dangerous to go out when it’s dark.” Michael lives in a compound with his Chinese colleagues, where they have a Chinese chef and evening “amusements” organized by the company. His only ties to Zambia are a passport visa and mosquito repellent. Despite his admiration of its people, Michael says he couldn’t ever settle Zambia. It is a good place to be for a short period, he tells me. As I leave his office, two local attendants enter with a box of Chinese packet-lunch, prepared by the Chinese chef for all the workers. King Cobra

Big and small Besides age, another major divide in the Chinese community in Lusaka is occupation. It is possible to identify two different kinds of Chinese living in Lusaka: some of them migrate to join a previously-established family business,

The rise of anti-Chinese campaigns is a new common element that all Chinese in Zambia have to confront. After a disappointing result in the 2001 general elections, the Patriotic Front (PF) leader Micheal Sata, a.k.a. “King Cobra,” started to play the ethnic card and exploited exWORLD WITHOUT BORDERS

14 isting discontent with Chinese presence among sectors of the Zambian electorate, like textile workers and miners. In doing so, the PF injected popular social demands into what had become a moribund political debate and won 29.4 percent of the votes in 2006, becoming the second largest party after the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), and further strengthening its position after the 2008 elections. The Chinese ambassador, Li Baodong, claims that funds from Taiwan contributed in shaping Micheal Sata’s xenophobic discourse. The Chinese community of Lusaka is a diverse mix of people from different generations, with different business interests and personal stories. Sata’s rhetoric ignores those differences and portrays all Chinese migrants as foreign exploiters. “They are just flooding the country with human beings”; this is how Chinese migration is viewed by King Cobra. The Patriotic Front political manifesto draws on such claims, and indirectly accuses the Chinese of being the main beneficiaries of the MMD government. Western media, with their uninformed and stereotypical discourse on Chinese colonialism in Africa, bear responsibility in legitimizing xenophobic anti-Chinese campaigns. Several newspaper headlines serve to illustrate: while United Press

He doesn’t interact with other Chinese He is a world away from home. International (11 November 2009) warns that “China Tightens Grip on Africa”, the Telegraph (31 August 2007) makes the stronger claim that “China is trying to colonise Africa,” and the Daily Mail (18 July 2008) claims to explain “How China’s taking over Africa, and why the West should be VERY worried” [uppercase in the original text]. Chineseness as a reaction Paul is the only Chinese person I interviewed who is willing to talk about anti-Chinese campaigns. He subscribes to the theory of Taiwanese influence and adds that Zambians should instead complain about the “Whites”, who imposed their own culture and religion, while the Chinese came only to work. When he mentions Western cultural domination over Zambia, he proudly adds that “no one could ever do something similar to China.” A simplistic idea of Chinese culture as a protective fortress stems out of this comparison. Like Paul, Dr. Zhang doesn’t belong in Zambia; he probably will not live in China again, and still he feels Chinese. As I mention Zambian relationships with Taiwan,


he immediately overheats and launches an excited and illformed monologue on the territorial rights of the People’s Republic over its small Republican sister, while his worried wife clumsily tries to stop him. When I asked what made him Chinese, a young accountant at a Chinese-owned hotel in central Lusaka told me that he was Chinese “in his spirit and his heart”. Others pointed to Chinese culture and language as their identity markers. A simple mechanism seems be at work: while Chinese migrants assimilate a discourse of Zambian hostility from Sata’s rhetoric, they are not capable of reacting to those discourses collectively. Every Chinese migrant, it seems, has to face the new Zambian environment alone, relying only on their family and colleagues, which brings many of them to take refuge in an imaginary notion of Chinese superior civilization based on an ill-defined Chinese culture. Entering a new phase? This scenario may change if young Chinese in Lusaka will enter a new phase in which they need to compete or cooperate with each other. Competition for resources and business opportunities may come as a result of new migration inflows from China, cooperation may be a or mix with locals. while reaction to a perceived threat from Zambian government or society. To the present moment, neither of these two contrasting needs has emerged, but all interviewees agree that trends seem to point in that direction. In particular, if anti-Chinese campaigns regain strength, the community may, as Paul puts it, “develop strategies of bad-times solidarity”. While the engagement of China in Africa under a formal policy framework has received growing attention from political and social scientists, little has been written on Chinese communities on the continent. Chinese presence in Africa is not only a matter of mining companies, large farms and export processing zones; it also encompasses the lives of thousands of migrants, who do not fit the stereotype of Chinese exploitation. The story of China in Africa should not forget about the many Pauls and Wangs now scattered in African urban and rural areas.

Giulio Morello is studying for an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies at Merton College.

Get to know the devil but don’t make friends with him

Photo by Oliver Gregory

Saigon - Ho Chi Minh City does not exactly roll off the tongue - is not Dubai. You can make a lot of money here, but not that much. The oil rich sheikhs of the UAE do not think twice about waiving tax for western workers, but foreign residents in Vietnam can expect to pay a cool 40% in income tax on any salaries amounting to more than about £30,000 a year. Quite right too, of course: if you choose to live somewhere, you should pay your way, and with exchange rates where they are at the moment, tax bands in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam differ only slightly from those in Britain. But then you have to ask yourself, where does all that money go - what exactly am I paying for? It can be comforting to believe that in a nation that calls itself a Socialist Republic the majority of it makes its way to the people. Sure, there is a bureaucracy to be paid for, cogs to be oiled - all that - but ultimately it is all in a good cause, a kind

An increasing number of graduates are considering international careers in the developing world. After working as a teacher for a year in Vietnam, Oliver Gregory explores the ethical dilemmas of “expat” living.


16 of state- run charity. You are funding state-owned schools and state-owned hospitals and state- financed infrastructure projects all across the country. There is that new suspension bridge down the road in My Tho, you think, and the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign selling itself on billboards all over the country. As long as you are paying tax, you are doing your bit. All this, surely, is a good thing? Perhaps. But you are also paying for a corrupt one-party state that concedes little to democracy and devotes much of its attention to preserving the status quo. You are paying for the arrest and trial of pro-democracy activists like Tran Khai Thanh Thuy and Pham Thanh Nghien, writers imprisoned in 2009 for no more than sharing their democratic ideas. You are paying for the suppression of ‘dissenting’ newspapers like Thoi Dai and Cong Ly, both banned in 2006 for criticising the introduction of new bank notes. And you are paying for laws and arrests designed, according to Human Rights Watch, “to wipe out the independent trade union movement”. So much for a Socialist Republic; a worker’s paradise this certainly is not, unless you happen to be an expat.

and professionally, you are interacting regularly with local people. And geographically, you are confronted daily with the realities of a lived-in, naturally evolving city. The house I shared was a stone’s throw away from a Buddhist pagoda, a Catholic school, the US Consulate, the state TV station, a luxury apartment complex, a market, a supermarket, a Czech beer hall, a KFC, Vietnamese dwellings little better than slums and plenty more much nicer than my own. An artificial geography, too, perhaps, but one which at least admits to its own contradictions. There is a lesson in that. The onus is on the expat to do the same - to admit, like an alcoholic, to the problems and contradictions in the country; to be aware that it is not all a game. You cannot change the status quo. You should not even try to. But you owe it to those who are doing just that to be aware of what you are paying for, of the oppression they are fighting against.

When Facebook was temporarily banned in 2009, the expatriate community did not hesitate to express their indignation. How can I upload my photos now? How can I poke my friends in England? The house I shared was a stone’s throw away from a How can I organise a club Buddhist pagoda, a Catholic school, the U.S. Consulate... night, update my status, add a new friend? The anger was temporary but intense and it You can take some consolation from the fact that foreign was reflected in the international media outlets that reinvestment in a developing country like Vietnam undoubtported the ban. Rights, it was generally felt, had been inedly does more good than harm. Foreign manufacturers fringed. provide employment and offer a viable alternative to atrophying local industry. Foreign teachers facilitate greater But foreign workers and foreign media tend to be much social mobility and enhance the global competitiveness of quieter about rights infringements that do not directly afthe local workforce. And foreign wealth trickles down into fect them, no matter how serious they are. There is little society as a whole through the burgeoning service sector mention of the Vietnamese journalists, writers, activists that caters to expats’ needs. It is easy though to exaggerand union leaders who routinely fall foul of the governate these benefits - in a country where over three quarters ment’s oppressive dictats. The same goes for the extensive of the population still live in rural areas, the impact of censorship of the Vietnamese media. Within the expatriate foreign wealth remains negligible for most Vietnamese community these problems go largely unacknowledged, outside Hanoi and Saigon. But for those who do benefit, but they are no less real for that. Vietnamese journalimprovements in quality of life are real and lasting. As an ists tread carefully, fearful of reprisals; newspaper editors expat, it is good to know all this. It is reassuring to view know certain stories will get their publications banned. your work as part of a wider economic process that tranTV is state-controlled and the government is rapidly scends the political regime and its excesses. But you are learning from the example of China in its suppression of still an individual, you are still paying tax and the quesonline content. We may well bewail the loss of Facebook. tion of complicity does not go away. But of far greater import is the banning of websites like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which In a place like Dubai it must be easy to detach yourself catalogue the abuses of the Vietnamese regime, or the from the world you are buying into, from the regime Catholic News Agency, which supplied valuable reports you are propping up. You live in an artificial geography on the government’s violent anti-Catholic crackdown in of sandcastles and ivory towers, and socially and profesthe summer of 2009. sionally you only come into contact with people like you. In Saigon, though, this separation is not possible. FinanThis is where knowledge becomes so important. In Vietcially, you are paying tax to the official regime. Socially nam crackdowns and cover-ups go hand in hand; ignoWORLD WITHOUT BORDERS

