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Don Tow's Website http://www.dontow.com Mon, 27 Mar 2017 23:19:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 Site Overview http://www.dontow.com/2017/03/home/ http://www.dontow.com/2017/03/home/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 08:00:04 +0000 http://dontow.com/wordpress/?p=366 The www.dontow.com is the website of Don M. Tow. It contains articles in three topical categories (or pages): Political/Social Commentary, Taiji, and Other Topics.  Currently, a new release of this website is published usually every three months.  The website also has a fourth category “Soccer” about the soccer book that I published in 2006.

Any article in a particular category can be accessed via the corresponding category on the menu bar at the top of the page.  Any article in a particular release can be accessed via the corresponding release on the right sidebar.

This website began in October 2006, and the website has been redesigned twice, once in October 2008, and the second time in November 2009.

We welcome comments from readers.  Readers can directly submit their comments at the end of any article.

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One Belt One Road Initiative: Its Meaning and Significance* http://www.dontow.com/2017/03/one-belt-one-road-initiative-its-meaning-and-significance/ http://www.dontow.com/2017/03/one-belt-one-road-initiative-its-meaning-and-significance/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 06:00:28 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4486 The “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) initiative first announced to the world in the fall of 2013 by President Xi Jinping of China is an extremely ambitious and far-reaching initiative that is not easy to achieve, but has significant potential impacts improving the social and economic structure of a major part of the world around Asia, Europe, and northeastern parts of Africa, where more than half of the world’s population lives.  It could also have significant implications for political stability and peace in that region, as well as for the whole world.  The OBOR initiative proposes to improve the transportation infrastructure among the countries in Asia, Europe, and northeast Africa so that it can give rise to closer and larger economic, social,  cultural, and political ties among these countries and people.  This is a win-win initiative that should benefit not only the more than 50% of the world’s population who are living in that region, but should also contribute to political stability and peace in the whole world.

Many articles have been written about the OBOR initiative in the last 3+ years.  For example, in the October 13, 2015 issue of China-US Focus, He Yafei, former Vice Minister of China’s State Council Office of Overseas Chinese Affairs, wrote an article “Connecting the World Through ‘Belt & Road’.” in which he discussed global economic development and international geopolitical conflicts.  He also showed the following map of OBOR, where the solid line is the land transportation infrastructure and the dotted line is the sea transportation infrastructure.

Example OBOR Map

Example OBOR Map (click on map to enlarge map)

In this essay, we provide a simple analogy to understand the meaning and significance of OBOR.  The analogy is applicable to an important part of the OBOR initiative, although not the whole.

 I.  Analogy:  The analogy to OBOR is to look at the impacts on a metropolitan area from a good, comprehensive subway system.  To be concrete, we will discuss two examples:  Hong Kong and Beijing.

A.  Hong Kong’s Subway System:  The Hong Kong (HK) subway system MTR (Mass Transit Railway) was put into operation in 1979, and has continued to expand during almost four decades.  It provides comprehensive, rapid transportation connecting almost all parts of HK.  It allows one to go from one place to another normally in a matter of tens of minutes, although reaching certain locations may still require connections by small buses.  The subway trains start from early in the morning and operate until late at night; the trains are frequent, fast, clean, safe, and affordable.

What is the significance of HK’s MTR?

  • It means that one can live basically in any part of HK and work in any other part of HK, because one can usually get there in less than one hour.  Conversely, if one is an employer, the potential employees can come from any part of HK.
  • It means that one can shop not only in the stores near where one  lives, but in almost any store in HK.  Conversely, if one is a shop/business owner, one’s customers and employees can come from all parts of HK.
  • It means that one can visit relatives and friends throughout HK.  One doesn’t have to wait till the weekend or have vacation days to make such visits.
  • If one is involved in an activity, e.g., a non-profit organization or a club or a sport, one can meet with other members of that activity from many parts of HK, and not limit to only other members who live nearby.
  • If one wants to further one’s skills (whether it is a professional skill or a sports skill), one can take courses or undergo training in any part of HK.  Conversely, if one is a teacher of such skills, one’s students can come from all parts of HK.
  • If one wants to attend an event, e.g., a concert, movie, or lecture, one can attend that event even if it is held in the opposite end of HK.  Conversely, if one is en event organizer, one can publicize to potential attendees all over HK.

What this means is that from the perspective of work, home, business, recreation, social, etc., HK is basically completely interconnected.  It is no longer a collection of many small localities, where one’s major circle of interactions is within a small locality.  This has tremendous positive consequences in increasing and improving economic drivers, social interactions, recreation and cultural activities, etc.

I lived in HK before the introduction of the HK subway and I have visited HK many times after its installation, I can personally attest to the tremendous increase in the vitality of HK due to the shrinking time and ease of inter-connectivity from the improved transportation infrastructure provided by the HK subway system.

Of course, HK is not the first such example.  For a long time, Paris’s Metro system has been an example for other countries to follow.  I lived in Paris for almost one year in 1977-1978.  At that time, almost without exception no matter where one lives in the large city of Paris, one is always within one-third of a mile from a metro station.  Their trains were also frequent, fast, convenient, clean, safe, and affordable.  That was one of the major contributing factors making Paris an envy of the world.

B.  Beijing’s Subway System Beijing has had a subway for many years.  However, its subway system really did not expand and become more comprehensive until the turn of the 21st century.  I first visited Beijing in the middle 1970s.  At that time, the Beijing subway system was very small (only a few lines) and was not a major transportation system used by the majority of people living in Beijing.  I also lived in Beijing from late 1997 to spring 1999.  Although the Beijing subway system already expanded quite a bit in those 20+ years from the mid 1970s to the late 1990s, it was still not very comprehensive.  Map 1 shows the Beijing subway system in 1997.

Beijing Subway System - 1997

Beijing Subway System – 1997 (click on photo to enlarge photo)

However, since then, the Beijing subway system has really expanded (especially in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics) and has continued to expand, so that it can now be considered as a comprehensive subway system.  Map 2 shows the current Beijing subway system, including some minor planned expansions to 2021.

Current Beijing Subway System

Current Beijing Subway System (click on photo to enlarge photo)

Last time I visited Beijing was in the summer of 2015. then the Beijing subway system can already be considered as a comprehensive system covering all of Beijing.  However, it is still not nearly as comprehensive as Paris; there are many places in Beijing that you may be about one mile from the nearest subway station, but it is comprehensive enough so that the benefits discussed in the HK case (such as improving economics, social interactions, recreation and cultural activities, etc.) can also be realized in Beijing, keeping in mind that Beijing is a much larger city geographically than HK.

II.  OBOR InitiativeKeeping the above analogy in mind, let us now discuss the OBOR initiative which is to improve the transportation infrastructure connecting the various countries in Asia, Europe, and northeast Africa.  One is the land transportation infrastructure (known as the One Belt), mostly via high speed trains.  The other is the sea transportation infrastructure (known as the Maritime Silk Road), via trans-ocean ships.  This is of course a much more ambitious and difficult objective than building a comprehensive metropolitan subway system, because it crosses national boundaries, and involves many different races, cultures, religions, languages, economic and political systems.   However, precisely because of the latter, the potential impacts of the OBOR initiative in terms of regional prosperity, political stability and peace are even more significant.  The potential impact on international political stability and peace goes beyond tha analogy to a metropolitan subway system   We will first discuss the economic and social benefits, and then the political benefits.

A.  Economic and Social BenefitsThere are many economic and social benefits; here are a few examples:

  • The countries in the whole Asia-Europe and also parts of Africa will be convenient trading partners with each other.  One can buy and sell resources and products from a much larger base.  The improved transportation infrastructure by land or sea will significantly shorten the time and cost of transportation as compared to before.
  • For towns and cities near national boundaries, people may cross national boundaries to work and live.  For example, workers and entrepreneurs may work and live in a nearby country during the week, and go back home during the weekend to be with the family, because transportation via high speed trains will take only a few hours to cover hundreds of miles.
  • For locations farther away from national boundaries, people may still cross national boundaries to work and live.  Instead of returning home every week, these workers and entrepreneurs may return home to be with the family only on a monthly basis; transportation by high speed trains should be more affordable and significantly less expensive than by planes.
  • The OBOR transportation infrastructure that crosses national boundaries should lead to increased economic activities in various countries when they expand/improve their internal transportation infrastructure to connect to some of the key centers of OBOR.  For example, the One Belt high speed train will most likely go across the central part of Asia-Europe between East and West.  Russia can connect North-South one or more major towns in the Trans-Siberian Railway to a major stop of one of the One Belt train stations.  This can be repeated in more than one location on the Trans-Siberian Railway, and thus significantly improve the productivity and use of the vast and sparsely populated Siberia.  Similarly, towns/cities near a major port of the Maritime Silk Road can connect their internal transportation infrastructure to one of these ports.
  • If one needs to acquire a skill, be it a work skill or a language skill, it will be much more convenient, effective, and economical to cross national boundaries to acquire that skill.

B.  Political BenefitsAs mentioned before, because OBOR crosses national boundaries and involves people from different countries of different races, cultures, religions, languages, economic and political systems, it is not easy to make it work.  However, precisely because different countries can reap great economic and social benefits from the OBOR initiative, it provides great incentives for the different countries to collaborate to overcome these obstacles.  People from different countries will have to work together, they will need to have a better understanding of the different cultures and languages.  They will have to consider people as human beings, and not Chinese, Russian, Indian, Turks, Saudi Arabian, French, German, etc., or Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc.  They will also have to resolve issues such as tariffs, currencies, and standards (e.g., different railroad gauges).  To share in the prosperity offered by OBOR, the participants will need to work collaboratively and peacefully with each other.  Perhaps the greatest benefit of the OBOR initiative is this increased understanding and tolerance of people of different backgrounds and the recognition of the need to collaborate peacefully with each other, in order to achieve the win-win objective.

