American Daily: September 4, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

4 September 2015


  • Voters don't want politicians; they want superheroes.

Time passes. These voters notice that these things have not been done. Obviously, they have elected the wrong superhero. It is time to stop messing around with Squirrel Girl and Jack of Hearts and elect Superman, already. So the story starts all over again.

  • The media reports even predictable campaigns as if they were highly dramatic.
If you were to rank the most exciting presidential nomination contests, the 1996 Republican race would be near the bottom. Bob Dole, the “next-in-line” GOP candidate and the Senate majority leader, built up a huge lead in polls and endorsements early in the race and was never seriously challenged for the nomination. Dole did lose the New Hampshire primary by a single point to Pat Buchanan. But the field soon consolidated around him, and he went on to win 44 of 50 states.
And yet, contemporaneous accounts of the sleepy-seeming 1996 campaign portrayed it as incredibly dramatic, full of “unexpected” twists and “unpredictable” turns.
4) Biden was a poor candidate for president in 1988. Five Democrats managed to win at least one state during that year's primary campaign. Biden was not one of the five.
5) Biden was a poor candidate for president in 2008. He finished behind Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses. But he also finished behind John Edwards. He even finished behind Bill Richardson.

The judge’s decision to jail Ms. Davis, a 49-year-old Democrat who was elected last year, immediately intensified the attention focused on her, a longtime government worker who is one of three of Kentucky’s 120 county clerks who contend that their religious beliefs keep them from recognizing same-sex nuptials. Within hours of Ms. Davis’s imprisonment, some Republican presidential candidates declared their support for her, a sign that her case was becoming an increasingly charged cause for Christian conservatives.

“The Rise of the Khilafah: Return of the Gold Dinar”, makes a bizarre sell for the Islamic State’s new gold currency. Covering a dizzying range of topics, from the importance of gold as a medium of exchange to “the dark rise of bank notes, born out of the satanic conception of banks”, it argues America has been able to avoid hyperinflation and maintain its military hegemony largely thanks to the petrodollar system. Islamic State hopes that with the introduction of what it is calling the dinar, all oil will be traded for with gold instead of being priced in dollars, which would “mark the death of this oppressive banknote" and bring America “to her knees”. Charts showing the gradual increase of the American money supply and the devaluation of the dollar are provided as evidence of the dangers of printing money. A rotation of gold-loving financial analysts is featured. Even Ron Paul, a former libertarian presidential candidate, makes an appearance denouncing inflation as theft.


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American Daily: September 3, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

3 September 2015


Final numbers are still in flux, but current estimates peg the total number of delegates to next summer’s presidential nominating convention at about 4,491, meaning that a candidate would need 2,246 to win. The Clinton camp’s claim to more than 440 delegates means she’s already wrapped up the support of more than 60 percent of the approximately 713 superdelegates who, under party rules, are among those who cast votes for the nomination, along with delegates selected by rank-and-file voters in primaries and caucuses beginning next February. Delegate totals won’t be finalized until the DNC determines the number of bonus delegates awarded to states, a party official said.
  • Have charter reforms post-Katrina really revolutionised New Orleans schooling?
But the New Orleans miracle is not all it seems. Louisiana state standards are among the lowest in the nation. The new research also says little about high school performance. And the average composite ACT score for the Recovery School District was just 16.4 in 2014, well below the minimum score required for admission to a four-year public university in Louisiana.
There is also growing evidence that the reforms have come at the expense of the city’s most disadvantaged children, who often disappear from school entirely and, thus, are no longer included in the data.

If you’re too young to remember the time before the Iraq War turned into a disaster, you may not realize the state of constant fear Democrats used to live in when it came to national security. Particularly since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Republicans were always ready to ridicule them as being “soft” — soft on defense, soft on the communists, soft on anything involving foreign threats. After 9/11, this attack went into a higher gear, as did Democrats’ fear that any show of softness would instantly be met with, “Why are you on the terrorists’ side?” and “Why don’t you support our troops?”