17 rance is the Party line, so knowledge becomes a viable form of protest. As an expat there is not much that you can do - you do not have the right to interfere. But you do have a moral duty to learn as much as possible about things the government would prefer you did not know. The moral value of such knowledge is hard to quantify, but the moral cost of ignorance is very clear. It is a paradox, but the more you are willing to know, the less complicit you become; resisting ignorance is the only way to avoid towing the Party line. In the absence of opinion polls and a free press, trends in expat attitudes are difficult to gauge. But the role of the expat press in preserving the kind of political ignorance the government works hard to maintain is very clear. The English-language magazines so beloved of expats in the cafés and coffee shops of Saigon are just as susceptible to the kind of silent omissions that make the Vietnamese press less than representative of the truth. In many ways these publications are the safety net, filtering out everything expats do not want to hear, preserving the bubble. There is little commentary on Vietnam’s social problems, on the expatriate predilection for prostitution, on the political repression common throughout the country. Instead there are articles on the five-star beach resorts you can escape to for weekends away from work, reviews of

world-class restaurants of the calibre you could not hope to visit at home but which here become frequent haunts, your local. It is all lifestyle, expat-style: an elaborate and luxurious half-truth. These articles and the act of reading them become part of the well-maintained façade that keeps expat culture in, and Vietnam out, like the mouldy yellow stucco on the French buildings throughout Saigon. When you have seen through this façade it is difficult to know what you can do. You cannot wade in and liberalise Vietnamese censorship rules, you cannot change Vietnamese law. And you cannot just leave, either - not if you believe that international investment in the developing world is fundamentally a good thing, that employment sectors like education are an undeniable social good. And for all that grates about government policy and expat culture, you cannot deny that you are having a good time. By earning money and by paying taxes in a country like Vietnam, it is perhaps inevitable that you have to shake hands with the devil. But by staying informed and staying honest - honest, above all, with yourself - it might just be possible to let go of his hand and raise your middle finger. There is not much else that you can do. Oliver Gregory completed his MSt in English at Somerville College in 2010.

Photo by Oliver Gregory


Remembering the Killing Fields Oliver Gregory speaks to Sydney Schanberg, the Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist whose experiences in Cambodia in the 1970s were depicted in the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields . I speak to Sydney Schanberg on April 17, 2010, 35 years to the day since the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge. When the communist guerrillas took control of the Cambodian capital on that chaotic day in 1975, five years of civil war came to an end -and four years of genocide began. The date could not be more fitting. Schanberg was there in 1975, one of only a handful of foreign journalists who had remained in Phnom Penh after the evacuation of the US embassy five days earlier. Determined to see the story to its conclusion, he ignored instructions from his bosses at the New York Times to flee the country. With the assistance of his Cambodian colleague and interpreter Dith Pran (see photo next page), he covered the final days of the short-lived Khmer Republic and the bloody beginnings of Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea. “There were only a few of us in Phnom Penh the last week and papers around the world were picking up our copy. And it was our copy. It wasn’t just my copy. He was in these stories all the way.” The events of April 17 cemented a lifelong bond between Dith and Schanberg and their extraordinary journalistic double-act earned the latter the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. He accepted it on behalf of Dith, then still a prisoner in the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge. The remarkable story of their friendship and Dith’s eventual escape is told in the Oscar-winning 1984 film The Killing Fields, which brought international attention to the plight of the Cambodian people. Schanberg is 76 now and describes himself as “a gasbag old guy” who is “still pushing the envelope,” but his memories of 35 years ago flow effortlessly when I ask him what he remembers of that day. POLITICS AND ECONOMY

19 “Chaotic, misleading, everybody was out with flags and saying c’est la paix, you know, welcoming the newcomers but not knowing anything about them. And it seemed celebratory for a while - very, very odd. We met Khmer Rouge soldiers in the street and talked to them, very weird conversations.” But if the atmosphere was at first celebratory, if uncertain, things quickly soured as the reality of the situation became clearer. “Later, when we saw the fighters - the guerrillas they looked at you in a very cold way. They were in a way, I would say, dead behind the eyes. And you knew you were not talking to people who cared a bit about you. You might as well have been an ant. And the day went on like that until we realised they were doing something - that is, emptying the city.” The evacuation of Phnom Penh had begun. The city’s entire population, already swollen by an influx of refugees, was forced to march into the countryside by the victorious Khmer Rouge. Millions would die as the new regime attempted to transform Cambodia into a collectivised agrarian society; 1975 was fading into Year Zero. As the city was emptied that day, Schanberg himself came within seconds of execution when he and several colleagues were captured by Khmer Rouge soldiers. “It looked like things were over for us. They drove us to the banks of the Mekong and opened the back door of this armoured personnel carrier. And there were men standing there on the sand with guns pointed at us and we thought they were - and they were - the firing squad.” Schanberg and the others were only saved by some fast talking from Dith. “We didn’t know what he was arguing with them about when they first captured us. He finally climbed into this machine with us. What the argument was, they were telling him that they weren’t interested in him. They were interested only in the ‘big people’, and they tried to shoo him away. And he told me later: you would be lost without me - I knew I had to come with you; and so he came.” The bluff worked: at great risk to himself, Dith persuaded the guerrillas that the captives were not Americans and that as journalists they were protected. “That’s when the guns were dropped and that’s when we were released.” It is now 35 years since Dith’s selfless intervention; without it, Schanberg would not be here. Ever the professional, though, he is careful that his own story does not obscure the bigger picture. “That’s what I remember about that day. You know, we use a word like surreal, but I’ll never forget it. I mean, it’s not us being captured, it’s about emptying a city of more than 2 million people.” After an unsuccessful attempt to forge a British passport for Dith, he too was forced to join the exodus

into the countryside. Schanberg was deported with the other remaining foreigners and it was four years before the friends were reunited at the Surin refugee camp on the Thai border. Cambodia is not the only conflict that Schanberg has covered. He reported on the Vietnam War, the 1971 IndiaPakistan war in Bangladesh, and he was back in Phnom Penh in 1997 in time to witness Cambodia’s most recent military takeover. His new book, Beyond the Killing Fields, a collection of his war writings, covers all of these conflicts and more. But he insists that “Cambodia will always stand out. The Cambodians were the most helpless of the people who were attacked.” It is this compassion and humanity that underpins Schanberg’s journalism, and it is what cemented his friendship and working relationship with Dith. “My friendship with Pran grew and grew and grew in Cambodia. He wanted the same things I did, from a different perspective, a different angle. These were his people, and he wanted me to tell the world everything about them - everything that was happening to them.” For Schanberg, what was happening to them was very clear. President Nixon had forged a cynical alliance with Cambodia to alleviate pressure on the withdrawal of US forces from Vietnam; the Cambodian army was to be beefed up in the hope that American casualties could be reduced. “The point is, it was - for an American - a faux

‘Our friendship afterward - it was a friendship cast in cement’ kind of alliance. We didn’t really care - our government, my government - didn’t really care about Cambodia. They hadn’t cared about Cambodia in the centuries before and they didn’t really care about Cambodians as individuals. They cared about themselves. And that was also true of the Chinese who backed the Khmer Rouge, and the Russians who backed the Khmer Rouge for a while. All of them had their own interests at heart and the Cambodians were insignificant to them.” The 1970 invasion of Cambodia by US ground forces pushed Vietnamese and Cambodian communists deeper into the country. The war spread, and an illegal American programme of carpet bombing decimated the Cambodian countryside. Schanberg remains adamant that it was this US activity that enabled the Khmer Rouge to take power and caused so many people to die. “This is the key thing that nobody wants to remember. The Khmer Rouge at that time in 1970 were an annoying factor of Cambodian life, but they were - I wouldn’t say meaningless – yet not able POLITICS AND ECONOMY

20 ing five Khmer Rouge leaders is currently underway. For Schanberg, the point of the ECCC is not justice. “The rules of this trial are very soft. There is no death penalty under the rules of this tribunal and none of them are going to their deaths as a result.” Its real value, he says, is in raising awareness of the genocide amongst Cambodians. As with his colleague Dith Pran, who spent his life educating the world about the Cambodian genocide, what matters most to Schanberg is that no one forgets. “I wouldn’t say stop the trial at all - yes, you need it, but it isn’t closure you get. It just tells people that everybody in the country now knows about this. They can’t pretend it was so long in the past that nothing went on like that.” As much a realist as an idealist, Schanberg concedes that “there’s no perfect justice here,” but he clearly yearns for a justice greater than the one history has delivered. “I believe that the American entrance into that country, and the entrance of the Soviet Union and the Chinese, was a war crime. And of course the way the world works, then if you carry that to its logical conclusion, you’d want the people on trial - the leaders of those three countries. And that isn’t going to happen, is it?”

