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2012 Presidential (Non)-Elections: China

This is the tenth in a series of posts on the numerous presidential elections this year. The  first nine posts were on the elections in TaiwanRussiaSenegalFranceEgyptParaguay (not technically an election), Mexico, Venezuela, and the U.S.

The appointment of Xi Jinping as the next president of China has received fairly muted reactions, as in no one side (at least outside of China) is strongly for or against him. The ruling Communist Party of China will continue in power.

The most interesting thing about this appointment is directly related to language and translation. This appointment (which is not finalized until January) is a non-election, just like the ascension of Paraguay's vice president to the presidency earlier this year, but it is different in that it has nothing to do with elections or democratic processes, given that it is a party appointment.

In fact, and here is the linguistic issue, the "president" of China should perhaps not even be called that. I have almost no knowledge of Chinese, but I do know that the word used for the chairman of the CPC is zhǔxí (主席). Translated literally, this means "main seat" or "head seat" (which I know because the same characters exist in Japanese). In other words, the chairman, not the president (in the normal political sense of the word).

This is the word the Chinese have used for their leader ever since Mao entered the scene. The switch in the English translation from "chairman" to "president" is more recent, but in fact "prime minister" or, simply, "chairman" makes a lot more sense. Though no ideological purpose is necessarily behind the change, it certainly allows for misunderstanding.


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In the movie, neither the undocumented immigrants (representative of all the undocumented, but particularly those with upright motives) nor the police (representative of the legal system, including courts, prisons, and immigration) is entirely at fault. Both are stuck in an imperfect, human system.

The viewer is led to sympathize with the undocumented man, an honest landscaper who wants nothing but to work hard so that his one son can have a better life. He’s away from home; his wife left him when his son was little; he has next to nothing; when he does acquire something (a lawn business and pickup with equipment) it gets stolen from him. And yet, the movie does not excuse what he does wrong nor does it try to show him as a man victimized and ruined by the consequences of his actions.

Apart fr…


Read this in English.





今週初めて黒澤明の『隠し砦の三悪人』という映画を見ました。この三悪人とは、だれですか? 三船敏郎が演じる真壁六郎太(まかべろくたろう)と二人の百姓です。この3人の登場人物の関係はとても面白くて、全ての人間の弱さも愛される性質も示します。