  • Why do so many presidential candidates say such dumb things about China?
Rather, it goes to show an odd problem in how American politics, particularly during presidential elections, deals with foreign policy: Presidential candidates are just not really allowed to acknowledge the limits of American power. They are expected to act as if they could fix every problem, everywhere. So that is why they feel compelled to act as if China's internal economic issues are something America could fix or even prevent, if only the right person sat in the White House.

Hoover Dam is theorized in some structural stress projections to stand for tens of thousands of years from now, and what could be its eventual undoing is mussels. The mollusks which grow in the dam’s grates will no longer be scraped away, and will multiply eventually to such density that the built up stress of the river will burst the dam’s wall. That is if the Colorado continues to flow. Otherwise erosion will take much longer to claim the structure, and possibly Oskar J.W. Hansen’s vision will be realized: future humans will find the dam 14,000 years from now, at the end of the current Platonic Year.


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Black Lives Matter... everywhere

By Leah Craven in Saint Paul, Minnesota

2 September 2015


Leah Craven is the recipient of the 2015 US Studies Centre–World Press Institute media fellowship and is contributing to the blog while in the United States. This post was originally published at the World Press Institute blog.


The fraught relationship between police and the African American community in the United States played out on television screens across the world, as riots broke out in many states in response to a spate of deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement.

The depth of the anger and despair of the protestors who took to the streets highlighted to the international community the level of injustice African Americans feel occurs within their community. Many felt that the deceased men were portrayed as thugs and drug dealers, when in some cases they were simply walking down the street — unarmed.

Tensions between the African American community and police can be traced back to the harsh slave patrols, through to segregation under the Jim Crow laws, to police brutality during the civil rights movement.

"It's been a relationship that's been strained from very early times,” says Tanya Gladney, Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St Thomas University.

“Police are a symbolic image that’s seen as denying justice. But at the time they were just upholding the law because there were unjust laws.”

Although laws have changed, the legacy of the injustice cannot be underestimated. Associate professor Tanya Gladney says it is crucial to consider the impact of the psychological wounding that has occurred across generations when assessing the recent deaths of young black men.

“It’s almost like a trigger that strikes up old wounds from historical times with the feeling that law enforcement is seen as an oppression. It’s an entity that dominates and oppresses the African American community.”

“When you’re trying to restore that trust and these current events are taking place, they continue to fragment.”

A New York Times/CBS poll conducted in July found that six in 10 Americans think race relations in their country are poor, and four in 10 believe they are getting worse.

Despite the removal of discriminatory laws, if you are black in America, you are more likely to be less educated, poor, go to jail, and die in custody than the rest of the population.

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Many parallels can be drawn with the indigenous community in Australia. If you are indigenous in Australia you also are more likely to be less educated, poor, go to jail, and die in custody. Mistrust of law enforcement also has a historical context. It is rooted in the Stolen Generations, when indigenous children were forcibly removed from their parents by white authorities. Today, the likelihood of arrest is about 20 times greater for an indigenous Australian than the rest of the population. And like young African Americans, young indigenous men complain of racial-profiling by police, as they feel they are unfairly targeted and harassed.

You don’t have to scratch far beneath the surface to see the tension. Some years ago I went to a local police station in Sydney to report a crime. The police officers treated me with respect, and my complaint was taken seriously and investigated.

However, during that same visit I saw a very different side of the police force. Two indigenous teenagers had been brought in for questioning because their boyfriends were suspected of committing a crime, and could not be located. The girls sat quietly in the lobby waiting for their interview.

As the officer approached to escort the girls to an interview room he launched into an unprovoked verbal attack, “you little sluts, tell us where they are.”

The contempt was mutual. The girls responded, “you scum, you think you’re above the law.”

The exchange continued along these lines for about ten minutes.

I was astounded. As a middle-class white person, I had never seen anything like it.

While the similarities in police–community relations in Australia and the United States are clear, there is one crucial difference — in America minor infractions can escalate into a gun being fired.

From an Australian perspective, part of the problem in the United States appears to be gun control. Given guns are easily accessible to civilians, police understandably fear deadly violence. It’s a dangerous job and an officer’s overriding goal every day is to go home at the end of their shift.