to overthrow the government and were not motivated enough. And this provided them with a great recruitment tool. They could point to all of this activity against them, and people who were dying, and they would point to the skies to the American planes that were bombing, and say: there’s your enemy.” “At that time the estimates of their strength were 3-5000 unconnected gangs of guerrillas, no central control. By the end of the war they were 70-100,000, a very different beast. And they had become more brutal as time went on. So I think we gave them the enemy they needed to build themselves and I think that people like Henry Kissinger - who is a master of his own brand of history - he has to know somewhere inside him that he built, that he was an architect of their growth. And that is the truth.” If this all sounds like history, it is not. That chaotic decade shaped the Cambodia of today and the issue of justice for the crimes of the 1970s remains open and contentious. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) were established by the Cambodian government and the UN in 2006, and the slow process of tryPOLITICS AND ECONOMY

The role of journalism, Schanberg clearly feels, is in shedding light on this gap between what does happen and what should happen. “I don’t believe we solve things, we’re not magicians. But we make a contribution when we are doing our work properly. And that is, it is a swamp out there. The world is full of negative things but it is also full of positive things. And the goal, I always felt, was - should be - for journalism to keep the swamp from getting any larger or the water from getting any higher.” It is this same sentiment that prompted Schanberg to publish Beyond the Killing Fields in March. He is not the first journalist to see similarities between American foreign policy in the 1970s and American foreign policy in the Bush era, but he teaches the lessons of the past with greater authority than most. The book, he says, offers a model for both policy makers and reporters. “It tells you what I believe good journalism is and the things you have to tell people about war, and the lies you have to reveal. I don’t necessarily think that anything in that book is going to change the way the world works. But if it helps some people not to be so eager to rush to war, then I will feel that it has some benefit and that it was worthy of being published.” For everyone else, it is simply a fascinating read. As we speak, Schanberg ranges from subject to subject, expressing strong but considered opinions on everything we discuss. But the topic of conversation that animates him most is, by far, his friendship with Dith Pran. For anyone who has seen The Killing Fields, the iconic final

21 scene that depicts their reunion is hard to forget. “Do you remember that scene from the film?” he asks. “Well, that’s exactly what happened. He and I ran toward each other and he leaped up and wrapped his legs around me and we just held, and we were crying. And we said things in each other’s ears. And it was exactly like that. In fact, in the af-

nal weeks he and Schanberg were perhaps closer than ever. “I would come down every other day, sometimes every day, from New York - this was in New Jersey - and I would visit with him and we would tell stories.” For the first time in the entire interview, Schanberg’s rapid speech slows as he attempts to describe how he felt when he realised Dith was dying. “I knew that very, very imI think we gave them the enemy they needed to build them- something portant to me was hapselves and I think that people like Henry Kissinger [had] to pening. I hate to say this - but a bigger part of my know that he was an architect of their growth. life was leaving me than termath of that I regretted that no one had taken a picture I remember when my mother and father died. You know, I of that. But they got it right.” loved my mother and father and my father is still my role model. But somehow this was really - his blood was in my The story the film does not tell is what happened next circulatory system and vice versa.” how their friendship persisted in the years and decades that followed. Having escaped to Thailand, Dith emigrated to “It was awful, the last few weeks,” Schanberg admits, and the US with Schanberg’s support. There he was reunited his voice is raw with emotion as he recalls them. But one with his wife and children and became a successful phoincident sticks out that seems to sum it all up. “One day, tographer with the New York Times, where Schanberg was I was in a way trying to tell him how I felt about - that a columnist. “Our friendship afterward - it was a friendhe was going away. I was trying to make it light. He had ship cast in cement,” he says. “We didn’t always see each brought up the subject that day, he knew he was going to other a lot - he lived for his latter years in New Jersey. But die. And I said, you know, you’re going away. So how will every time we met there was no space between. It was as if we communicate? It was sort of like, you know, a half silly there had been no absence. And we were just bonded for jest. And he just - he thought. That was Pran. And so, I life. He started saying, you’re my brother, and I thought, don’t know, 20 seconds later, he looks up - he’s just sitting I don’t have a brother - I mean a biological brother. And I there, lying in bed - and he looked up and he said: I’ll send said, he’s right - he is my brother, so that’s how we spoke you my dreams. And I said: I’ll send you mine.” about each other.” It is now 26 years since The Killing Fields and the story of their friendship does at last have an ending. Dith was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer early in 2008, sadly dying of the disease in March that year at the age of 65. Shortly after the diagnosis, Dith was hospitalised, and in these fi-

Oliver Gregory completed his MSt in English at Somerville College in 2010. All photographs accompanying this article are printed with permission from Sydney Schanberg.


Keeping Skies Blue in Beijing

Chinese palace. ©

Giulio Morello speaks to the Chinese activists working to save their country’s environment China’s economic miracle is turning the country into one of the leading polluters and greenhouse gas emitters in the world, casting a shadow on the future sustainability of its growth. As Pan Yue, vice minister of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration, warned in 2005, “the miracle will end soon because the environment can no longer keep pace”. Chinese coal consumption – already exceeding that of the United States, Japan and the UK combined – is increasingly used to feed China’s growing industries and sprawling cities, while already over-cultivated and degraded farm land is being further reduced to make room for new industrial development. With water shortages approaching emergency levels, it is evident why international attention during Copenhagen was largely directed at China. However, a green public sphere is now emerging within the country itself. After a major success in 2004, when the government was prompted to halt a massive hydropower project, Chinese environmental orPOLITICS AND ECONOMY

ganisations and activists may offer the best hope for future sustainability. It will not be a surprise to many that environmental activism is more tightly regulated in China than it is in countries like the UK - or that activists are keen to get around this. Chinese legislation on social organizations from 1998 represents an attempt by the State to incorporate such organizations within Party structures. A social space is thus artificially created where organizations can convey people’s interests to policy makers and provide fundamental welfare services. However, as Harvard Professor Tony Saich argues, “while the state appears to exert extensive formal control, its capacity to realize this control is increasingly limited”, as organizations are developing strategies to “circumvent or deflect state intrusion”. Different types of social organizations are currently operating in China, occupying different positions in the continuum between state domination and societal autonomy. There are registered Government-NGOs (GONGOs) and grassroots organizations, non-profit organizations that work under a business license, and unregistered groups. While the process of registration is complicated, hiding a

23 non-profit organization under a business license or working with no license at all implies the risk of shutdown. Lu, the Party member CEPF (the Chinese Environmental Protection Fund) is a good example of a GONGO. It was founded by Professor Qu Geping in 1992, who donated his $100,000 United Nations Prize for the purpose. Lu Ying is a graduate student of Sociology at Peking University and a committed Party member. She joined CEPF in 2007 and is enthusiastic about its achievements. “We educate people and school children on environmental protection and energy-saving practices. This is the best way for obtaining concrete results in the long term.” Speaking to me in her brightly-lit office in central Beijing, she explains that CEPF is funded by multinational companies and is a special consultant of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). I ask her about the relationship between CEPF and the government, and her answer hints at the underlying purpose of the registration process. “Registration is like a fee to pay for our privileges,” she says - in other words, the price of government support. She claims that even though people within the organization may have different opinions on a variety of issues, a consensus is always achieved and no conflict with the government ever arises. The problem, I argue, is that the government is not interested in the environment when economic growth is at stake. Lu, as a good Party member, replies that problems must be solved in a cooperative way, avoiding unproductive and dangerous conflicts. She concludes her arguments by explaining her views on communism to me. “Communism is an ideal state”, she says, “and we aim at achieving this state by educating people on their future. As such, communism is not very different from a religion.” She says she joined the Party to serve the state and that, although there is still a long way to go to reach true communism, “we are learning.” Unsurprisingly, Lu has a very orthodox view on civil society in China, as a tool that the government uses to bring the country closer to the ideal communist world. Matthew: grassroots and transnationalism Hu Xinyu prefers to be called Matthew, and he expresses a different perspective. Matthew used to work for the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre (CHP), a grassroots organization that preserves traditional courtyard houses (hutong) in Beijing. CHP, he tells me, is a registered organization and he stresses that this status is vital to its work: “You cannot do anything in China without registration.”

According to Matthew, the world of Chinese grassroots organizations is growing steadily, but there is a need for professional training and better organization. Matthew is now working for a British NGO, coming into contact with Western-style social organizations. He was sent to Malaysia for a fundraising course, he learnt heritage preservation techniques at an Italian University and received further training in the UK. This kind of international training is common among many NGO workers. But despite his international experience, Matthew would like to spend his life in China and serve his country. Like Lu, he perceives his work as a mission, but keeps himself distant from the government and does not praise communism. However, Matthew would not call himself an activist: he works in cooperation with government officials (“even though some of them are corrupted, many of them are good”) and tries to avoid conflicts. Tom, the activist Greenpeace China represents a different face of Chinese civil society. The Beijing office of Greenpeace operates as a branch of the Hong Kong headquarters, thereby circumventing bureaucratic problems but giving up any fundraising activity as they lack formal registration. Tom (Chinese name: Wang Xiaojun) joined Greenpeace five years ago. In his previous life he worked as an English teacher, he owned a bar and wrote financial stories for a newspaper. He is just back from Guanxi, where Greenpeace has been studying the effects of reforestation policies on the recent droughts that hit the region. “They only plant eucalyptuses, destroying local biodiversity and compromising the sustainability of water reserves. This may affect the availability of water to local people and farmers.” He’s points out that Greenpeace China produces a lot of similar environmental research. “We provide independent assessments, facts, figures and solutions for local communities, governments and media”. A good example is “The True Cost of Coal”, in which Greenpeace China draws on 2007 data to analyze the environmental impact of coal. The solution they propose is the internalization of these costs through a taxation programme: this would protect the environment while increasing China’s long term competitiveness. But according to Tom, change like this will not come without popular pressure. “People in China are starting to mobilize themselves”, he says. He argues that the role of Greenpeace is to assist them by providing a rational rather than emotional approach to problems. One major example of popular mobilization for an environmental issue was the successful protest in 1997 against the establishment of POLITICS AND ECONOMY

24 a large chemical factory in Xiamen, a costal city in Fujian. The environment has no borders, so areas hit by pollution may not be sources of pollution themselves. This is why, in Tom’s words, “poor people are suffering from environmental disasters more than people in industrial areas.” But

mountain it is built on is riddled with mine tunnels. He shows me pictures of his home province: sheep with coaldark wool grazing on coal-dark grass in front of a coal processing factory. Growing up in such a context, it was natural for Tom to become interested in the environment.