III.  Summary:  The OBOR initiative is a major initiative that could give rise to tremendous benefits to countries in Asia, Europe, and northeast Africa.  By expanding and improving the land and sea transportation infrastructure, it can provide many economic and social benefits to all the countries participating in the initiative.  It is a very challenging initiative and not an easy initiative to accomplish because it cuts across national boundaries, races, cultures, religions, languages, economic and political systems.  However, in order to achieve the potential economic and social benefits, there is motivation for all participants to work together collaboratively and in peace to overcome these challenges to result in a win-win situation.  That should lead to prosperity and peace not only in the OBOR region, but perhaps all over the world.  This is then the most significant benefit of the OBOR initiative.

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*A shorter version of this article has been published in the 3/27/2017 issue of China-US Focus: http://www.chinausfocus.com/finance-economy/one-belt-one-road-initiative-its-meaning-and-significance.  The Chinese version can be found at:  http://cn.chinausfocus.com/finance-economy/20170327/14056.html.

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Why Meditation Is An Important Part of Taiji and Qigong http://www.dontow.com/2017/03/why-meditation-is-an-important-part-of-taiji-and-qigong/ http://www.dontow.com/2017/03/why-meditation-is-an-important-part-of-taiji-and-qigong/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 06:00:00 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4516 Introduction:  In an earlier article “Meditation: An Often Neglected Component of Taiji Practice”, it stated that there are three major components of Taiji practice:  Forms, Push Hands, and Meditation.  Essentially all Taiji practitioners practice Forms, and those who are interested in Taiji as a martial art most likely would also practice or have practiced Push Hands.  The article gave several reasons why many Taiji practitioners may have never practiced Meditation, even though it is an important component of Taiji practice and Taiji is often known as Moving Meditation.  That article also mentioned that Meditation is a set of techniques that focus on getting the body and mind to relax and into a deeper level of “quietness.”  In that introductory Meditation article, it wrote “initially, while doing Meditation, the practitioner can breath naturally, i.e., breathe normally.  With experience, more sophisticated breathing techniques could be incorporated.”

This current article discusses some of the more sophisticated breathing techniques in Meditation that make Meditation an important part of Taiji from both the health and martial arts perspectives.

Qigong:  In another earlier article “What Is Qigong?”, we discuss that Qigong is a set of stretching, breathing, and meditation exercises that is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Qigong is something that advanced Taiji practitioners should practice to get as much benefits out of Taiji from both the health and martial arts perspectives.  TCM believes that good health and illnesses are very much related to the proper level and circulation of Qi within the body. with Qi being some sort of bio-electric energy, or life force.  Even though currently there is not a universal scientific definition of Qi that is generally accepted by scientists, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Qi doesn’t exist.  To the many people in this world who have practiced Qigong for an extended period and on a regular basis, Qi is as real to them as their breath, their heartbeat, their conscious mind.  They can feel Qi in their body.  They can guide Qi to circulate to different parts of their body.  They can feel sensations in their body, e.g., tingling sensations in their fingers, when they are practicing Qigong.  We now discuss why the more sophisticated breathing techniques used in Meditation can make your body healthier and stronger.

Purpose of Meditation:  The purpose of Meditation is to relax your body and mind as much as possible, and at the same time increase the intake and circulation of oxygen throughout the whole body. Meditation can be done standing up, sitting down, or lying down.  A key component of Meditation is the breathing technique.  Normally when we breathe, we use “Upper Chest Breathing,” i.e, we expand and contract our upper chest to get the oxygen into our lungs. When we do Meditation, we use “Lower Abdominal Breathing,” also called “Diaphragmatic Breathing”, i.e., we move our diaphragm up and down and expand and contract our lower abdomen.  There are also two types of Lower Abdominal Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing.  One is called “Natural Lower Abdominal Breathing” or “Natural Diaphragmatic Breathing,” and the other is called “Reverse Lower Abdominal Breathing” or “Reverse Diaphragmatic Breathing.”

Natural Lower Abdominal Breathing:  We will first discuss the first type, “Natural Lower Abdominal Breathing” or “Natural Diaphragmatic Breathing.”  With this method, when we inhale, the diaphragm moves downward and the lower abdomen (or tummy) expands outward both toward the front of the body and the back of the body.  When we exhale, the diaphragm moves upward and the lower abdomen contracts both in the front and in the back.  There are two advantages of Lower Abdominal Breathing over the usual Upper Chest Breathing.  One advantage is that with the diaphragm moving downward when we inhale, we expand the upper chest area or the lungs, so that more oxygen can be taken in.  With the diaphragm moving upward when we exhale, it helps to push the carbon dioxide out of the lungs. The second advantage is that with the diaphragm moving up and down and the lower abdomen expanding and contracting, it is like massaging the internal organs that reside in the abdomen.  This is similar to exercising our internal organs when we are breathing in and breathing out.  Just like exercising our muscles and limbs can strengthen them, exercising our internal organs can also strengthen them.

In Meditation, we also try to relax our body and mind, so that we can engage in slower and deeper breaths.  When we slow down and take deeper breaths, we can intake more oxygen and facilitate the circulation of the oxygen, and the blood that carries the oxygen, into various parts of the body.  This means that we are bringing more nutrients into various parts of our body, thus making our body healthier and stronger.  In addition, when our body and mind are relaxed, various bodily functions can also work more efficiently, again making our body healthier and stronger.

This is why long distance runners, singers such as opera singers, and stage performers also practice “Diaphragmatic Breathing” in order to relax and to intake more oxygen, lower the heart rate, sing a longer note, project a stronger voice in a large auditorium.  Because of its health benefits. many yoga exercises also teach and practice “Diaphragmatic Breathing.”

As we mentioned earlier, it is very important to relax not only the body, but also the mind.  This is not easy to achieve especially when our modern life is often multi-faceted.  So it is very easy for the mind to wander, and think about all the tasks that you need to finish on that day or all the problems related to school, work, or family that you need to solve.  When that happens, don’t get upset, just acknowledge it and come back to focus on your breathing and relaxation.  One way to keep your mind from wandering off is to repeat a mantra, i.e., choose a simple word (like peace, harmony, love, hope, relax) and repeat that word over and over.  Once or twice during your meditation, you may want to identify a certain part of your body and ask yourself whether you can relax that part of your body even more.  After you finish with one part of the body, just go on to the parts of your body.

The practice of Meditation can improve the ability to relax your body and mind and the ability to breathe more deeply and more slowly so that you can take in more oxygen and improve its circulation throughout the body, and at the same time exercise your internal organs inside your lower abdomen.  This is why Meditation can make your body healthier and stronger.

Reverse Lower Abdominal Breathing:  We now discuss the second type, “Reverse Lower Abdominal Breathing” or “Reverse Diaphragmatic Breathing.”  Although not as widely practiced as the “Natural Lower Abdominal Breathing,” the “Reverse Lower Abdominal Breathing” is another breathing method that is used by a lot of people, especially by more advanced martial arts practitioners.  With this method, when you inhale, the diaphragm is still lowered, and when you exhale, the diaphragm is still raised.  However, the movement of the lower abdomen is just the opposite of the movement in the “Natural Lower Abdominal Breathing.”  When you inhale, the lower abdomen contracts from both the front and the back of the abdomen.  When you exhale, the lower abdomen expands from both the front and the back of the abdomen. Although it may seem to be unusual to contract the abdomen when inhaling, and expand the abdomen when exhaling, it is not, because this is consistent with what you do when you blow up a balloon.  When you are blowing up a balloon, you are exhaling and the front of your abdomen expands outward. [1]  Similarly, when you push a big, heavy object, you take a deep breath and exhale and push, you will find that your abdomen is expanding outward.  In martial arts, when you are attacking an opponent, it is like pushing an object, and therefore you exhale and expand your abdomen, i.e., Reverse Lower Abdominal Breathing.  Thus, “Reverse Lower Abdominal Breathing” is often used by advanced martial artists.  “Natural Lower Abdominal Breathing” is sometimes known as ‘Buddhist Breathing,” and “Reverse Lower Abdominal Breathing” is sometimes known as “Taoist Breathing.”

SummaryThe essence of Meditation is (1) to relax the body and mind, (2) to increase the intake of oxygen and enhance the circulation of oxygen (and blood) throughout the body, and at the same time (3) to massage the internal organs inside your abdomen.  It achieves this by using “Lower Abdominal Breathing.”  Because all three functions mentioned in the previous sentence can make your body healthier and stronger, Meditation is a very important component of Taiji and Qigong.  There are two types of “Lower Abdominal Breathing.”  “Natural Lower Abdominal Breathing” is more commonly used, and the “Reverse Lower Abdominal Breathing” is used often by advanced martial artists.

I want to end this article with the following quote “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”

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[1] This is an exercise we can all do.  Place one hand on your abdomen and blow out air as though you are blowing up a balloon, you will find that your lower abdomen is expanding and pushing your hand outward.

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Evangelical Christians, the Ten Commandments, and 2016 Presidential Election http://www.dontow.com/2017/03/evangelical-christians-the-ten-commandments-and-2016-presidential-election/ http://www.dontow.com/2017/03/evangelical-christians-the-ten-commandments-and-2016-presidential-election/#comments Wed, 22 Mar 2017 05:00:58 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4537 Introduction:  The results of the recently completed presidential election in the U.S. showed that it was an extremely close election won by Donald Trump over Hilary Clinton.  Trump won the electoral vote by 306 versus 232, but Clinton won the popular vote 48.5% versus 46.4%, or 65,853,516 votes versus 62,984,825.  In the exit polls, there was one statistic that stood out:  The white evangelical Christians voted 81% vs 16% in favor of Trump over Clinton. [1]  Ideally we would like to know the exit polls for various sub-segments of the evangelical Christians, but there were no sub-segment breakdowns.  However,  we do know from pre-election polls that evangelicals of color (about 2 out 5 of all evangelicals) have just the opposite preference, i.e., significantly more in favor of Clinton.