Guns have been outlawed for two decades in Australia, and there has been a dramatic reduction of incidents of gun violence as a result. It would be rare for an Australian police officer to be shot at by a civilian, because the vast majority of people do not have guns. For that reason, the threshold is much higher before an officer would even consider reaching for a weapon.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, a law professor and Black Lives Matters activist, says while widespread gun ownership issue is certainly an issue in the United States, the root of the problem is much more complex than gun laws.

Like Gladney, she believes the current situation can be linked to the historical oppression of African Americans by white authorities.

“There’s a racial aspect here that has its roots in slavery in terms of hyper-fear of African Americans in general and in particular of African American men. During the days of slavery when black men tried to escape from plantations they were seen as fugitives, they were seen as dangerous — there was a lot of propaganda that was put out there, posters and other things that portrayed them in a very menacing way. Those perceptions have continued,” Levy-Pounds says.

“There is a widespread perception of black men as being prone to criminal conduct. Those perceptions of black men as being portrayed as dangerous play a role in terms of how they are treated when they come into contact with law enforcement.”

Levy-Pounds was a legal observer in Ferguson during the riots. She was deeply concerned by a group of white civilians who called themselves “The Oathkeepers.” They stood on the rooftops of businesses armed with guns — but had travelled from interstate and had no connection to the properties they were supposedly protecting.

“If these had been African American men standing on the rooftops with rifles — there is no way the police would have allowed this to happen.”

The fact that these white men were allowed to intimidate people with weapons, and unarmed black men have been shot by police for a minor infraction, doesn’t paint a very flattering picture of police-community relations in some parts of the country.

But there is a glimmer of hope. Police departments across the United States will soon be compelled to offer their staff anti-bias training. Officers are likely to use more force depending on the level of threat they perceive and the training is designed to compensate for the unconscious racial biases that lead officers to consider black men a greater threat than others.

Both Australia and the United States have progressed in leaps and bounds when it comes to improving opportunities for minority groups over the past few decades. But it’s very clear that when it comes to police–community relations, there’s still a long way for both countries to go.

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Homecoming

By Tom Pantle in Sydney, Australia

1 September 2015


Tom Pantle is an undergraduate student with the University of Sydney. In winter 2015, he travelled to Fudan University as part of the Centre's Shanghai Study Abroad Program. During his travels, he has been contributing to the Centre's blog.


Tom PantleTo say the past six weeks were amazing would be an understatement. There have been so many elements of this journey that have made me a more knowledgeable, experienced, culturally aware and overall better person.

Reflecting on this trip, a lot of things begin to come into perspective. First of all, the first misconception that was debunked was how friendly the Chinese people are. I don’t know why I didn’t assume it before I left but many people hold certain opinions about the Chinese people and China challenges all these opinions.

The thing I hope to get through to those thinking about applying for this program is to not think about it and just do it. There’s no hiding the fact that China is becoming a huge player on the world stage and the business and cultural nuances you learn on this program are invaluable and will provide you with a footing over those who haven’t been to China. To put it simply, if you’re interested in finance, politics, business, or culture, than this trip is for you.

The thing about China is that everyone has a different positive experience and I’ve listed my top takeaways below!

Takeaways

  1. Misconceptions dispelled one by one: Most people really don’t know the true China. Despite what you may read or hear in the news, the firsthand experience gained through talking to natives and exploring the country gives you the unveiled truth.
  2. All the little things: There are so many things I love about China and so will you! Firstly, the food ranges from risky street food to spicy Sichuan cuisine to xiao long bao and everything in between. Secondly, there are things you can only experience in China, such as the intense traffic, old men tucking in their shirts like cheerleaders, and marriage arrangement between parents in a park.
  3. Scenery: The Centre goes to great lengths to organise cultural visits that are unforgettable. The Forbidden City, Guangzhou, and the Great Wall of China are amongst the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen and I can’t wait to go back and see them again.
  4. Company Visits: The connections possible for you to make are only limited by your willingness to make them. This program brings you shoulder to shoulder with industry leaders in companies such as Rio Tinto, Austrade, and the US Consulate. This sort of exposure can’t be bought and this program hands you such amazing opportunities.
Tom Pantle

Signing off

It’s been a great pleasure to write this blog for the US Studies Centre and for those of you reading it. Stop salivating over the journey I’ve just been on and go make it happen for yourself, you wont regret it. Zaijian!