Environmental awareness is growing in China, both at a state level, in government She says she joined the Party to serve the state like CEPF and among the and that, although there is still a long way to go organizations general population. China’s future success to reach true communism, ‘we are learning’. in protecting its environment depends, however, on the strength of the environfinding a solution is not always simple and, despite the mentalist position within the government sphere, and on transnational involvement of NGOs like Greenpeace, the the ability of people, organizations and the media to influstate still has a role in determining local environmental ence government policies. and development policies. Tom recognizes this and admits that top-down state policies are often the best way Significant change will inevitably take time, but if the offor achieving fast results. However, while the central govten turbulent relationship between the state, environmenernment seems to be aware of environmental problems tal associations, local communities and the media can find within China, its ambitious policies are not implemented new spaces for growth, coal mines may no longer threaten at a local level. The reason for this paradox is the incenthe stability of people’s houses - and sheep may even turn tive scheme faced by local officials: since they are mainly white again. evaluated on their area’s economic performance, they tend to put the environment to one side. Tom comes from Shanxi, the coal mine of China. The house where his parents live is falling down because the

Giulio Morello is studying for an MPhil in Modern Chinese Studies at Merton College.

Oil refinery with smoke stacks against a blue sky © EvansArtsPhotography


Niger and the Benelovent Military Coup

An African soldier grips a Kalashnikov type semi-automatic assault rifle. © RollingEarth

David Barnett examines potential positive implications of Niger’s military coup On February 18, 2010, the West African state of Niger experienced its third military coup of the last two decades, as a group of army officers calling themselves the Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy (CSRD) ousted incumbent President, Mamadou Tandja, from power. The response of the international community was largely critical. Indeed, only the US seemed to accord any value to the consensus view inside Niger: that the coup represents as much an opportunity for genuine democracy as it does a threat to the country. Virtually every military junta that assumes power in a coup d’état cites worthy grounds for forcibly transform-

ing the system of government of the state. Whether or not these publicly-expressed motives are initially genuine, history teaches of a powerful tendency for such military governments to follow a path distinct from their stated intentions. Violence and economic collapse are the typical results, and sub-Saharan Africa is rich with examples of such a pattern. Perhaps this explains why the international community was so quick to condemn the CSRD for assuming power in Niger. Coups, however, are not all the same, and whilst it is unsurprising that reports of another West African military coup evoked memories of some of the region’s notorious tyrants, there are grounds for cautious optimism for Niger under the interim leadership of the CSRD. Firstly, it is important to consider the nature of the regime ousted by the CSRD in February. Democratic rule disappeared from Niger long before Mamadou Tandja’s POLITICS AND ECONOMY

26 Presidential Palace came under military siege. In fact, democracy was lost when Tandja, the twice elected President of the Republic, undertook what Jibrin Ibrahim, an Abuja columnist for CDD, describes as a ‘civilian coup d’état’ over half a year earlier in May 2009.

effectively ruled the country as a dictator. As the BBC’s Caspar Leighton notes, “most people in...[the capital] Niamey, seem to regard the military coup as an opportunity [and] not a disaster”.

This being the case, the instant condemnation of the CSRD by the international community (excluding the US) reveals a failure to grasp the complexities of the situation in Niger, and in particular, to recognize that the coup represents an opportunity for, as much as it does a threat to, Nigerien democracy. Whilst in America the coup has been considered in the context of Tandja’s antidemocratic reforms, which State Department spokesman Philip CrowAfter dissolving these institutions and assuming emerley was keen to point out “may well have...precipitated” gency powers, Tandja organized a referendum for August military intervention in the country, the same cannot be 4, 2009, putting the issue of a third term to the Nigersaid of the UN, the African Union (AU) and France, the ien people. The referendum did approve a third term for former colonial power in Niger, where the CSRD has been criticized. These institutions (and France) A benevolent military coup represented one of a might instead have acknowledged that with the CSRD could be used select few means of restoring democracy to Niger. dialogue to encourage the junta to undertake the democratic reforms that were promised the incumbent, but opposition groups had boycotted the upon their seizure of power. In a country devoid of a rich polls, complaining of malpractice. In the event, only 7% democratic tradition, the input of world experts in demoof voters turned up to the polling stations, according to cratic constitution-building by the UN might also have the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aided efforts for the restoration of democracy. force monitoring the vote. Not only did Tandja’s referendum violate the democratic process, but his later subverTo a considerable extent, the international community sion of the legislative and judicial branches to the Presihas now begun to right its initial mistakes in dealing with dency ensured that Niger would continue to be governed the CSRD. In particular, regional bodies such as the AU in an undemocratic manner. and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have engaged in detailed dialogue with power Such was the state of Nigerien politics before the CSRD’s brokers in the CSRD. military coup in February of this year. The political opposition to Mamadou Tandja had no mechanism by which As things stand, reports from Niamey indicate that the the Nigerien leader could have been democratically reCSRD is making good progress in its efforts to rebuild demoved from power. mocracy, and thus that Nigeriens may be fortunate enough to have experienced their second ‘benevolent’ military Taking these factors into consideration, a benevolent milicoup in just over a decade. Within a week of the coup, a tary coup represented one of a select few means of restoring civilian prime minister, Mahamadou Danda, had been apdemocracy to Niger. Indeed, the very regime that Tandja pointed, and shortly afterwards, a transitional government had so potently undermined, the Nigerien Fifth Repubwas established. Indeed, the choice of prime minister itself lic, owed its existence to one such coup, launched in 1999 demonstrates prudence by the CSRD, insofar as Danda against the undemocratic military regime of Ibrahim Baré was selected for his perceived experience and neutrality. In Maïnassara. Perhaps this explains why the Co-ordination a further testimony to the integrity of the junta, an AU enof Democratic Forces for the Republic (CFDR), a coalivoy to Niger, Albert Tevoedjre, announced in the last few tion of political parties, human rights groups and trade weeks that the CSRD were looking after former President unions formed in opposition to Tandja’s antidemocratic Mamadou Tandja well, describing his situation as that of reforms, so readily supported the CSRD’s intervention, “a political prisoner whose rights are respected”. organising thousands-strong demonstrations in support of the military junta. Insofar as the coup has offered at Additional grounds for optimism come from the junta’s least an opportunity for the restoration of democracy, it public announcement that neither its own members, nor is perceived by many Nigeriens as an improvement on the those of the interim government, would be permitted to status quo since August 2009, the period in which Tandja run in the elections that have been promised by the CSRD. Tandja’s ‘civilian coup’ involved his meddling with both the legislative and judicial bodies of the state: the former army colonel dissolved both the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court, in an effort to legitimate a third term in office. Both institutions had previously deemed a third term for Tandja illegal.


27 Equally encouraging are reports from those inside Niger explaining that efforts are firmly underway to establish a consultative forum, composed of various civil society actors, whereby a body will be created and charged with the drafting of a new constitution and setting the timeframe for a return to democratic civilian government. Talks between the CSRD and international institutions appear to have gone some way towards convincing these bodies of the junta’s good intentions, with Mohammed ibn Chambas, the President of ECOWAS, describing talks as “very encouraging”. Similarly, the UN Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, has, after meetings with the coup leaders, expressed his view that the junta is “very keen to return power to civilians”. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, ordinary Nigeriens remain confident of a return to democracy. It should not be forgotten that doubts remain over the integrity of the CSRD. At the time of writing, dates have yet to be set for a referendum on the adoption of a new constitution and for multiparty elections, despite the movement having been in control for several months. The CSRD, Nigerien civil society, and the international community should push for set dates as part of a drive for further progress in the restoration of democracy in the West African state. Perhaps most worrying, however, are suspicions of divisions within the junta – suspicions that have arisen out of the strong security measures that are taken by leaders of the CSRD at any public appearance.