Since Christians should believe in the Bible, including the Ten Commandments, assessing Trump and Clinton as a person (expressed position and behavior) relative to the Ten Commandments should give some guidance on how Christians should vote.  This essay discusses such an assessment and addresses the question whether white evangelical Christians should have voted so overwhelmingly for Trump.

Summary of Assessment of Trump and Clinton With Respect to the Ten CommandmentsTo provide an assessment with respect to each of the Ten Commandments, we take into consideration Trump’s or Clinton’s expressed opinion and his/her behavior (as elaborated in the next section).  For certain Commandments, in particular, for Commandments 1, 2, 3, and 5, there is “not enough information” (NEI) to make a decision on whether Trump or Clinton follows that Commandment more closely.  In those situations, in the table below we designate in the second column (Assessment of Trump) and the third column (Assessment of Clinton) with NEI, and in the fourth column (Who Follows the Commandment More Closely) with ND (no decision).  Our assessment with respect to Trump and Clinton is summarized in the table below.

Commandment Assessment of Trump Assessment of Clinton Who Follows the Commandment More Closely
1.    Shall have no other gods before me NEI NEI ND
2.    Shall not make idols NEI NEI ND
3.    Shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain NEI NEI ND
4.    Remember the Sabbath Less regular church attendance than Clinton More regular church attendance than Trump Clinton
5.    Honor your father and your mother NEI NEI ND
6.    Shall not murder No, in the sense of abortion Yes, in the sense of abortion Trump
7.    Shall not commit adultery Yes, and many more using definition of Matthew 5:28 No Clinton
8.    Shall not steal More (including cheating) Less Clinton
9.    Shall not bear false witness against your neighbor More, in terms of lying Less, in terms of lying Clinton
10. Shall not covet Often Much less often Clinton
LGBTQ Rights For For ND
NEI=Not Enough Information ND=No Decision

 

Besides the Ten Commandments, in the above table we also included the category “LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) Rights” because it is usually an important issue for Christians and often may be lumped  as part of Commandment 7 “Shall not commit adultery.”

Sometimes, Trump or Clinton’s position might have changed over time.  In that situation, we use their position in the few months before the election from the time of the Republican or Democratic National Convention to just before election day.  In the next section, we provide more details on Trump or Clinton’s expressed position.  When a person says one thing and does another thing, i.e., when there is an inconsistency between what a person says and what a person does over time, we use the person’s behavior over time to be the determining factor, because it is easy for an election candidate to say something just to get the voters’ votes even if he/she doesn’t really believe in it.  In the next section, we also provide more details on Trump or Clinton’s behavior to help us make our assessment.

 

More Detailed AssessmentAs already mentioned, there is not enough information on the expressed opinion and behavior over time of Trump or Clinton on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Commandments, and therefore we conclude that it is “No Decision” on “Who Follows the Commandment More Closely.”  We now discuss each of the other six Commandments.

4th Commandment “Remember the Sabbath”:  Both Trump and Clinton claim that they are Christians, and indeed both of them were brought up in Christian families and attended church on a more-or-less regular basis when they were growing up.  However, as adults and especially in the last few years, relatively speaking, Clinton has observed the Sabbath significantly more than Trump.  In summer 2015, Trump told reporters that he attended services at the Marble Collegiate College Church in Manhattan, a famous church where Dr. Norman Vincent Peals was the pastor from 1932 to 1984 and the author of the best-selling book The Power of Positive Thinking.  Shortly after Trump’s remark, that church released a statement to CNN saying that Trump was not an active member of the church.  Furthermore, also in summer 2015 at an event organized by socially conservative Christian organizations, Trump said that he had never asked God for forgiveness.  Later he also said that “he does not have much to apologize for, …, I like to be good.  I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness.  And I am good.  I don’t do a lot of things that are bad.  I try to do nothing that is bad.”  Therefore, for the 4th Commandment, we put down Clinton in the column “Who Follows the Commandment More Closely.”

6th Commandment “Shall not murder”:  Neither Trump or Clinton has actually murdered anyone.  But on the issue of abortion, they do express different opinions, with Trump saying no, and Clinton saying yes.  Trump, however, in 1999 told NBC that he was “very pro-choice.”  He might have held this position to as late as 2011, when he announced that he was “pro-life.”  Furthermore, as in many other issues, it is often not clear that Trump really knew what his position was and would offer conflicting positions within days of each other.  This happened on the abortion issue and he/his team expressed five positions, often inconsistent with each other, within the three days between March 30, 2016 and April 1, 2016.

  • March 30, 2016, 2:30 PM:  Trump said in an interview with MSNBC that women who receive abortions once the procedure is illegal will face punishment.  The men who are involved will not.
  • March 30, 2016, 3:30 PM:  Before the interview was aired by MSNBC, a spokesperson for Trump released a statement changing what Trump had told the interviewer.
  • March 30, 2016, 5 PM:   Trump’s campaign released the following statement “If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal court upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”  Note:  This position is in line with the pro-life movement.
  • April 1, 2016, 6:30 PM:  CBS released an excerpt from an interview with Trump when he said “The laws are set now on abortion and that’s the way they’re going to remain until they’re changed.  I would’ve preferred states’ rights.  I think it would’ve been better if it were up to the states.  But right now, the laws are set … At this moment, the laws are set.  And I think we have to leave it that way.”  Note:  This statement is not in line with the pro-life movement.  As a matter of fact, The pro-life group’s Susan B. Anthony List replied that “Trump had ‘disqualified himself as the GOP nominee’ if this were his position.”
  • April 1, 2016, 9 PM:  Before the program was aired by CBS, the Trump campaign re-frames what Trump said “Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now – until he is president.  Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn.  There is nothing new or different here.”

Since once conception has occurred, a life has been created even if that life cannot sustain himself/herself outside of the mother’s womb, abortion can be considered as murdering that life.  Ignoring Trump’s position switch before 2011 and his often contradictory remarks on abortion and whether he really knows what his position is, we give Trump the decision on this Commandment.

7th Commandment “Shall not commit adultery”:  There is no indication of adultery committed by Hillary Clinton.  On the other hand, Trump carried on a very public affair with Marla Maples, his eventual second wife, while still married to his first wife Ivana Trump.   Furthermore, if we reference Matthew 5:28:  “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” then Trump has committed adultery numerous times.  Just look at the recorded remarks he made in 2005 in an interview with Billy Bush of Access Hollywood.  Only the cleaner excerpt is included here “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”  The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.”  On the other hand, there is no evidence of anything anywhere close to this involving Hillary Clinton.  So on this Commandment, the decision clearly goes to Clinton.

8th Commandment “Shall not steal”:  Although there might not be clear-cut proof that Trump stole from someone, there are a lot of cases that indicate that Trump cheated on many people.   When you cheat people out of money, that is essentially stealing money from these people.  We will mention only a few examples.  The first one is that Trump refused to pay many of his workers and contractors.  Trump would often respond that they did shoddy work, and so he didn’t have to pay these people.  However, when there are hundreds of such cases, it is extremely unlikely that all of these allegations were false.  In some cases, even the lawyers Trump hired to defend him have sued him for failing to pay their fees.  Another example is the Trump University where many of the students have filed lawsuits that Trump University was a scam and that they were not taught the skills that were advertised, and in November 2016, Trump agreed to settle a series of such lawsuits for $25 million payment. Another example is that Trump’s companies have declared bankruptcy four times in his career. [2]  However, it seems that in each case, he was able to arrange to sell off his share to the company or its investors, so that it is these other people who bore more or most of the financial loss so that he never had to declare personal bankruptcy.  Many other examples of Trump’s cheating can be found here.

What about Clinton?  Since retiring as Secretary of State in 2013, Clinton has made millions giving speeches, usually at around $200,000 per speech, with many speeches giving to financial companies.  There doesn’t seem to be copies of these speeches making them widely available, an indication that perhaps the speeches were not that valuable to a larger audience.  So it seems that the reason that these companies are willing to pay so much is to buy influence with Clinton.  In a sense then, this is like stealing money from these companies, and ultimately essentially from the public.

Therefore, both Trump and Clinton are assessed as violating this Commandment.  Because Trump’s violations are in so many fronts and more frequent, we give Clinton the decision on this Commandment.

9th Commandment “Shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”:  This is equivalent to who tells the most lies.  Actually, many of the examples we discussed for the previous Commandment “Shall not steal” are also examples of lying.

In addition to the ones already discussed for the previous Commandment, here we give two more examples involving Trump.  One example is when the Trump Foundation donates money to some one or organization, there have been instances that the money actually came from someone else or some other organization, and Trump has also used some of the Trump Foundation money to settle his own legal disputes.   Another example is that Trump is lying when he says that the reason he cannot release his income tax returns is because they are under audit.  This is completely false, because an income tax return that is under audit is also allowed to be released.  Furthermore, tax returns that are older than seven years can no longer be audited, but Trump hasn’t released his tax returns for many years.

What about Clinton?  Clinton has also lied with respect to her private email server.  In particular, there were some classified information contained in some of her emails via her private email server.  Although the government’s investigation of this issue is probably not completely over yet, the FBI on November 6, 2016, two days before the election, concluded that Clinton shouldn’t be charged.

Therefore, with respect to this Commandment about lying, because of the frequency and range of occurrence with respect to Trump, we also give Clinton the decision on this Commandment.

10th Commandment “Shall Not Covet”:  The word “covet” means the desire to possess or have something, such as someone’s money or someone’s wife or husband.  As previously discussed with respect to the 7th Commandment “Shall not commit adultery,” especially following the definition of Matthew 5:28, Trump has on so many occasions coveted other people’s wives or girlfriends.  So the decision on this Commandment clearly goes to Clinton.

As mentioned previously, we also added an additional item “LGBTQ” rights, because it is an important issue for Christians and sometimes is lumped together with the 7th Commandment on adultery.  On this issue of LGBTQ rights, unlike the evangelical Christian establishment, both Trump and Clinton are for it.  Therefore, on this issue we decided that there is no decision.