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American Daily: September 1, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

1 September 2015


  • Why is Kanye West so frequently accused of arrogance?
False humility is just another way we put on airs; we’re supposed to pretend we don’t deserve to be successful, or that we’re not as good at a certain thing (or number of things) as we are. Society pats the backs of people who are falsely modest, because it makes them feel more like one of many, even if they have an extraordinary talent most of us will never possess in our lives. If people acknowledge themselves as having a special, once-in-a-lifetime talent, society vilifies them, even if what they’re saying is the gospel truth. Especially when it comes to black men.
GOP media coverage and polling support
The potential surger is Ben Carson, the much-awarded neurosurgeon who is running for political office for the first time. Carson is near the top of the Republican field in two new polls of Iowa. A Monmouth University poll has Carson with 23 percent of the vote and tied for the lead with Trump, while the Des Moines Register’s poll has Carson in second place, with 18 percent of the vote to Trump’s 23 percent. Carson has also been gaining ground in national polls and is in second place behind Trump, according to Huffington Post Pollster’s averaging method.
This inquiry into a presidential candidate with no chance of winning begins with an admittedly insulting premise: that its subject, who has technically laid out his reasons for seeking the White House, is running for reasons unknown. But I'm not alone in being baffled by the candidacy of George Elmer Pataki. (His middle name is employed mainly by his detractors, because it is Elmer.) As Chris Cillizza wrote several months ago in The Washington Post: "Wait. Why is George Pataki running for president?" If we had a good answer to this question, wouldn't we be wiser—not just about George Pataki but about the psychology of all politicians? Thus began my quest.

In 1901, William McKinley, 25th president of the United States, was struck down by an assassin’s bullet six months into his second term. There are towns and monuments and geographic features across America bearing his name—tribute to the fallen leader from a nation wracked by grief. Mount McKinley is not one of them.


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Taylor Swift's new video and America's old foreign policy problem

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

31 August 2015


I like Taylor Swift a lot — so much so that commenters at another site I write for have suggested I can't be impartial in my judgements of her material. But I don't like the new video for her single, "Wildest Dreams." It's vaguely yet blithely colonialist, and it evokes a cultural tradition indicative of something that's gone wrong with the way America understands the world over its past.

"Wildest Dreams" is a swooning melodrama that evokes the dark romanticism of Lana Del Rey, and in the video, Swift and director Joseph Kahn — responsible for previous Swift showcases "Bad Blood" and "Blank Space" —  like Del Rey, look to the imagery of classic Hollywood for visual inspiration. In the case of the Swift video, this becomes a darkest-Africa filmset that morphs into an LA premiere two-thirds of the way through.

The Africa evoked is a non-specific and, in Western terms, atavistic one, populated by safari hats, khaki outfits, and, as The Fader put it in a headline: "Taylor Swift Went To Africa To Film A Music Video And There’s Only White People In It." Indeed, this is an Africa of exotic wonder — extraordinary landscapes and captivating fauna, proceeds of the video to which go to protect — but no local populace. It's the colonialist's Africa: a foreign and fecund place where humanity — and civilisation in particular — is an exceptional prescence.

British biplane

One scene features a biplane with livery of the UK's Royal Air Force soaring over the safari: the occupying British slaughtered thousands of Kenyans as recently as the 1960s, and the British still deny the rapes Kenyan women accuse their soldiers of committing.

It isn't as if Swift is seeking to consciously evoke Africa's subjugation. She sought to conjure the romanticism of the Hollywood of yore: a place that accepted colonial domination of African people as an uncomplicated setting for white adventure.