Such divisions, if they do indeed exist, may mean that the restoration of democracy is not unanimously supported by the members of the CSRD, and could therefore undermine efforts to return Niger to civilian rule. Despite such concerns, initial signs indicate that the CSRD may represent a rare, if not non-existent, breed of military junta: one whose members are more concerned about the fate of the country than their own personal gain. Niger is a country with a long history of military rule, but the CSRD’s apparent desire to restore democracy gives grounds for supposing that popular rule has finally become an accepted norm of Nigerien society. The hoped-for result, a system of good governance, would give the Nigerien people a chance to address the problems that have made them the poorest in the world, according to the UNDP’s 2009 Human Development Report. All parties involved in the restoration process should thus look for a prompt and sustainable return to democracy; for the interim period of political stagnation will do little to help Niger escape the major political issues it faces, namely chronic poverty, food insecurity and a stop-start civil war with rebels from its Tuareg minority.

David Barnett is a third-year undergraduate at St. Peter’s College, studying Politics and Philosophy.

Looking down the barrel of a tank. © CWLawrence


Tourism in Jordan: A Coming of Age The tourism industry in Jordan has traditionally been weighed down by a series of trials and tribulations. Mohamed Madi meets Nayef Al-Fayez, director-general of the Jordan Tourism Board, to find out whether recent regional and international marketing strategies have started to pay off. The year 2009 was a difficult one for tourism worldwide. The economic crisis served up huge losses in the tourism industry as people worldwide cut back on expensive holidays abroad. Similarly, the rise of swine flu severely curtailed global travel. Statistics reflect these shocks; global tourist numbers were estimated to have dropped by around 6%, according to the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization. An increasingly pivotal part of the economy, the tourism sector in Jordan appears to have avoided the worst of the downturn. Last year, it comprised 14% of the gross domestic product (GDP), and this figure looks set to rise in the coming years. “In contrast to the general trend, Jordan has been able to maintain arrival numbers in 2009,” Al-Fayez explains. There has been a shift in the makeup of visitors – while tourists from the US and EU dropped by 7% and 10% respectively, this was largely offset by an 8% increase in arrivals from Arab countries. Indeed, Arab visitors, mainly from the Gulf, constituted a quarter of all arrivals in 2009, on the back of a strong Jordan Tourism Board (JTB) marketing effort in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Standing Out, Luring In The strategy adopted by JTB since its launch in 1998 has been to promote certain niches within Jordan’s tourism sector. These currently include history, culture, religion and eco-tourism. The last of these niches represents one of the major new trends in tourism, says Al-Fayez, and is one where Jordan is playing a leading role with the establishment of several nature reserves and environmental lodges. However, each market has its own quirks, he exPOLITICS AND ECONOMY

plains. “If Russians, for example, are more interested in the leisure aspect of what Jordan has to offer, such as the Dead Sea, we adapt our marketing strategy there accordingly,” Al-Fayez continues. “We are no longer competing only within the region. With the economic crisis, we are competing globally for customers from around the world, and so we need to stand out.” In order to do so, the JTB is currently looking to expand into new, emerging markets. It plans to open an office in China soon, in addition to 11 other countries in which it has a presence. Last year, JTB opened its first bureau in India, which, together with the scrapping of visa regulations for Indian visitors, indicates the new thrust of Jordan’s tourism campaign. India is one of the fastest growing Asian markets and also one of the least affected by the economic crisis. Meanwhile, Jordan continues to face stiff regional competition in all of its market niches. Syria, for example, competes on the historical front and the Egyptian Red Sea resorts compete in adventure tourism. Al-Fayez does not downplay the quality of the competition but insists: “We offer something different to all of these and we also offer them all in a very small geographical area. The diversity of our product is what helped us in the year 2009.” The Ups And Downs Of Stability One of the biggest challenges Al-Fayez cites is the problem of simply being in the Middle East, considered a politically turbulent and unpredictable region. While Jordan has long been touted as an island of stability in a sea of chaos, many visitors are put off travelling to the Middle

29 East altogether. “We, therefore, spend a great deal of time, money and effort just trying to convince people that Jordan is safe”. Contrary to tourist expectations, he adds, many visitors conclude that Jordan is “safer than home.” There is an argument that, in some cases, instability elsewhere in the region could play into Jordan’s hands by diverting potential visitors into the Kingdom. The example often cited is that of Lebanon, which emerged from a period of political instability last year and duly saw its visitor numbers rocket by 18%, at a time when the tourism is industry is suffering from the economic downturn all around the world. But Al-Fayez strongly disagrees, however, that trouble in the region is ever advantageous. “Whatever happens in Lebanon or anywhere else in region affects us all negatively,” he says firmly. The recent expansion of the JTB’s activities could be under threat, however. Budget cuts revealed in December as part of government austerity measures to combat the yawning budget deficit mean that this year, the JTB budget will be slashed from JD9 million to JD7 million. Weighing Up The Crown Jewels

Jordanian staff and import their own materials and products, the amount of revenue generated by tourism that actually stays in the country is small. Raising taxation in the tourism sector is one possible way of increasing the benefit to the Jordanian economy, as is ensuring that more tourism services, products and jobs are sourced from inside the country. On the question of tax, however, Al-Fayez firmly opposes any increases. “It is the wrong time to add any more taxation to the tourism industry. We should be looking instead at incentives to foster and encourage growth during these tough times.” Al-Fayez praises the government’s decision to reduce sales tax on accommodation from 14% to 8%, a step towards better value for money in what is an otherwise expensive country compared to its neighbours. “We are not out of the crisis yet and so we must be careful in whatever action we take.” Furthermore, Al-Fayez finds that it is essential to increase linkages between the tourism industry and local human resources. “There is a lost opportunity in that regard because the talent exists. Many Jordanians are leading hoteliers here and in other countries, but it is something that requires further development locally.” Indeed, any growing industry needs an appropriately skilled and motivated labour force to match. This could, however, be the Achilles heel of the Jordanian tourism sector, according to a recent survey conducted by the USAID-funded Siyaha project.

Al-Fayez cites the recognition of Petra as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World as perhaps the single biggest boost to the Jordanian tourism industry in recent years. In 2008, the year it won the award, visitor numbers to the Nabatean city rose by 300,000, and the JTB has since been aggressively Contrary to tourist selling Petra as the jewel in Jordan’s visitors conclude that crown. The JTB hopes to repeat this feat as it launches a new campaign for the Dead Sea to be recognized as one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature. Competition is tough among natural sites that include the Amazon rainforest, the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef. Nonetheless, Al-Fayez is determined to gain the valuable exposure. Winning has its downsides, though, as the increase in visitor numbers to sites like Petra may introduce problems of its own. Striking a balance between developing tourist services around the sites and preserving the sites themselves can be difficult, Al-Fayez agrees. “It is our duty to protect places like Petra. Fortunately, Jordan is not a mass tourism destination nor should it become one.”

expectations, he adds, many Jordan is “safer than home.”

It reported that the majority of young Jordanians do not view working within the tourism sector as a serious or satisfactory career option. Social attitudes towards tourismrelated work and negative perceptions about pay, working hours, benefits and job prestige have led to a shortage of Jordanians suitably trained in tourism and hospitality.

Local Resources, Local Colour

Al-Fayez acknowledges this problem but believes it can be overcome by educating people about the tangible benefits tourism brings to the economy. “Jordanians are extremely hospitable and welcoming people, so I do not think that is the problem. I think it is a lack of awareness of the benefits of tourism. An understanding of the hospitality industry, once promulgated, will allow people to realize that working within that sector is as good a job as any other.”

In order to better gauge the effect of tourism on the Jordanian economy, the amount of locally added value must be taken into account. Critics claim that because foreign hotel chains often bring their own managers, employ non-

Mohamed Madi is a graduate of Trinity College, where he studied Politics and Philosophy. This article first appeared in the Jordan Business Review, and is republished with permission.


Piracy: The Price of a Booming Nollywood

Photo by mtrank

Nigeria’s film industry has faced incredible growth and hopes for formalisation, yet increasing piracy may put both at risk. Abigail Enoch investigates. “Nollywood”, Nigeria’s film industry, was ranked by UNESCO in 2006 as the 2nd largest film industry in the world, producing a staggering 872 films in 2006. This is just shy of Bollywood’s 1091 and many more than the 485 produced by Hollywood. This is all despite the fact that the first true Nollywood film only appeared in 1992 making Nollywood less than 20 years old. This burst of activity can be attributed, largely, to the unique industry-audience relationship on which Nollywood thrives. This, one could argue, is defined by Nigeria itself. Nollywood’s essence, however, may be at risk of diminishment from a new formalization process. CULTURE

Nollywood films typically have simple stories with themes such as love, crime, corruption and ‘rags to riches’ plotlines, but also often include a heavy emphasis on religion or ideas such as voodoo and rituals. The films usually have simple dialogue, melodramatic acting and very basic production, much in the style of soap operas or home movies. This is because they are made cheaply with the emphasis on quantity, and not quality. The films are made on digital cameras, straight to DVD, with an average budget of around $20,000. Ninety-nine percent of film screenings in Nigeria are not in cinemas but are instead DVDs bought from local markets, shown in homes or restaurants. They are generally filmed over a period of roughly two weeks, and are sent quickly to local markets to be sold for the equivalent of a couple of pounds. Remarkably there are thirty new films being sent to market every week and each of these can expect to sell 50,000 copies. A blockbuster sells four times that number. These characteristics of Nollywood reflect the Nigerian film market, and thus what the Nigerian people want; they are not just a product of low standards of profession-

31 alism, little funding and a young industry. Nigeria needs a Nollywood, where stories can be told by Nigerians from a Nigerian perspective, in a way that they can relate to. “What is unique”, Zeb Ejiro, the vice-chairman of the Nigerian Film and Broadcast company says, “is that we tell our African story our own way: we are telling our own story and they, the audience, can see themselves in it and relate. People see it and say, ‘Yeah that’s how my grandfather said it’.” In the early 90’s the Nigerian political and economic climate made it difficult for a ‘traditional’ film industry to survive. Furthermore, street crime forced most cinemas to close and high import taxes made the availability of foreign films scarce. These conditions, in addition to digital cameras becoming more affordable, prompted the entrepreneurship that Nollywood is built on; indeed the first Nollywood film “Living in Bondage” was made by a businessman to ensure that he would get a better price for the blank tapes he was trying to sell. Nollywood films still thrive in Nigeria now, despite access to Hollywood films drastically increasing since the 90s, because Nollywood films tell stories about Nigerians from a Nigerian perspective.