ConclusionOf the Ten Commandments, there is no decision on four of them.  On five of the Commandments, the decision goes to Clinton, while on only one Commandment, the decision goes to Trump.  It is clear then that based on the Ten Commandments, evangelical Christian voters should vote clearly for Clinton.  This was obviously not the case for white evangelical Christians who voted five-to-one in favor of Trump.

White evangelical Christians (like other voters) took into consideration other issues, e.g., affirmative action, amount of government regulation, global warming/climate change, gun control, healthcare, homeland security, immigration, war on terrorism, welfare, etc.  For an easy to understand classification of the views of conservatives and liberals relative to 20 issues, see the article “Conservative vs. Liberal Beliefs.”  The views of white evangelical Christians usually are more aligned with the views of conservatives rather than the views of liberals, i.e., conservatives support Trump much more significantly than liberals.

Evangelical Christians, however, are supposed to be Christians.  They should place a lot of importance on the views of the presidential candidate on the Bible’s Ten Commandments.  In other words, they should place more weight on issues related to the Ten Commandments than on other issues.  Therefore, from that perspective, when white evangelical Christians voted at the 2016 presidential election. did they really behave like Christians?

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[1] Catholics are not included as part of evangelical Christians.  The exit polls showed that white Catholics voted 60% to 37% in favor of Trump over Clinton, as compared to white evangelical Christians voted 81% to 16% in favor of Trump over Clinton.

[2] Note that National Review is a conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley.

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U.S.-China Relationship Can Use Another Anson Burlingame* http://www.dontow.com/2016/12/u-s-china-relationship-can-use-another-anson-burlingame/ http://www.dontow.com/2016/12/u-s-china-relationship-can-use-another-anson-burlingame/#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2016 08:00:54 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4444 Who Was Anson Burlingame?  Anson Burlingame, a name of which most people have probably never heard, was a unique diplomat. He was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln as the U.S.’ Ambassador to China [1] in 1861-1867. Then, China appointed him as China’s Ambassador [2] to All the Treaty Powers, including the U.S., in 1867-1870, when on a mission to Russia he caught pneumonia and died at the early age of 49 in St. Petersburg.

Mark Twain wrote the following obituary for Burlingame: “In real greatness, ability, grandeur of character, and achievement, Anson Burlingame stood head and shoulders above all the Americans of to-day, save one or two…He was a good man, and a very great man. America lost a son, and all the world a servant, when he died.”

The middle of the 19th century was a period where China was forced to sign many unequal treaties with various foreign powers, including the U.S. China was essentially partitioned so that she did not even have sovereignty over her own country. China became weaker physically, militarily, and economically. Many of her citizens were addicted to opium initially brought in and sold by Britain, but unknown to most Americans, many Americans were also directly involved and enriched themselves greatly from the opium trade with China. [3]  These unequal treaties caused the Chinese people to have strong sentiments against the foreign powers. Burlingame, as the U.S. Ambassador to China, saw that this kind of foreign policy was not just immoral and unjust, but had the foresight to realize that, in the long run; this kind of foreign policy was not in the best interests of the U.S. and the American people. If this continued, sooner or later the Chinese people would rise up and throw out all the foreign powers. Then, the U.S would be shut off from a huge market for American products and access to the vast Chinese natural resources and cheap labor.

Burlingame began making changes in the U.S. foreign policy starting with allowing Chinese citizens to be witnesses in the American courts in China. Taking the cue from the American domestic abolitionist movement of 1860s promoting the “equality of men,” he worked with Secretary of State William H. Seward to change the American foreign policy toward China to be based on the “equality of nations.” China sensed that Burlingame was a man of integrity and wisdom and had the vision to see what, in the long term, was in the best interests of the U.S. and China. So, China offered Burlingame the job of China’s Ambassador to All the Treaty Powers, including the U.S. Realizing that this is an opportunity to alter the relationship between the U.S. and China that would benefit both nations, Burlingame set aside his personal goal of running for higher office in the U.S. and accepted the position.

Burlingame Treaty of 1868It was not an easy task to persuade the U.S. Senate to change a foreign policy of unequal treaties to a foreign policy based on the equality of nations. Using all his oratorical skills and working closely with Secretary of State Seward, Burlingame was successful in persuading the U.S. Senate to ratify what came to be known as the Burlingame Treaty, which President Andrew Johnson signed in 1868. This treaty was based on equality of nations and provided reciprocity on various foreign relationships between the U.S. and China.

Such a treaty would have established a solid foundation for selling American products in China, accessing China’s vast natural resources, and utilizing China’s cheap labor, and would have resulted in a win-win situation for both countries. Unfortunately, Burlingame died in February 1870 while on a mission to Russia. Most of the treaty was never implemented. Furthermore, with the assassination of President Lincoln and the stall of the reconstruction movement, the Burlingame Treaty was basically repealed in the following decade. The U.S. continued her imperialistic attitude toward China based on military might, and extremely anti-Chinese discriminatory laws were passed in the U.S., with the most noteworthy being the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which is the only law in American history to deny citizenship or entry based on a specific nationality. This act remained in effect until 1943 when the U.S. and China were allies during WWII.

America’s Foreign Policy Toward China Since the Late 1940sLet’s look at American foreign policy toward China since WWII. Ever since the late 1940s when it appeared that the Chinese Communists would win the civil war in China, the U.S. has adopted a China policy that is not based on equality of nations but rather a policy to surround, isolate, and weaken China.

The first policy was the decision not to prosecute Emperor Hirohito, even though he was a hands-on emperor who was fully aware of and approved what Japan did during the war. [4][5]  If the Emperor of Japan did not do anything wrong, then Japan does not have to apologize for its massive atrocities during WWII, which Japan still has not, even though 71 years have passed since the end of WWII.

After the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was established in 1949, U.S. did not recognize PRC for 30 years. U.S. orchestrated the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty that was the official treaty ending WWII with Japan. China, the country that suffered the most damage from Japan, was not (neither the PRC or Republic of China) invited to attend, although over 50 other countries were invited. This treaty only stated that Japan should relinquish former Chinese territories such as Taiwan, but did not explicitly say that they should be returned to China. This intentional twisting of history by the U.S. to the detriment of China has since been repeated on several occasions by U.S. senior government officials that the agreement was that Japan would give up their jurisdiction over Taiwan, Penghu, and other territories, but the receiving country of these territories was not specified. For example, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, co-author of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, said in 1955 “the treaty ceded Taiwan to no one; that Japan merely renounced sovereignty over Taiwan, and that America cannot, therefore, admit that the disposition of Taiwan is merely an internal problem of China.”  Therefore, as early as 1951, it was already fairly clear about the imperialistic intention of the U.S. toward China and their planting the seed to ally with Japan to isolate and weaken China.

On December 25, 1953, the U.S. Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (also known as Okinawa Prefecture) issued, with no legal grounds whatsoever, Civil Administration Proclamation No. 27 and unilaterally included the Diaoyu Islands as part of the Ryukyu Islands whose administrative rights would be handed over to Japan in 1972. Although on many occasions the U.S. would state that it does not take a position regarding the territorial sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, the U.S. would also claim that these islands are covered under the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty. This complicity of the U.S. helped to create a dispute which should not have existed in the first place. In other words, U.S. showed itself willing to go to war with China with no moral or legal justification.

Regarding the South China Sea dispute, American mass media and speeches of American political leaders constantly criticize China for violating international laws as specified under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, studying the facts about this issue will lead to the conclusion that, yes, there is an abuse of power, but the country doing the abuse is the U.S., not China. [6]  The U.S. has accused China of military aggression and creating instabilities in the world, but it is the U.S. that has military bases all around China, and has military alliances with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand. The U.S.’s huge 7th Fleet is patrolling the waters all around China with 60-70 ships and submarines, 200 to 300 aircrafts, and about 40,000 sailors and marines.

The so-called pivot to Asia by the U.S. is really just an intensified continuation of her long policy to surround, isolate, and weaken China.

Is the American Foreign Policy Toward China in the Best Interests of the U.S. and the American People?  During the 65+ years of the U.S.’s surround/isolate/weaken foreign policy toward China, China might have been surrounded and often isolated, but she is definitely not getting weaker nor isolated. Based on the number of countries showing interest in China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative to interconnect China and most of Asia and Europe and the related Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), China is growing economically stronger, and more connected with the global economy.

Of course, every country’s first priority is for the welfare of their country. I have no quarrel with that. I do, however, wonder if U.S. foreign policy toward China is in the best interests of the U.S. and the American people over the long term.

Allying so closely will Japan could result in irreparable damage to the U.S.’ claim as an advocate of justice and human rights, since Japan has not admitted and apologized for the massive and inhumane atrocities that she inflicted all over Asia during WWII.

Through various mutual-defense treaties, the U.S. is ready to go to war with China over disputes that the U.S. has no legal or moral reasons to be involved. A war with China would be an extremely costly and protracted war, perhaps involving nuclear weapons. There will be no winners in a nuclear war in the 21st century between the world’s top two economies.

While competing with China, instead of adopting an uncalled-for antagonistic attitude, the U.S. should work together with China to solve many of the world’s critical problems, such as fighting against terrorism, environmental protection, world hunger, and world peace. At the same time, the U.S. can join China and other countries to improve inter-country, inter-continent infrastructure, e.g., transportation via high-speed trains. Working together on these projects not only is beneficial to the world, but U.S. companies and workers would also share in the benefits of working on these huge, cutting-edge, and profitable projects, which could lead to vast economic opportunities that these projects might open up.

Instead of adopting a Tonya Harding-like foreign policy to unfairly attack her main Olympics ice skating competitor Nancy Kerrigan, the U.S. should focus its energy to look within herself to improve her country’s competitiveness as a whole, which should bring vast economic benefits to the American people.