This imagery is part of America's cultural memory, which is why it ended up in the video of a superstar who surely had no desire to evoke it in its all its compleixities. Yet why should it have? Liberia perhaps aside, the United States has no real reason to consider African colonialism to be part of its national identity. The victims of the triangular trade largely suffered before the United States became a nation; it was their descendents, American-born, whose enslaved presence marked itself on American memory, and their subjugation was situated within the American South. The scramble for Africa was a European venture.

America, rather, was the first of the post-colonial nations. The rebellion of the thirteen colonies marked the beginning of the slow end of the British Empire. As a country that saw the right of a people to self-government to be a truth self-evident,  decolonisation should have always been a firm national creed. And even at the most adventurous extent of the United States' own empiric expansion, during the early 20th century when it ruled the Philippines, absorbed Hawaii, and claimed a clutch of nations in the Caribbean Ocean as its own, it exhibited a pronounced discomfort with the idea of transforming itself into a colonial power in the European mould.

America has seen itself throughout its history to be a beacon of freedom for the world, and oppressed peoples have understood it to be such. Ho Chi Minh, when seeking to overthrow the French in Vietnam, consciously modelled his Proclamation of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam after America's own Declaration of Independence. Ho repeatedly petitioned Harry Truman to support his cause and only after failing to win the United States to his side did he pursue communist backing. The ensuing Vietnam War was a disaster for South-East Asia and one of America's most ignominious foreign policy blunders of the 20th century.

American fear of communism caused it to oppose to decolonisation in Africa, too, bolstering oppressive regimes against local movements backed by opportunistic Soviet forces, such as the MPLA in Angola. The United States didn't always oppose colonialism — it worked against the British in the Suez crisis of 1956, for example — but its fear of an expansionist Soviet Union caused it too often to forget its principles and its own founding impulses.

This has caused America no end of problems, both in undermining its moral authority internationally — why should foreigners admire its talk of democracy when it is willing to undermine its own founding ideals of self-government? — and its subsequential absorption into wars of conquest better left in the 19th century.

The other fault in American memory is its unlearning of the Monroe Doctrine. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the anti-immigration activists of today, too many Americans have been willing to forget that, since its inception, their nation has defined itself as part of the New World. Joseph Conrad might have been British-Polish, but Edgar Rice Burroughs was American, and too many Americans have sought cultural affinity with the oppressors of old Europe rather than, as befits their history, the revolutionary New World.


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American Daily: August 28, 2015

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

28 August 2015


In 1998, Toni Morrison wrote a comment for The New Yorker arguing that “white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.” Last week the New York Times, implicitly cited Morrison’s piece, and claimed the author was giving Clinton “a compliment.” This interpretation of Morrison’s claim is as common as it is erroneous.

Indeed, politics is one area where the general science/tech nerd ethos has not exactly covered itself in glory (I'm looking at you, Larry Lessig). And it's a shame, because if tech nerds want to change the world — as they say with numbing frequency that they do — they need to figure out politics, the same way they're figuring out solar power or artificial intelligence, in a ground-up, no-preconceptions kind of way. They need to develop that tree trunk knowledge that enables them to contextualize new political information. Currently, they lack a good tree trunk, as Urban's post demonstrates.
Trump has certainly crafted an appeal to voters who like impractical ideas. But his true threat lies in the fact that Trump himself is crazy — not just ideologically, though he is certainly that as well, but in the sense that he lacks any rational connection between his actions and his goals, to the extent that his goals are discernible at all. That is also his downfall.

In 2011, Raquel Nelson was convicted of vehicular homicide following the death of her four-year-old son. Nelson, it’s crucial to note, was not driving. She didn’t even own a car. She and her three children were crossing a busy four-lane road from a bus stop to their apartment building in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. She’d stopped on the median halfway across when her son let go of her hand and stepped into the second half of the road. Nelson tried to catch him but wasn’t fast enough; she and her two-year-old daughter were also injured.