Isikaku says that this also has the knock-on effect that investors are now less likely to invest in film, because they know that they are going to lose half their profits to pirating. “You think twice before you invest in film productions now. […] Investors are being discouraged”. Funding has become a huge issue. According to Akin Adesokan, a Nigerian and assistant Professor in Comparative Literature at the University of Indiana, “film makers are still not assured of substantial bank loans. They depend on big men, oftentimes lousy big men”. Many films are made by being sent out to China, where the technology is readily available to make the pirated films and mass produce them. They are then transported back into Nigeria. Many, therefore, are calling for the Nigerian government to have tighter border controls and watch out specifically for pirated DVDs re-entering the country. Whilst some of these problems are simply characteristic of Nigeria, the pressing issue of piracy has caused the Nigerian government to vow to formalize the film industry and, in so doing, help to save Nollywood. Much of the

Nollywood is now Nigeria’s second-largest employer after the government.

This rapid boom of Nollywood, however, has not come without a price. The Nollywood market is reaching saturation point due to the large quantities of films being produced. Additionally, there are power cuts, traffic jams, problems with street crime, and censors.

The greatest problem facing Nollywood, though, is piracy. According to CNN as great a proportion as fifty percent of the film industry’s profits are going to people selling pirated films. Isikaku, a Nollywood film producer, says that piracy has had a huge effect on him: “I couldn’t make anything from it”, he said, referring to his latest film “Plane Crash”. “Because of piracy I didn’t even break even. A lot of people watched the film but unfortunately they watched pirated copies”. This has increased exponentially with the development of video compression technology that enables as many as 20 films to be stored on one DVD and yet be sold for the same price as one film. According to Dr. Sylvester Ogbechie, the president of the Nollywood Foundation in LA, “this new development in piracy has the potential to kill the industry off completely”. Furthermore, television networks in both Nigeria and other countries have taken to showing Nollywood films either without even telling the producers or directors, or telling them and paying them very little.

formalization effort is being spearheaded by Nigeria’s National Film and Video Censors Board, and at its head, Director-General Emeka Mba. “There has to be some process of formalizing the industry”, Mba says, “giving the industry depth and that’s where the government can come in through regulation, through incentives and create that process of empowerment for the industry”. It is not obvious, however, what formalizing the industry would actually entail. The development of groups such as the National Film and Video Censors Board, and increasing numbers of actors joining the Nigerian Actors’ Guild could play a part. In 2002 there was also a voluntary halt on film production for a month when it was realized that the number of films being produced was reaching simply absurd levels. Before the halt, there were fifty-four films produced in one week; it was decided during the break to limit the number to eight. There are many issues associated with any sort of formalization of such an industry in a country like Nigeria. First of all, corruption in the government would make any constructive policy difficult to enact. “The Nigerian government is not capable of solving any problems from Nollywood”, Dr. Ogbechie says, “mainly because they won’t enforce existing laws. In a country where the government cannot even guarantee a steady power supply, I’m afraid CULTURE

32 people no longer look to the government for any solutions.” Paul Obazele, the president of the Nigerian Association of Movie Producers claims, “we just can’t compete, and the Nigerian Copyright Commission is a joke. The truth is that the Government has only paid lip service to this industry”. There is also a chance that too much formalization could lead to Nollywood losing the uniqueness that has enabled it to be so successful. While suggested policies such as cutting down on rental clubs, regulating the showing of films on television, and controlling the borders could work, other ideas such as regulating the number of directors, and having restrictions on what films can be made, might only hurt the industry. Formalization would in all likelihood push for fewer but higher quality films to be made. This would make it more expensive to make films. Fewer directors would thus be able to afford to make films, so fewer Nigerians would be able to be involved in the industry. DVD costs would also have to rise to accommodate the raised production costs, which would lead to the average Nigerian not being able to afford the DVDs, which would in turn further encourage piracy. The only way to keep down costs would be through subsidies from the government, but this type of program is not possible until the rampant corruption in Nigeria is suitably addressed. Before the ‘traditional’ film industry of Nigeria had dwindled in the political and economic climate of the 1990s,

Nigerian directors would often do their editing overseas in Europe. A fully formalized Nollywood would surely shift closer to that kind of international structure, which would mean diminished Nigerian involvement. According to The Times, Nollywood is now Nigeria’s second-largest employer after the government. A reduction is such involvement could have a profound effect on the economy, and could also possibly cause a loss in the Nigerian perspective that makes these films unique. Nollywood is only 20 years old. It is, therefore, inevitable that it should be plagued by some issues. Hopefully it will be able to overcome these, to ensure that the Nigerians, and those who import the films, have an alternative to Hollywood stories. Some sort of formalization of the industry is necessary, but can only really function whilst the key characteristics of Nollywood are kept intact. In any case, it is doubtful that Nollywood can keep up its vast rate of expansion for a sustainable period. Perhaps it will be the entrepreneurial spirit that inspired Nollywood in the first place that will be able to instead find a solution to the problems of Nollywood. “All hope is not lost because we are passionate”, says Isikaku. “Nollywood can come together to take action to help this industry to survive”. Dr. Ogbechie agrees, “Nollywood will survive and as it grows, needed structures will develop and enable further growth. I think its future is very bright”. Abigail Enoch is a second-year undergraduate at St. Peter’s College, studying Biology.

Aerial view of Abuja, Nigeria. ©


Cuba’s Emerging Blogosphere Despite government repression, Cuban bloggers are determined to make their voices heard. Carlos Gomez investigates. © duncan1890

Yoani Sanchez was on her way to a demonstration for nonviolence in November 2009 when she was kidnapped and beaten by government agents. The famed Cuban blogger had her hair pulled, knuckles smashed, and head, chest, knees, and kidneys punched and kicked. Cries of “traitor” and “dissident” were hurled her way as she was forced into a car, beaten, and then thrown out on the street 20 minutes later. Such harassment is not uncommon in Cuba; Sanchez is but one of many who have suffered under the government’s harsh policies toward independent journalists. Sanchez created her blog, “Generation Y,” in 2007 as a place to write freely about Cuba, without government interference. It has since drawn attention to the repressive regime and sparked a new wave of Cuban bloggers committed to reporting the real stories of Cuba. Working within the constraints of the country’s almost nonexistent Internet infrastructure and against the government’s attempt to restrict them, these bloggers must draw on all their creativity and courage as they attempt to launch a new generation of Cuban journalism. Voices of the Government “Independent journalists are mercenaries,” read a 2000 headline of Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde. “The

U.S. Empire pays, organizes, teaches, trains, arms and camouflages them and orders them to shoot at their own people.” Clearly, independent journalists have a strained relationship with the Cuban government, which owns all major news outlets on the island. Civilians are often hard-pressed to find information not supplied by the three state-controlled newspapers, La Granma, Juventud Rebelde, and Trabajadores. These three papers serve distinct purposes but share common themes: party loyalty and Cuban nationalism. La Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party and the most widely circulated of the three, publishes mostly celebrations of Cuban policies and chastisements of the American government. Juventud Rebelde (Rebellious Youth) runs similar stories to those in La Granma but geared towards a younger demographic with the hope of instilling strong nationalism in the rising generation. The third national publication, Trabajadores (Workers), is the official voice of the government-controlled trade union. Journalists for these three papers are well paid and have access to a number of top government sources, but they trade journalistic liberty for security. The Cuban government dictates what – and how – stories can be reported. In the words of Dr. Jose Alberto Hernandez, president of CULTURE

34 CubaNet, these government publications produce “very somber and unimaginative journalism.” But the creativity allowed for by independent journalism brings with it significant risks. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) puts the number of independent reporters in Cuba at only 25, probably because these journalists are subjected to routine harassment. “Immediately the government will identify you,” said Hernandez. “On a daily basis, they make your life miserable.” Independent reporters lose at both ends of the journalistic process. Sources easily available to government writers suddenly become unreachable, and publication becomes exceedingly difficult. Because the Communist Party controls all communication, selling independent work is impossible, making a sufficient income unattainable. Independent journalists also frequently have their phone lines disconnected and are under constant surveillance by government agents. Consequently, Juan Gonzales Febles, Odelin Alfonso, Luis Cino, and Sanchez – the only Cuban bloggers with available contact information – could not be reached for this article despite numerous attempts.