In the long run, the current U.S. policy to surround, isolate, and weaken China is not in the best interests of the U.S. and the American people. U.S. should pursue a win-win-win strategy: Win for the U.S., win for China, and win for world peace.

With the recent change of political leadership in the U.S., it is an opportune time for the Trump administration to take a fresh look at the U.S.’s foreign policy toward China.   Since President-Elect Trump’s selection as the U.S. Ambassador to China, Iowa governor Terry Branstad, has a long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, it could lead to warmer relationship with China. On the other hand, Trump has always been a severe critic of China. Will he heighten the U.S.’s policy to surround, isolate, and weaken China, or will he, perhaps after some twists and turns, realize that the best interests of the U.S. and the American people will be served by a policy that is based on equality of nations. We just have to wait to see which path that policy will turn out.

Like Anson Burlingame’s vision, a 21st century U.S. policy toward China must also be based on equality of nations. It must be based on understanding history and culture and that different countries with different historical and cultural backgrounds may do things differently. Treating other countries as equal will lead to long-term friendships, cooperation, and win-win for everyone.

Which American leaders will stand up head and shoulders above the others? The U.S. and the American people, as well as the rest of the world, will benefit from such leadership. Using Mark Twain’s words, who will become this great man, a son of America, and a servant of the world? [7]

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* A slightly shorter version of this article of the same title is published in December 20, 2016 of China-US Focus:  English version:  http://www.chinausfocus.com/foreign-policy/us-china-relationship-can-use-another-anson-burlingame.  Chinese version:  http://cn.chinausfocus.com/foreign-policy/20161219/11328.html

[1] His official title was “Minister to Qing Empire,” but it is equivalent to today’s “Ambassador to China.”

[2] His official title was “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary,” but it is equivalent to today’s “Ambassador.”

[3] Among them were Warren Delano (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s maternal grandfather), Caleb Cushing, Francis Blackwell Forbes (Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry’s great-grandfather), John Murray Forbes, John Cleve Green, Abiel Abbot Low, Thomas H. Perkins, and Samuel Russell.  This group of people, all made their huge fortunes from the opium trade with China, then invested their fortunes in various industries, such as railroads, mines, manufacturing, technology, real estates, that helped to transform the U.S. in the second half of the 19th century.  They also contributed greatly to the financial support of various Ivy League universities.    For more information, see James Bradley, The China Mirage:  The Hidden History of American Disaster in China, Little Brown and Company, 2015.

[4] Herbert P. Nix, Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd; 2001.

[5] David Bergamini, Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy, William Morrow, 1971.  I thank Adam Jonas Horowitz for informing me about David Bergamini and his 1971 book.

[6] For background information and a discussion of this issue, see Don M. Tow, “South China Sea Dispute:  Abuse of World Power,” China-US Focus, September 15, 2016:  http://www.chinausfocus.com/foreign-policy/south-china-sea-dispute-abuse-of-world-power.

[7] More information on Anson Burlingame can be found in the following two articles in my website:

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Sensory Awareness and Taiji http://www.dontow.com/2016/12/sensory-awareness-and-taiji/ http://www.dontow.com/2016/12/sensory-awareness-and-taiji/#respond Tue, 20 Dec 2016 07:00:24 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4394 Sensory Awareness is a field of health science that emphasizes that awareness of our sensory perceptions can contribute positively to our physical and mental health, as well as a positive outlook on life and a more caring attitude toward others and the society as a whole.  Sensory Awareness sharpens our senses to provide a more heightened connection of our senses to ourselves and everything else around us.  Sensory Awareness can also facilitate our body’s inherent healing ability.

Sensory Awareness is also known as mindfulness or part of the human potential movement.  The emergence of Sensory Awareness in the U.S. is usually credited to Charlotte Selver (1901-2003), originally a German music teacher who studied with Elsa Gindler of Berlin, and then emigrated to New York in 1938.  Beginning in the late 1950s to early 1960s, she started to teach what later became known as Sensory Awareness at the New School for Social Research in New York and the Esalen Institute in California.  She and  other leading intellectuals of that period (e.g., Erich Fromm, Alan Watts, Fritz and Laura Perls, Shunryu Suzuki, and many others) helped to establish and grow the human potential movement that is now often part of the portfolio of physical therapy and psychotherapy treatment options.

At the suggestion of a relative that Sensory Awareness could be beneficial to my Taiji practice, I participated at the “Sensory Awareness:  Meditation in Action” Workshop at the Garrison Institute in NY October 7-9, 2016. [1]  In this article I would like to share my thoughts on some of the relationships between Taiji and Sensory Awareness.

In the October workshop, one of the instructors told us that we should be constantly asking ourselves questions such as “how do I feel?” and “how do I feel with respect to the environment?”  Asking and answering these questions would heighten our senses and keep us more in touch with our perceptions, and lead us to take proper actions.

Let me elaborate with the following example.  When I get up in the morning, as soon as I get out of bed, I should ask “how do I feel?  If my answer is that I feel a chill in the air, then I would put on a sweater or sweatshirt and put on socks to keep me warm and from catching a cold.  Later when I go outside to pick up the newspaper on the driveway, I should ask “how do I feel with respect to the environment?”  If my answer is that the outside temperature is cold and there may be frost on the driveway, then I would walk slowly and carefully and pay special attention to the spots I am stepping on, to avoid slipping on an icy spot on the driveway.  Shortly after I come back into the house, I begin to hear a small hissing sound from the water kettle I am boiling water to make coffee.  So I turn off the stove (or the electric water kettle) to avoid possible water boiling over from the kettle and damaging the nearby counter top or floor.  By raising my awareness of my senses, I am more in tune with my environment, and I will take appropriate actions to keep me healthy and my house save from accidents.  The above examples may be trivial and my reactions may be automatic.  That is true, but it may be due to the fact that I have already previously encountered these examples many times.  So I don’t even have to ask myself these questions and then answer these questions.  But that is the point.  Even when I am facing new situations that I have not encountered before, my sensing and response should be second nature and automatic.  In other words, my sensory awareness should always be on, and it should already become part of me.

Now let me apply the above lessons to practicing Taiji.  When I am doing a Taiji form set, very often I have to move one foot forward (to be specific, let’s say the left foot).  If I step forward with the left foot and put it along the line right in front of my right foot, I should ask myself how do I feel?  My answer is I will be in an unstable position, because as soon as my center of gravity is outside of that line between my two feet, I will fall.  I should also ask myself how do I feel with respect to the environment?  In this case, the environment is my opponent from a martial arts perspective.  I know that my opponent will recognize that I am in an unstable position, and he will attack my instability.  Therefore, when I step forward, I should place my left foot forward  but about one shoulder-width to the left of my right foot.  Then I will be in a stable position, and I will not be vulnerable to an attack on my unstable position by my opponent.  This is the reason why one of the fundamental principles of Taiji is almost never place your two feet with one foot right in front of the other foot.

Let’s consider another Taiji example.  Suppose I am engaged in a “push hands” competition with my opponent.  If my hands and body (especially the hand that is in touch with my opponent’s hand) are tense, I ask myself how do I feel?  My answer is that I cannot easily sense my opponent’s intention or his next movement.  If I ask how does my opponent feel , my answer is that my opponent can easily detect my intention or my next movement.  If I don’t know my opponent and my opponent knows me, then I have already lost half the battle.   Therefore, I should relax my hands and body (especially the hand that is in touch with my opponent’s hand), then I can more easily detect my opponent’s intention or next movement, and my opponent cannot easily detect my intention or next movement.  This leads to the most fundamental principle of Taiji that the body and mind must be relax.  It is this relaxation that makes Taiji a good health exercise from the health perspective and a good martial art from the martial arts perspective.  For an experienced Taiji practitioner, proper placement and relaxation of various parts of the body become second nature and automatic, and do not require asking and answering various questions.

There are other relationships between Taiji and Sensory Awareness.  Breathing and awareness of breathing are very important in Sensory Awareness.  In Taiji, paying attention to and integrating breathing to Taiji movements are also very important from both the health perspective and the martial arts perspective.  In Sensory Awareness, meditation is an important method to increase  perception and facilitate the body’s internal healing.  Taiji is also known as “Moving Meditation.”  So meditation, which is an integral part of Qigong, is an exercise that all advanced Taiji practitioners should practice.  Meditation is an important method to increase internal strength and increase circulation of Qi (the internal life force in Qigong) and decrease the blockage of Qi, both are vital to good health according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

With respect to Sensory Awareness, the fundamental principle of asking and answering questions regarding your feelings about yourself and your environment is similar with respect to Taiji to asking and answering questions about proper placement and relaxation of various parts of the body.  In either case, for a beginner, this may require some conscious effort, but for an experienced practitioner, it should become second nature and automatic.

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[1] More information about Sensory Awareness can be found in the Sensory Awareness Foundation Newsletter:  www.sensoryawareness.org.

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An Inspirational, Crucial Battle in Shanghai in 1937: The Battle of 800 Heroes http://www.dontow.com/2016/12/an-inspirational-crucial-battle-in-shanghai-in-1937-the-battle-of-800-heroes/ http://www.dontow.com/2016/12/an-inspirational-crucial-battle-in-shanghai-in-1937-the-battle-of-800-heroes/#comments Tue, 20 Dec 2016 06:00:12 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4418 A famous battle in Shanghai at the boundary of the International Concession Area in front of the world’s mass media that lasted five days (October 26-31, 1937) inspired the whole Chinese nation in a dark hour in Chinese modern history.  That is known as the “Defense of the Sihang Warehouse (四行仓库),” or “The Battle of 800 Heroes,” and sometimes referred to as “China’s Alamo.”

Japan invaded China on September 18, 1931 and started the Second Sino-Japanese War that lasted until the end of WWII in 1945.  However, massive wide-scale military battles did not begin until the July 7, 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident when Japan crossed the Marco Polo Bridge and invaded Beijing.  Shortly after that, Japan’s forces descended on Shanghai   Although Japan at that time openly proclaimed that they would conquer all of China in three months.  But it took them more than three months (August 13, 1937-November 26, 1937) just to conquer Shanghai.  The Battle of Shanghai showed Japan and the world that the Chinese people would not give up easily and would resist Japan’s aggression with their hearts and souls.