But the story of the ‘70s is much more complicated. Far from being an era of complacency and narcissism, the decade gave rise to social, political, and cultural debates that built on and even surpassed the era of Kennedy and King. Some issues, like civil rights, the sexual revolution, and Vietnam, belonged as much to the ‘70s as to the ‘60s. Others, like feminism, abortion, gay rights, busing, the tax revolt, and Christian Right politics, seemed altogether new.

Considered in this context, Bruce Springsteen’s phenomenal breakthrough in 1975 can only be understood against a backdrop of profound dislocation and urgent activism, particularly in the working-class communities that absorbed so many of the decade’s economic and cultural shocks.


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Going away and coming back

By Emily Serifovski in Sydney, Australia

27 August 2015


Emily Serifovski is an undergraduate student with the University of Sydney. In winter 2015, she will travel to Fudan University as part of the Centre's Shanghai Study Abroad Program. During her travels, she will be contributing to the Centre's blog.


“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours.”

I stumbled across this quote by Terry Pratchett on my Facebook feed in the weeks before we left for Shanghai. At the time it caught my eye because it was accompanied by someone’s travel pictures but it has stuck with me over the last two months, resurfacing as I touched down in Sydney on Monday.

I didn’t go to Shanghai just to return Sydney with a fresh pair of eyes — I applied for the study abroad program in order to, as the cliché goes, "broaden my horizons"; to see a part of the world I had never seen, to try my hand at a new language, to make new friends, and to learn. Looking back on the past six weeks, I am confident enough to say that I have ticked all those boxes. The last three days of our exchange were tear-filled as we all returned to our own little corners of the world. I had forgotten how easy it is to make friends with people, and how much you can care for someone after such a short period of time.

Tonghe

The final week or so of the program was filled with everyone shamelessly trying to complete their Shanghai Bucket Lists (I unfortunately did not get a chance to relax at the Japanese Bath House), and I think we got pretty close. We sang our lungs out at karaoke until three in the morning, stocked up on Fudan merchandise, and consumed our last 18rmb Helen’s burger — and finally wrote our names on the wall!

Helen's

There were a lot of mixed emotions as homesickness began to creep in, but the desire to appreciate every minute left grew stronger. In order to keep both at bay, we all gathered together, a family now of 25, to have a chicken schnitzel dinner. After days spent trying to find edible vegetables, my laoshi (Chinese teacher) let me in on a secret — just down from Fudan University was a hidden farmer’s market with the freshest produce at obscenely cheap prices. After I failed to follow her hand drawn map, she accompanied me arm-in-arm so I could gather all the required ingredients. It was the perfect opportunity to test out my newly acquired Chinese skills, and to see how the locals shop. The food was so fresh that the fish were still swimming. I was able to grab enough veggies and salad for 25 people for less than $20. Like a true Communist collective, everybody pitched in their labour and we were able to have one last dinner as group.

Schnitty

I am always at a loss in trying to explain how fantastic this program has been. Being able to learn about Chinese history and business practices and then combine and consolidate that learning with on the ground discussions in the boardrooms and factory floors of China’s most successful companies, as well as cultural visits to places like the Great Wall is truly invaluable. Spending hours together on buses and trains has ensured that fellow program participants are now family, and experiencing the cultural transition that is China with students from around the globe has provided me with a network of friendships that will last a lifetime.

I was never entirely convinced that travelling to China would alter my perception of Sydney, but after a day and a half on home turf, I’m already noticing my view has changed. Strolling through campus today I thought it was eerily quiet. It wasn’t until hours later that it clicked — the only reason it felt that way is because the cacophony of car horns was absent. There was something peaceful in the realisation that in a city of four million people, you can still find quiet and calm. I am grateful for our ease of access to information (I am yet to break the habit of connecting my VPN) and appreciate home comforts like bread more than I ever had before. But with each passing hour I miss Shanghai even more — the convenience store at the foot of our apartments, the thirty-seven degree weather and all the friends I have made — and I can’t wait to go back. So maybe we do go away to come back, but maybe we go away to have a new home to return to.