Sanchez’s Generation Y blog, Cuban journalists have turned towards less traditional media to disseminate information. The CPJ reports that there are about 25 regularly maintained news blogs from Cuban authors. These young reporters are mostly stationed in Havana, as the Cuban capital is the easiest place to access the Internet. Rather than engaging in the purely anti-government rhetoric sometimes associated with independent journalists, the blog entries focus on telling stories not published in the government-sanctioned papers. Laritza Diversent, for example, runs a blog entitled Laritza’s Laws, which explores legal issues in Cuba. In a recent post titled “Legal Illiteracy,” Diversent discussed the disparity between the idealistic concept of justice she learned in law school and the reality of working as a lawyer in Cuba. “Bloggers are slipping through the tight restrictions of the regime and have been able to report on some of the issues that Cubans face daily, like food shortages, health care, and education problems,” explained Lauria, but “they face huge practical obstacles from the restricted Internet access in Cuba.” Since surfing the web in Cuba costs six dollars an hour, while the median salary is $17 a month, the CPJ reports that only about 2.1 percent of Cubans have Internet access. Most of these few are government employees. Posting blogs online thus presents problems. Cuban writers are forced to type their blog posts on home computers, copy them to flash drives or CDs, and take them to Internet cafes to send via email. This is complicated by the fact that most Internet centers aren’t open to civilians. Sanchez, for example, must pretend to be a tourist to slip past guards. Other bloggers are similarly forced to use creative methods to send their entries to friends abroad who post them online.

Rather than engaging in the purely anti-government rhetoric sometimes associated with independent journalists, the blog entries focus on telling stories not published in the government-sanctioned papers. Some reporters are put under house arrest. Others are rounded up and driven to remote locations in an effort to keep them from publishing for a few days. More seriously, prison is a constant threat. Journalist Bernardo Arevalo served a jail sentence of six years simply for referring to Castro as a “liar” after the president failed to enact promised democratic reforms. In March 2003, a period now aptly referred to as “Black Spring,” 75 Cuban dissidents were arrested and imprisoned, including 23 journalists. Many remain in jail, making Cuba home to the third largest number of imprisoned reporters, after China and Iran. With the change of leadership from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul in 2008, some hoped for an improved journalistic atmosphere. However, Carlos Lauria, director of the Americas region for CPJ, says that despite Raul’s announcement of reform, nothing has changed. “In terms of independent reporting and the ability of journalists to work freely in Cuba, it’s just not possible.” Slipping Past the Guards In the past few years, independent journalists have found a new venue for their writings: blogs. Beginning with


Cuban citizens, in turn, have a hard time accessing the Internet due to its high price and painfully slow connection speed. Some of the entries are distributed through the population via CDs and flash drives. The blogs’ real successes, however, have occurred in the international community. Sanchez has received a number of international accolades for Generation Y and was included in Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of 2008.” In addition, organizations like Reporters without Borders and the CPJ now put Cuba on their top priority lists, and sites like post articles that cannot be published in the mainstream Cuban media. Recently, even US President Barack Obama responded to a series of questions posted by Sanchez.

35 The Government Responds Sanchez and other bloggers have mostly eluded the level of government harassment faced by traditional independent journalists. Dan Erikson, a Cuban expert for Inter-American Dialogue, suspects that this is because most government officials are over 70 years old. “I suppose there’s a generational disconnect between the activities of Raul Castro and Yoani Sanchez,” he said. Nonetheless, the government consistently denies Sanchez the travel visa necessary to leave Cuba. Clearly, independent blogs are no longer going unnoticed. As of August 2009, all blog sites were blocked within Cuba. In addition, the government is reportedly hiring computer science students to serve as cyber police to monitor the content of these different sites. “There could be a massive crackdown if the bloggers’ work continues to be recognized abroad,” Lauria said.

With the increased attention that the blogs have generated, however, most agree that international scrutiny will prevent another Black Spring. The 2003 arrests caused the European Union to issue economic sanctions against Cuba, which the country can’t afford to provoke again. In addition, the global community now monitors the government’s actions more closely. After the recent assault on Sanchez, the U.S. Department of State promptly declared that it “strongly deplores” violence against journalists and urged Castro to honor the “full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.” Castro has yet to respond, but Cuba’s new blogging community shows no signs of slowing down. Carlos Gomez is a freshman in Saybrook College, Yale University. This article was originally published in the Yale Globalist.

Havana Centro, Cuba. ©


Green Karma In India, the idea of conservation gives many poor people dignity to their way of life. Richard Strauss explores Indian attitudes to global warming. The evil Thyagu stands over Shenbagam holding the wedding Thali round her neck as she sits submissive and dazed. To secure her inheritance, all he has to do is tie the knot. Uma is being restrained in the crowd, helpless. A reincarnation of Shenbagam’s mother Jeeva, she remembers the pain of having her husband corrupted by drugs, being falsely accused of adultery before being pushed off a cliff by Thyagu. He has ruled tyrannically over the village ever since, keeping the labourers poor whilst soaking up its wealth. Stalls outside the stations of Tamil Nadu are lined with 10 Rupee short stories, which clamour to seduce the reader with displays of crime, horror and suspense. A victim under the blooded fangs of a giant tabby cat sits above a sari-clad woman armed with a machine gun.

Suddenly a shot. Five more rattle in quick succession. Thyagu’s exwife stands with a smoking gun: “May this story be a lesson to the world that justice will always prevail”. And so The Rebirth of Jeeva ends, balanced in a karma that has taken two generations to achieve. This is symptomatic of a powerful world view in the Indian popular imagination, which the author, Indra Sundar Rajan, summarizes by saying “if we make a mess, then it’s our responsibility to clean it up. We must pay the debts of our karma ourselves”. It is an idea that returns again and again in Tamil Pulp Fiction. Working for The Climate Project - India over the summer, an independent chapter of Al Gore’s NGO, my boss, a fervent atheist, said to me wryly, ‘you see in climate negotiations the West adopting a Christian view where if you mess up, you say sorry and get absolved. The thing is, if you mess up as a Hindu you have to make amends, else you’re a cockroach’.

Photo by Richard Strauss


There is a lot of frustration in India about the way the West are trying to deal with global warming. China and India are consistently getting classed as the first and fifth largest polluters in the world, with an implied burden of responsibility that is proportional to these positions. Per capita, however, the average Indian

37 emits roughly ten times less than the average American, and four times less than the average European. It is even ranked below the average of the developing world. In fact, 400 million people live in non-electrified dwellings in India, and this poverty is the most ignored ‘carbon sink’ in the climate change debate.

ental consumer monster’ as an excuse to do nothing about lowering greenhouse gas emissions; at least, nothing about changing lifestyles. Instead the emphasis is on technology. We want to make new stuff that emits less, rather than using less in the first place. Compare this to the climate change message in India. One of the services that The Climate Project- India provides is a training session for teachers and businesses where there is

The graph that is referred to least is that which shows historical emissions over the last 250 years. The UK stands awkwardly at the top closely followed by the US, whilst India and China are only Per capita, the average Indian emits roughly ten specks on the horizontal. If you are thinktimes less than the average American, and ing in terms of karma, it is a large debt to pay. four times less the average European What is more, the countries least responsible for climate change stand to suffer the most because of their geographic locations and limited resources to adapt. For instance, the UN estimates that if the global temperature rises by 2 degrees, India stands to loose between a fifth and a half of its agricultural output. This is so dangerous because 60 per cent of the population is involved in agricultural production.

a heavy emphasis, not only on saving energy, but on reducing waste and water consumption as well. What seemed strange to me was that many of the audiences consisted of fairly poor people who would in any case consume relatively little. Asking why this information was included, I got told simply that it got a very popular response. In fact, for millions of Indians, the idea of conservation gives a dignity to their way of life.

There is something, however, perversely upside-down about the way that climate change tends to be reported.

What this means is that whilst the British public are busy stock-piling halogen lights and pointing out the reluctance of India and China to accept binding emissions targets, school teachers on £100 a month are consciously continuing to take bucket showers rather than wasting water through a mains system.

When I was in Mumbai in late August, the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi was in full swing. Large statues of Ganesh, up to five stories high, were paraded through the streets by families and neighbourhoods to the accompaniment of symbols, drums – even stacks of speakers. Dancing and covered in red paint, Mumbaikers took their idols down to the sea to be ceremoniously drowned. As the mover of obstacles, people pray to the elephant god for success and wealth in the coming year, with heads of households waving bank notes over relatives as a sign of good fortune. I think many in the West are intimidated by this vision of India: a rapidly growing economy full of people desperately wanting to make money, get more things, and earn a more comfortable existence for themselves. No one would deny India the right to do this, but we often use the ‘ori-

Of course, India will have a huge role to play in helping to prevent global warming. Certainly, if its estimated eighty years of coal reserves are all burnt, then the world will get very toasty. But the Indian Prime-Minister, Manmohan Singh, has said that India’s per capita emissions will not exceed the developed world average. If people in the West consume sustainable amounts of carbon, so will Indians. This puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of those who have caused the problem. Karma. Richard Strauss is a graduate of Lady Margaret Hall where he studied English.