After about two months of the Battle of Shanghai, The Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek realized that they would eventually lose in a head-on battle with Japan in Shanghai, and would cause a huge number of casualty of the Nationalist forces. So he decided to retreat most of his forces to the western rural areas of Shanghai and eventually even further west to Chongqing (formerly known as Chungking) which became China’s capital during the rest of the war. To give time for the hundreds of thousands of Nationalist troops to retreat, they put a small number of troops in a large strongly fortified building that the Japanese troops would have to pass to chase after the retreating Nationalist forces. Chiang Kai-shek thought that if the Japanese advance could be stalled until an early November 1937 meeting of the Nine Nation Foreign Powers, then perhaps these foreign powers would criticize Japan for her aggression and perhaps even provide some assistance to the Chinese.

The large strongly fortified building was the Sihang Warehouse located right on the north side of the Suzhou River. This was a large (over 1,800 square meters) six-story building that served as the warehouse for four large Chinese banks, and had thick reinforced concrete walls. On the south side of the Suzhou River was the International Concession Area where large number of citizens of Great Britain, France, Germany, U.S., Russia, and other Western powers reside. Because it was so near the International Concession Area, the Japanese forces did not dare to use artillery fire from their naval ships docked at Shanghai or drop bombs from their bombers to destroy the Sihang Warehouse, for fear that a misfire could anger the Western powers and cause them to join in the war against Japan. So it was an ideal choice for its purpose. Since its purpose was only to slow down the advance of the Japanese troops and it appeared to be a suicidal mission, the Nationalist government put only a few hundred troops in the warehouse, because it could not afford to lose more troops. The number of troops was only about 420 or battalion size from the 88th Division, but it was publicized to the world as 800 in order to make Japan think that there was a stronger defense. This defense of the Sihang Warehouse became known as the Battle of the 800 Heroes.

Below is a photo of the Sihang Warehouse taken on July 10, 2015 (clicking on the photo can enlarge the photo).  The holes were the results of cannon attacks by Japanese troops during the five-day battle October 26-November 1, 1937.

Now the Shanghai Sihang Warehouse Battle Memorial: Cannon holes were kept as reminder of the fierce battles in 1937.

Now the Shanghai Sihang Warehouse Battle Memorial: Cannon holes were kept as reminder of the fierce battles in 1937.

The commander of the Sihang Warehouse defense was Lietenant Colonel Xie Jinyuan (謝晉元), who actually volunteered for this mission. Faced with the Japanese forces numbered more than 200,000, Xie knew that this was a dangerous and most likely a suicidal mission, so he had already written his “farewell” letter to his wife. In a meeting with all his troops, while explaining to them the importance of their mission and rallying their morale, he also instructed them to each write a farewell letter to their family. Since many of the regular army members were already killed during the previous two months of the Battle of Shanghai, many of the 400+ defenders were young new recruits from the nearby area. A lot of them were 15, 16, or 17 year old who were not highly educated, and had never written a letter before, and sometimes didn’t even know how to write. Xie instructed the older or more educated soldiers to help the young or less educated soldiers to write their farewell letters. It was a highly emotional meeting where many tears were shed, but also created close bonds among the soldiers.

Although many of the defenders were young and inexperienced, they fought with all their might and heart. They successfully fought back every attempt by the Japanese troops to attack the warehouse, while suffering only small casualty. The following incident illustrates the bravery of these young soldiers. A large number of Japanese soldiers under the cover of large metal plates over them were trying to dig and insert dynamite under a wall of the building, upon seeing that their bullets couldn’t penetrate the metal plates, a young 21 year old soldier, Chen Shusheng (陈树生), tied a dozen hand grenades to his body and jumped out of the building and exploded the grenades among the Japanese soldiers, sacrificing himself but keeping the wall from being destroyed.

Because the Sihang Warehouse was located just across the river from the International Concession Area, it was closely watched by the Chinese and Western people and media. During the day, hundreds or even thousands of people would line the streets across the Suzhou River to observe the actions. The Chinese observers would cheer whenever the Chinese defenders had any success. At night, truckloads of supplies, donated by Chinese citizens, would be delivered to the defenders. Under the cover of darkness at night on the evening of October 28, 1937, Yang Huimin (杨惠敏), a young Chinese 22 year-old girl scout, delivered a Republic of China flag and other things to the Chinese defenders. [1]  On the morning of October 29, 1937, 30,000 Chinese citizens across the river cheered wildly when they saw the Chinese flag flying on top of the Sihang Warehouse. The defense of the Sihang Warehouse became a symbol of the Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion, and boosted morale all over China, as well as overseas. There was wide coverage of the defense of the Sihang Warehouse by the international media. As a matter of fact, the November 8, 1937 issue of Time Magazine had an article on the defense of the Sihang Warehouse. [2]

After about five days of fierce battle and losing about 200 Japanese soldiers while the Chinese side lost only about 10 soldiers, the Japanese realized that it would take many more days to subdue the defenders at the warehouse while losing many more Japanese soldiers.  The foreigners in the International Concession Area also didn’t want the battle to be so close to them.  So the foreign powers, with concurrence from Japan, submitted a petition to the Chinese Nationalist Government to stop the fighting for “humanitarian concerns.” To Chiang Kai-shek, the battle was already won as most of the Chinese troops in Shanghai had already retreated and successfully redeployed to defend more favorable positions, and this battle had already caught the attention of the Western world. So he agreed for the defending Chinese soldiers to retreat.  An agreement was reached with the Western powers and Japan for the Chinese defending troops to retreat to the foreign concessions and then rejoin the Chinese 88th Division.  However, later Japan reneged on the agreement, and threatened Britain with invasion to their concession area if the Chinese troops were allowed to rejoin the 88th Division.   So British troops seized all the weapons of the Chinese soldiers and placed them under arrest.  They were detained by the British for more than three years until after the Pearl Harbor attack. During their detainment, many Chinese citizens and groups visited them, gave them performances, and even taught them foreign languages, mathematics, and other subjects.

When Great Britain and the U.S. declared war on Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack and Japan’s invasion of Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaya, the Japanese forces occupied the foreign concessions in Shanghai and captured the Chinese soldiers.  Then the Chinese soldiers were shipped off to various places to do hard labor.  Thirty six of them were sent to Papua New Guinea to do hard labor, and in 1945 when the war went against Japan, they overpowered their captors and took them prisoners instead.

While Xie and the Chinese defenders were still detained by the British, Japan offered Xie to free his troops if they all disarm and left Shanghai as refugees, not as soldiers.  Xie did not agree to these terms.   After rejecting several offers from Wang Jingwei’s government, a Chinese puppet, collaborative government of Japan after the Nationalists retreated to Chongqing, Xie was assassinated on April 24, 1941 by four members of his own troops, who were bribed by Wang Jingwei.  All four attackers were immediately captured. Xie died as a national hero.  More than 100,000 people turned up for his funeral, and he was posthumously made a brigadier general of the Chinese National Revolutionary Army.

The Defense of the Sihang Warehouse has since been revered as the Battle of 800 Heroes.  It is also sometimes referred to as “China’s Alamo.”  Unlike the Alamo, the Chinese defenders did not all died.  As a matter of fact, most of them survived.  This Battle of 800 Heroes became a rallying cry all over China, as well as among oversea Chinese to build up support and raise morale and confidence that China will ultimately defeat Japan in this Second Sino-Japanese War.

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[1] Sometimes one may read articles that state that she delivered the flag by swimming across the Suzhou River.  Most likely that was an exaggeration, and she might have delivered the flag through another method, perhaps through a not-well-known back door or hole on one of the rear walls of the Sihang Warehouse.

[2] When the New Jersey Alliance for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (NJ-ALPHA) visited Sihang Warehouse in Shanghai as part of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Asia Study Tour in July 2015, the Sihang Warehouse was just being converted to a museum.  Since it was not quite finished and it was raining hard, we stayed inside our bus parked in front of the museum and heard an excellent talk by Mr. Zhang Zhong (张众), Vice Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Cultural Affairs of Zhabei District in Shanghai.  He told us about the Time Magazine article, and wondered whether we can help them get a copy.  Upon returning home, one of the teachers participating in our tour found a copy for sale at e-bay.  NJ-ALPHA purchased this copy and has given it to Mr. Zhang, and it will be displayed in the Sihang Warehouse Museum. I want to thank Mr. Zhang for giving us such an excellent talk, which became the basis of this article. I also want to thank Mr. Wu Zukang (吴祖康) for helping us to arrange this visit.

 

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South China Sea Dispute: Abuse of World Power* http://www.dontow.com/2016/09/south-china-sea-dispute-abuse-of-world-power/ http://www.dontow.com/2016/09/south-china-sea-dispute-abuse-of-world-power/#respond Fri, 23 Sep 2016 07:00:09 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4319 In the last two-three months a recurring major news item is the dispute over the South China Sea and the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal (AT) and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA).  If you read the reports from American mass media and the comments from American political leaders, the impression that you get is that China has violated international laws as specified under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and that China is bullying her smaller neighbors and is posing a military threat to the world.

Is that really consistent with the truth?  This article provides the background information to understand this issue and to reach a decision.  The decision shows that yes there is an abuse of power, but the country doing the abuse is not China.

What Is the Dispute?  In the South China Sea (see map), there are two main sets of islands, the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands, as well as a few other islands (for simplicity, in the rest of this article, reference to Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands will include these other islands).

 South China Sea Islands: Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands

South China Sea Islands:  Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands

Both consist of many small islands and reefs, and especially for the Spratly Islands, the various features are claimed by Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam.