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Home from Shanghai

By Jessica Shannon in Sydney, Australia

25 August 2015


Jessica Shannon is an undergraduate student with the University of Sydney. In winter 2015, she travelled to Fudan University as part of the Centre's Shanghai Study Abroad Program. During her travels, she will be contributing to the Centre's blog.


Hangzhou mountain climbing

Looking back, it seems as if my time in Shanghai went incredibly quickly.

Exams finished up miraculously well, especially considering we didn’t pass up any tourism opportunities. One of my favourite excursions we did was a weekend trip to Hangzhou, where our activities included walking around the beautiful lake in the centre of the city and climbing a mountain in 40-degree weather. (Talk about accomplishments!)

There are a number of things I’ll miss about Shanghai, the first of which is the people. Not only did I make some amazing friends from USyd, but I also made friends from China, England, Scotland, Canada, America, and Mexico — just to name a few. I look forward to seeing them all again; hopefully it will be in one of their home countries next time!

I’ll miss various food items, like being able to buy a whole steamed sweet potato, a cob of corn, or a steamed bun from a street vendor any time you get hungry. Being able to buy dinner for $2 was also a major plus.

I’ll miss my Chinese teacher, and how patient she was with me as I tried my best — often to no avail — to master the pronunciation of various Chinese words. Lastly, I’ll miss karaoke being a common social activity, because it turns out that it’s kind of fun to belt out Beyoncé, 50 Cent, or Eminem in a room with 10 to 15 of your closest friends. Who knew!

Ultimately, the past six weeks have been an amazing experience that I will never forget. I feel fortunate to have participated in the program, and hope that I’ll be back in China soon!


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Storms over Shanghai

By Emily Serifovski in Shanghai, China

24 August 2015


Emily Serifovski is an undergraduate student with the University of Sydney. In winter 2015, she will travel to Fudan University as part of the Centre's Shanghai Study Abroad Program. During her travels, she will be contributing to the Centre's blog.


The Shanghai city skyline disappeared from my bedroom window as the threat of Typhoon Chan-hom loomed ever closer. At the time I was handwashing my clothes for the first time on the trip, because I made the wise decision to bring my most delicate clothing along and nothing else. Since we arrived I’ve been saying that Shanghai feels like home, in two particular ways. Firstly in the way that Shanghai always felt more comfortable than Beijing (mostly because our apartments lie just out of the way of the hustle and bustle of the city) but more importantly in the way that it feels like Sydney.

This shone though as the typhoon condition settled in. The afternoon sky turned almost black as the air grew more humid — as if that were even possible — with strong wind gusts. It felt just like those classic summer storms that have ended some of our hottest days. It made me long for a Sydney summer, while leaving me glad that I’m not home to experience one of our coldest winters yet. Some of us went into full survival mode, whilst others decided to bunker down in Helen’s and weather out the storm. For Shanghai, Typhoon Chan-hom ended up being little more than some wind and some rain despite hundreds of thousands being evacuated from southern China. While I was mildly disappointed that the largest typhoon in 40 years decided to pass over us, I always welcome an excuse to spend a night at Helen’s.

Shanghai skyline

Located just down the road from our apartments at Tonghe, Helen’s is an international student bar with a doona for a door and stairs so steep that they rival the Great Wall. I love Helen’s for many reasons: cheap burgers and pizza, the abundance of late '90s pop music, and their commitment to garnishing my drinks with fancy straws. More than anything Helen’s has been a great location for people watching. We often discuss the impact that China’s booming economy has on rural communities and migration — like we did at our site visit to the Dandelion School, a school for the children of migrant workers that provides each student with housing, clothing and food on top of their comprehensive education — but we rarely give much thought to the youth of the emergent middle class. It has been absolutely fascinating to watch groups of 20-somethings dripping in designer labels flash their cash, buying crates of beer and passing out on tables. Always loud, always drunk, always friendly, the local Chinese students that inhabit Helen’s have provided me with hours of entertainment and a deep insight into the way youth culture has developed in China over the last decade.

Helen's

Our classes have well and truly begun. I can finally order pork buns for myself – in Chinese – without the use of an app, so things must be going well.

Zàijiàn for now!!


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