Photo by Richard Strauss


A climber observing sunset. Š

Are We There Yet? To fail to benefit from travelling the world is impossible, Tina Nandha argues. ‘Travel is a means to an end. Home.’ This is an assertion made by a recent ad campaign for popular flat-pack superstore IKEA. Though the idea behind the advertisement is clear (home is important, so why not kit yours out with our latest range of...?), being confronted with this simple statement on the tube while exploring London, a city of which I am not a native, made me wonder- is travelling the means to a specific end? And if so, what is it? Where does the value in travel lie? Reasons behind the choice to travel vary greatly from person to person, time to time, and trip to trip. Decisions to travel may be motivated by work, wanting to get away from work, a desire to see people, a desire to get away from people, a desire to experience climate and scenery unavailable at home, or a desire to experience new cultures, or any combination of the above. Although the two are connected, however, the question of what makes a travel experience valuable is more difficult than the question of why people choose to travel at all. PERSPECTIVES

To me, the most compelling reason to travel is that we enjoy the temporary escape from our everyday lives, but I also believe it has more lasting benefits. The long-term benefits of travel can be explained as the effects of immersing ourselves in the unfamiliar. The idea of taking off on the open road has long been romanticised, and the sustained popularity of cruises and inter-railing suggests that we find value in the actual act of travelling as well as in the destinations we decide upon. A wish to lead lives, if only temporarily, in which we are not restricted by the roles we have assumed at home, can manifest itself as a wish not to be restricted to one place. This wish can be fulfilled by a journey with no single, set destination. Even if you decide to settle on one destination, there is still that special feeling experienced when you wander around a city you do not know. Something about having no idea who or what you will find around that next corner

39 makes you feel, at the risk of sounding clichéd, like anything is possible. Freed from the constraints imposed by the responsibilities and relationships of everyday life, we are at liberty to feel what Jack Kerouac describes in On the Road as “the ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being”.

fortunate people is certainly part of the reason people are keen to get involved, but it is not the only reason - volunteering will usually give you the chance to engage with and immerse yourself in a different culture. Not all journeys away from home afford us the chance to be absorbed into a culture previously unknown to us. Some trips are more stereotypically ‘touristy’. It is telling that often the trips that are appreciated most in hindsight are those that allow us to take in the culture of the place we are visiting most thoroughly. Having listed an impressive number of adventures when asked for her travel history, one interviewee went on to identify her gap year as the most rewarding. During her 11-month stay in a small French city working as an au pair, she says, she “developed greatly as a person”. It may be no coincidence that the lengthiest and least ‘touristy’ trip on her list was the one she valued the most.

Of course this feeling is, for the most part, a short-term phenomenon. Travelling away from home will not sever all ties and relationships you have in this place, and few of us would want it to. Even when we are removed from familiar surroundings, some behavioural limits clearly apply. We are bound by the need to be sensitive to local values in the place we have chosen to escape to. Despite the fact that the exhilaration of escape from what we know may be short lived, many people still choose to travel repeatedly and for prolonged periods. When we reminisce, it is those experiences that we feel have had long-term gains for us that we prize the most. The long-term benefits that people find in trav‘the el may come from the effects that the unfamiliar has on our minds and outlooks.

ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being’ Just as there is variation between people, there is also variation concerning reasons for valuing travel. Still, escape, in the short term, and exposure to new cultures, in the long term, are widely compelling reasons to value travel. These are reasons that are not going anywhere.

Most gap year students will tell you that that there is a connection between travelling and personal fulfilment. This kind of effect lingers long after your return to everyday life. The alteration of your perspective associated with travelling is often caused by exposure to different cultures. When confronted with a culture markedly different from our own, we are also confronted with a myriad of motivations and principles that keep this culture in place. Instead of making judgements based on the descriptions provided by other people, we can form our own explanations based on what we find. Instead of seeing people from other cultures as homogenous groups, we meet individuals with whom we may have more in common than we expected. One travel enthusiast credits exposure to new cultures with “[broadening our] personal horizons” and changing the way we look at familiar scenes, and when asked about what he has gained from his previous travel experiences, he immediately starts talking about the advantages of “intercultural experiences”. Often, the two phrases are synonymous.

So as for that IKEA ad, I think it is a little misleading. There is more than one end to be achieved through travel, and more than one advantage to be gained. One of the many things we learn from exposure to new cultures is just how much more there is out there to learn from. When I asked her why she chose to spend the year abroad, the gap year student mentioned earlier replied that her natural curiosity about other cultures and languages encouraged her to do so. When asked about the profits of the trip, one of the many things she felt she had gained was “a greater curiosity for things” which will no doubt cause her to travel more in the future. I do not believe anybody can reach a point at which they no longer have anything to gain from travelling. Though we may use the term ‘end’, when it comes to reaping the rewards of travel, there is no discernable finish line.

The increasing popularity of volunteer tourism is evidence that people are eager to reap the rewards of the intercultural. Wanting to make a difference to the lives of less

Tina Nandha is third-year undergraduate at St. Edmund Hall, studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics.


An American in Wales

The green rolling hills of Wales near Brecon. ©

Volunteering at an organic farm in Wales, Brianna Beehler experiences Wales through a different perspective. Sometimes I get stuck on funny things. I am not sure where this particular idea came from, but last fall I had the romantic notion that it would be neat to work on a farm in Wales. It became almost an obsessive goal for me, and late one night I finally stumbled across the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) site online. WWOOF met all of my travel requirements: a) it was the right price for my pathetically thin travel budget, and b) I could plan everything without having to move from my desk. I was sold. A few days later, I was registered and ready to head up to Northern Wales for my Christmas break. The conversation I had with my mother, however, gave me a cause to pause and reflect. As I tried to explain the concept to her, she remained confused. It wasn’t a vacation – I was working on a farm. But it wasn’t a job; I would not be getting paid for my work, only be given free


accomodation and board in exchange. Her response? “It sounds like organic farm slave labour to me.” Some of my friends from university were equally horrified when they learned of my plans for the vacation, warning me that I might a) see lots of sheep, and b) be surrounded by people actually speaking Welsh. Despite these terrors, I decided to take my chances, and as soon as Michaelmas term reached its close, I boarded the train to Welshpool where my hosts Lizzie and Dave would pick me up from the station. Fortunately for me, the sheep-filled slave labouring fears proved unfounded. Mornings at Cefn-y-Pywll farm began with the smell of warm bread freshly baked, and the soft tread of slippered feet leaving tea outside my door. Dynamic conversations on the environment, American and British politics, and on different parsnip recipes all accompanied my tasks of planting, weeding, building, and tree cutting. Jobs varied from day to day, but I was expected to take my turn at chores from baking Bara brith to logging. Whilst the thought of me wielding a chainsaw or running a wood splitter put my family in stitches back at home, my hosts were exceedingly patient and took the time to

41 instruct me in whatever the task of the ‘It sounds day happened to be. Admittedly, they too sometimes found my attempts amusing, and I would occasionally turn around whilst working to find myself face to face with a camera lens. Thank goodness I look so smart in waders, and in overalls, and in disrespectable-looking oil skin coats. I was there in December, so outdoor work was on the decline and my host Lizzie took me with her on many of her errands as a break from the relentless cold wind, to which she seemed impervious while I huddled and shivered in vain. Everything was new and foreign to me, and before I accompanied Lizzie to her local quilter’s club meeting I hadn’t realized that I was also new and foreign to many of the locals. After introducing me to the line of warm, laughter-lined faces, one woman sitting next to me leaned in while raising her spectacles to peer closely at my face and gleefully declare, “I’ve always wanted to meet a WWOOFer!” My presence was unprecedented in their intimate circle, but also a very welcome one, and I eventually left the meeting with a handful of quilt patterns and a lot of great stories. While the women gabbed, I was set to carefully folding and pinning fabrics that would later be raffled off to support a charity. I couldn’t help but think, as I pieced that quilt together, that I’d been generously allowed to enter into the seams of their lives, quietly stitching away to the hum of their sewing machines and the padded thump of irons on boards. Later Lizzie told me that she considered introducing her WWOOFers to the community absolutely essential, and to some groups specifically:

‘Lizzie: I like to bring my WWOOFers to the Montgomery Field Society Meetings. I think it’s good to educate them.

like organic farm slave labour to me’ Me: The WWOOFers? Lizzie (archly): The Montgomery Field Society.’ I’m not sure felt most rewarded because of our chance meeting, but the women I met at the quilter’s meeting couldn’t fail to leave an indelible mark on me. The soft chuckle of voices and village gossip spun around just as quickly as the whirling of their machines, and for an hour or two we all seemed suspended in time. Late on the last night of my trip, huddled beneath homemade quilts, I considered the path that had led me to that small farm in Northern Wales. As an American Visiting Student at Oxford, I had originally wanted to see the United Kingdom from a different perspective to that of hostelling. The idea of being outside working every day struck me as genuinely appealing, and eventually I decided to just give it a go. From my little attic room in a two-hundred year-old farmhouse at the top of a mountain, it seemed that I had made a spectacularly perceptive move to abandon the bustle of Oxford for the slow-paced Welsh country-side. There is something about trading-in books and papers for shovels and land rovers that is really liberating. Perhaps organic farm slave labour isn’t such a bad way to see the world after all. Brianna Beehler is a visting student from Tufts University at Pembroke College

Photo by Brianna Beehler


Marrakech, Morocco Photo by Rachel Chew

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Oxonian Globalist Michaelmas 2010  
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Issue One. 'World Without Borders' Theme.