What Is UNCLOS?  UNCLOS stands for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  It is defined by a 200-page international agreement under the UN that became effective in 1994.  It defines terms such as territorial waters, exclusive economic zones, and continental shelves, as well as specifying the privileges of their owners.  For example, in Part II (Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone), Section 2 (Limits of the Territorial Sea), Article 15 (Delimitation of the territorial sea between States with opposite or adjacent coasts), after defining the delimitation lines, it states “The above provision does not apply, however, where it is necessary by reason of historic title or other special circumstances to delimit the territorial seas of the two States in a way which is at variance therewith).  In other words, historical rights are key to determining territorial sovereignty, which is a critical point, and will be discussed more later in this article.

UNCLOS also specifies the procedure to follow in the instance of disputes.  In Part XV (Settlement of Disputes), Section 2 (Compulsory Procedures Entailing Binding Decisions), Article 287 (Choice of Procedures), UNCLOS provides three procedures for settlement of disputes:

  1. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), an independent judicial body established by UNCLOS in Hamburg, Germany
  2. The International Court of Justice (ICJ),  the principal judicial organ of the UN established in The Hague, Netherlands [1]
  3. An arbitral tribunal constituted in accordance with Annex VII (Arbitration), which is the default procedure of dispute settlement if the parties have not agreed to a procedure

There is also a 4th procedure for certain special categories which are not relevant for our discussion.

Arbitral Tribunal (AT) and Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA):  Article 5 (Procedure) of Annex VII states “Unless the parties to the dispute otherwise agree, the arbitral tribunal shall determine its own procedure.”   The arbitral tribunal (AT) usually hires the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) which provides administrative services (e.g., linguistic, research, other support services) for hire.   PCA is not a court in the conventional understanding of that term but an administrative organization with the object of having permanent and readily available means to provide administrative services.  It is also located in The Hague, Netherlands, but it is not the International Court of Justice (ICA), which some media articles and political leaders purposely mixed up. [1]  It is also not the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), which again some media articles and political leaders purposely mixed up.

Article 298 (Optional exceptions to applicability of Section 2) states that “a State may, without prejudice to the obligations arising under Section 1 (General Provisions) of Part XV, declare in writing that it does not accept any one or more of the procedures provided for in Section 2 with respect to one or more of the following categories of disputes.” The categories listed include Article 15 (the delimitation of the territorial sea between States with opposite or adjacent coasts).  That is exactly what China did.  From the very beginning, China declared in writing that it would not participate and not abide by the decision of this arbitral tribunal because this dispute involves territorial sovereignty/historical rights, which cannot be properly taken into account by the arbitral tribunal.

China claims sovereignty over the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands dating back at least several hundred years, and Chinese fishermen have also been fishing around these islands for also hundreds of years.  These islands have been marked as part of China in various maps.  In 1946 after WWII ended and Japan returned Taiwan to China, China sent four military ships, accompanied by an American naval ship, to Taiping Island (the largest island of the Spratly Islands, also known as Itu Aba Island) and several other islands in the South China Sea to take back the control of these islands from Japan (note:  islands such as Taiping Island is under the jurisdiction of China’s Taiwan Province).  Even textbooks approved by the Indonesian government in the 1940s and 1950s recognized these islands as belonging to China.  In 1956, North Vietnam had also declared that the Paracel Islands and the Spratly Islands are historically Chinese territory.

The arbitral tribunal has five arbitrators.  One was recommended by the Philippines.  One would be recommended by China.  Since China chose not to participate, the other four were chosen by Judge Shunji Yanai of Japan, who was the then president of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).  Judge Yanai was once the advisor to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on his plan to amend the Japanese Peace Constitution to allow Japan to engage in non-defensive military operations overseas.

China’s position has always been that it is willing to engage in bi-lateral discussion with each country to negotiate an agreeable settlement and to resolve the dispute.

What China did is completely consistent with UNCLOS and is perfectly legal, but you would not get that  impression based on what you read from the American mass media and what you hear from American political leaders.

The arbitral tribunal and the PCA declared that all of the islands in the Paracels or the Spratly are rocks, and not islands that can sustain human habitation or economic life of their own and therefore cannot claim any exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.  What is the truth?  Taiping Island is 0.9 mile in length and 1/4 mile in width with an area of 110 acres, and since December 2007 also contained an airport.  It has fresh water, can grow vegetables, can support livestock, as well as the habitation of people permanently living there.  It even has a hospital.  This detailed information was made known again to the world on January 28, 2016, when Mr. Ma Ying-jeou, the then President of Taiwan, visited Taiping Island.  The obviously false conclusion of the AT/PCA leads one to question the sincerity and truthfulness of the whole process.

What Is the Motive of this Whole Initiative?   So what was the motive behind this initiative by the Philippines?  Countries like Philippines and Vietnam of course would like to grab as much territories from China as possible.  Especially with the U.S. urging them on and supporting them with military, political, and financial help, they figure they have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.  In spite of the fact that the U.S. has no jurisdiction over any part of the Paracel Islands or the Spratly Islands and despite the claim that the U.S. does not take a position in this dispute, the U.S. is sending many of its warships, including aircraft carriers and fighter jets into the South China Sea.  The U.S. is also conducting joint military operation practices with countries such as Philippines, Japan, and Australia, all while openly criticizing the legal actions of land reclamation of islands under China’s sovereignty.

Similar land reclamation activities have also been done by Vietnam and the Philippines.  The U.S. has also complained about China setting up an oil exploration rig near one of her islands, but the U.S. has never said anything negative about similar, earlier, and larger-scale actions by Vietnam who has been extracting oil from various oil rigs and making millions of dollars every year.  Since the large majority of China’s activities are on real islands or on islands/reefs/rocks that are not submerged under water all the time, and not on reefs/rocks that are submerged under water at high tide, the criticisms related to UNCLOS is really not applicable.  The U.S. criticisms of China’s activities often purposely do not distinguish the two types of activities, thus making many false accusations.

The U.S. has accused China of building up its military strength, despite its own presence of military bases all around China, e.g., in Okinawa and other parts of Japan, in South Korea, in Guam, and in the Philippines. The U.S. also has military troops in many other parts of Asia. The U.S.’s huge 7th Fleet is patrolling the waters all around China, with 60 to 70 ships and submarines, 200 to 300 airplanes, approximately 40,000 sailors and marines, has participated in 80 maritime exercises and conducted 192 port visits throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region just in 2013. The U.S. also has military alliances with several countries around China, in particular, the U.S. has mutual defense treaties with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand.  Since the U.S. often uses its military muscles for its own purposes around the world, why shouldn’t China be allowed to increase its military strength for the purpose of national defense.

More than 70 years have elapsed since the end of WWII, Japan still has not acknowledged and apologized for massive and inhumane atrocities against China and other Asian countries during WWII, while Japanese leaders still visit the Yasukuni Shrine that honors 14 Class-A convicted and executed Japanese war criminals.  Where is the U.S.’s conscience and sense of justice?

Concluding Remarks:   The U.S. has raised the issue of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, yet this has never been an issue and there is no indication that it will become an issue, unless military conflicts erupt in the South China Sea.  Yes, that is possible, but the instigator of such military conflicts in the South China Sea is none other than the U.S.

Since China is now the U.S.’s main economic competitor, instead of looking within to figure out ways to improve and become even more competitive, the U.S. has been adopting a policy to surround, isolate, and weaken China.  Instead of looking for ways to co-exist peacefully and work together with other countries to try to solve the world’s many pressing problems, such as environmental protection, nuclear non-proliferation, disarmament, fight against terrorism, improving world infrastructures for the 21st century, world hunger, and world peace, the U.S. is creating unnecessary conflicts with China and destabilizing peace in Asia, as well as the whole world.

It is also important to point out that the U.S. never signed UNCLOS, in spite of trying to use UNCLOS to criticize China.

That is why studying what has been happening in the South China Sea is a good case study of the abuse of world power by the U.S.

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*This article has been published on September 15, 2016 in China-US Focus.  For the English version:  http://www.chinausfocus.com/foreign-policy/south-china-sea-dispute-abuse-of-world-power/.  For the Chinese version:  http://cn.chinausfocus.com/foreign-policy/20160915/8681.html.

[1] It is important to note that the arbitral tribunal decision is not related to any decision by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), as explained in the ICJ’s website (http://www.icj-cij.org/homepage/):  “The International Court of Justice (ICJ) wishes to draw the attention of the media and the public to the fact that the Award in the South China Sea Arbitration (The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China) was issued by an Arbitral Tribunal acting with the secretarial assistance of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). The relevant information can be found on the PCA’s website (www.pca-cpa.org). The ICJ, which is a totally distinct institution, has had no involvement in the above mentioned case and, for that reason, there is no information about it on the ICJ’s website.

Latest decisions

 

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Effectiveness of Taiji Versus Physical Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis http://www.dontow.com/2016/09/effectiveness-of-taiji-versus-physical-therapy-for-knee-osteoarthritis/ http://www.dontow.com/2016/09/effectiveness-of-taiji-versus-physical-therapy-for-knee-osteoarthritis/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 06:00:04 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4354 A recent medical study showed that practicing Taiji is equally effective versus doing physical therapy for knee osteoarthritis. [1][2]  Knee osteoarthritis, commonly known as wear-and-tear arthritis of the knee, is a condition in which the natural cushioning between joints in the knee — cartilage — wears away. When this happens, the bones of the knee joints rub more closely against one another with less of the shock-absorbing benefits of cartilage, resulting in pain, swelling, stiffness, and decreased ability to move.  More than 27 million people in the U.S. have osteoarthritis, with the knee being one of the most commonly affected areas. Women are more likely to have osteoarthritis than men.

With respect to osteoarthritis, reference 1 states that “Currently there is no effective medical treatments.  Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen are commonly used to treat osteoarthritis but often fail to relieve symptoms and may cause serious adverse effects.  Physical therapy, a globally recommended element of the standard care regimen for knee osteoarthritis produces moderate benefits for pain and physical functioning, but data on psychological well being and durability effects are limited.”

Previous studies of Taiji already showed promise that it can reduce pain and improve physical and psychological health for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, and knee osteoarthritis. The current study compares a group practicing Taiji and another group undergoing physical therapy.  The results show that both approaches produced beneficial effects in treating knee osteoarthritis, but the Taiji group had significanly greater improvements in depression and the physical component of quality of life (i.e., overall health improvement).

Methodology:   Recruited participants have knee osteoarthritis and were randomly assigned to either the Taiji Group or the Physical Therapy Group.  The Taiji Group practices 2 times per week for 60-minute sessions for 12 weeks, or a total of 120 minutes per week [3].  The Physical Therapy Group does physical therapy 2 times per week for 30-minute sessions for 6 weeks [4], and is followed by 6 weeks of rigorously monitored home exercise consisting of 30-minute sessions 4 times per week, or a total of 120 minutes per week. During the first 6 weeks, the Physical Therapy participants were also encouraged to perform exercises at home [5]. The study actually extended beyond 12 weeks to 52 weeks; more on the extended benefits will be reported later in this article.

There were 204 participants.  The mean age was 60 years, 70% were women.  The racial/ethnic composition was diverse with 53% white.  All the participants were verified to suffer knee osteoarthritis from the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) standardized test.  For example, on a scale of 0-500 for the WOMAC pain subscale score, the average score for the Taiji Group was 254.8, and for the Physical Therapy Group was 252.9.  Higher score means more pain.

Results:   WOMAC standardized tests were administered before the beginning and after the end of the 12-week supervised exercise period.  The improvements for both groups were significant from various indices, observations, and participants’ own feeling.  For example, the average WOMAC pain subscale score for the Taiji Group was reduced from 254.8 to 87.59, and for the Physical Therapy Group was reduced from 252.9 to 109.89   The improvements for both groups were significant, but differences in the two groups relative to the WOMAC pain subscale score is not that significant.

To gauge the longer-term effectiveness of the treatments, the study also asked the participants to continue their exercises for another 40 weeks, or a total of 52 weeks.  For the Taiji Group, they were asked to practice Taiji at home for at least 20 minutes per day, with the aid of provided homework materials.  For the Physical Therapy Group, they were asked to continue their physical therapy exercises at home for 30 minutes, 4 times per week.  WOMAC tests were also done at the end of 24 weeks and 52 weeks.  The study results showed that the health benefits of both groups lasted for the longer periods.  For example, the average WOMAC pain scale score for the Taiji Group was 96.2 at 24 weeks and 116 at 52 weeks, still substantially lower than the original baseline score of 254.8.  Similarly, the average WOMAC pain scale score for the Physical Therapy Group was 128.6 at 24 weeks and 131.9 at 52 weeks, still substantially lower than the original baseline score of 252.9.

The study showed that in terms of physical health around the knee such as pain level, treatment with Taiji practice or physical therapy exercises showed similar improvements, and the difference between the two methods of treatment was not statistically significant.  However, in terms of depression, there was a difference.  The study used the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II) score to assess depression, with the score ranging from 0 to 63, the higher the score the more severe is the depression. [6]  The average BDI-II score for the Taiji Group was 7.8 for the original baseline score and 5.6 at 12 weeks, a statistically significant reduction.  But for the Physical Therapy Group, the average BDI-II score was 7.5 for the original baseline score and 8.0 at 12 weeks, an actual increase but probably statistically not significant.  For the longer periods.  For the Taiji Group, the average BDI-II score was 6.1 at 24 weeks, and 6.7 at 52 weeks, still significant reduction.  For the Physical Therapy Group, the average BDI-II score was 7.7 at 24 weeks, and 7.5 at 52 weeks, meaning essentially no change in this depression index.

The study had 3 Taiji teachers, and the study showed that the results were independent of the particular Taiji teacher.  Therefore, the positive results are more due to the basic Taiji principles and exercises, and not due so much to a particular instructor.  Relative to Taiji, physical therapy exercises are more standardized, so this should not be a major concern for physical therapy treatment

SummaryThis study shows that doing Taiji exercises can provide comparable improvements as compared to Physical Therapy exercises in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis in terms of the physical health related to the knee.  There are significant improvements for both methods, and the improvements remain for longer periods (up to 52 weeks in this study) if the exercises are continued.  However, doing Taiji exercises has a positive impact in terms of depression that may result from knee osteoarthritis, whereas doing physical therapy exercises does not seem to help with depression that may result from knee osteoarthritis.

This probably suggests that the exercises from Taiji and Physical Therapy both improve the physical parts of various muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones, blood circulation, etc. related to the knee, but the involvement of the mind and the meditative aspects of Taiji may be contributing to the mental health of the practitioner that could lead to a reduction in depression.  Besides depression, the study also stated that the Taiji Group had significantly greater improvements in the physical component of quality of life, i.e., overall health.  My interpretation of this statement is that Taiji can improve the body toward certain ailment, e.g., knee osteoarthritis, but it can also improve the body toward other ailments, and the improvement is both physical and mental, i.e., improvement in overall health, or quality of life.
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[1] C. Wang, et. al., Comparative Effectiveness of Tai Chi Versus Physical Therapy for Knee Osteoarthritis:  A Randomized Trial, Annals of Internal Medicine, 2016; 165(2):77-86

[2] A short summary of this study can be found in the article “Study Shows Tai Chi and Physical Therapy Were Equally Helpful for Knee Osteoarthritis”:  https://nccih.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/tai-chi-knee-osteoarthritis_2016.

[3] The Taiji participants were also instructed to practice Taiji at home for at least 20 minutes per day, but the article did not say how much did the Taiji participants actually practice at home during those 12 weeks.  The Taiji style that was used in this study is the Yang style.

[4] During the first 6 weeks, the Physical Therapy participants’ sessions totaled only 60 minutes per week versus the 120 minutes per week of the Taiji participants, but during those 60 minutes the Physical Therapy participants were worked on by physical therapists, whereas the Taiji participants were doing Taiji exercises on their own although under the guidance of a Taiji instructor.  So the difference in total time may not be that significant.

[5]  The Physical Therapy participants were also encouraged  to perform exercises at home during those first 6 weeks, but the article did not say how much did the Physical Therapy participants actually practice at home during those 6 weeks.

[6] The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI, BDI-1A, BDI-II) is one of the most widely used psychometric tests for measuring the severity of depression.  See, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beck_Depression_Inventory.

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Reminiscence from My 55th High School Class Reunion http://www.dontow.com/2016/09/reminiscence-from-my-55th-high-school-class-reunion/ http://www.dontow.com/2016/09/reminiscence-from-my-55th-high-school-class-reunion/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 05:00:36 +0000 http://www.dontow.com/?p=4367 On September 10, 2016 I attended my high school’s 55th Class Reunion in Placerville, California.  Many of these friends I haven’t seen since the 50th Class Reunion in 2011, and some I haven’t seen since our graduation 55 years ago in 1961.  In this article I like to share some of my reminiscences from attending this 55th Class Reunion.

Some Background History: I was born in China during WWII and lived in a rural village Taishan, Guangdong Province in Southern China for the first years of my life.  After WWII ended, in 1945 my family moved back to Guangzhou (also known as Canton), the major city in Guangdong Province.  Then in May 1949 my family moved to nearby Hong Kong just before the Chinese Communists took control of Southern China. To increase the education opportunities of their five children, my parents decided in 1955 to immigrate to the U.S.  We settled in Placerville, a small town of less than 4,000 people between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.  Placerville is less than 10 miles from Coloma where gold was discovered in 1849 and started the gold rush to the West, and is known as Hangtown for its hanging tree during the wild west.  The reason we settled in Placerville was because just a few weeks before we left Hong Kong, my father received a job offer from his 1926 Brown University freshman dormitory roommate Mr. Harold S. Prescott, Senior, who had a small civil engineering firm in Placerville.  Although they were in the same college for only one year [1] and were separated for about 28 years from 1927 to 1955, they kept in touch with each other via annual exchange of Christmas cards.  This was one of several “coincident” events that had major impacts in my life.

First Experiences and Impressions As a Teenager in the U.S.:  My first impression of my fellow students from 7th grade onward and our family’s friends was that the American people, especially the ones we met in small rural towns like Placerville, were extremely friendly and willing to help others, an impression that remains true during the next 60+years.  On the other hand, it was not so easy to establish deep, close friendship.

Our American friends were also very handy, and could do all kinds of repairs on their homes or cars.  This was probably a reflection and a tradition from the frontier days when Americans had to rely on themselves as they moved westward and settled in new towns.

Another early impression was that my school classmates would spend quickly whatever money they received, e.g., if they received from their parents on Friday evening a weekly allowance of 50 cents, a dollar, or two dollars, most likely all of it would have been spent by Saturday evening, e.g., after spending 25 cents on the Saturday movie matinee ticket, they would spend the rest buying refreshments.  They didn’t have a habit of saving it for the rest of the week or for hard times in the future.  Apparently they did not experience as many difficult times as we had experienced growing up in war-torn China.  For example, they did not experience their country being occupied and their homes and lives being completely uprooted by wars.  This impression also remains true during my college years and adult life.

Personally I did not experience discrimination during my high school years, although I experienced it later in college and in the work place.  But I did observe discrimination starting during my junior year in high school when the first black students enrolled in our high school.  When they were walking in the corridors, some white students would just walk by and knock their books from their hands.  There wasn’t much they could do except to absorb and ignore the offensive acts, because complaining to the school office would result in at most just a minor warning to the offenders.  It was unlikely that the school would take any serious reprimand action unless the discriminating acts resulted in serious bodily harms.  Recall that this was the period around 1959-61, just at the beginning of the American civil rights movement,  when the American society still thought that Black Americans were second class citizens and could be treated as such.  It was quite surprising and shocking to me to observe such wanton acts of discrimination.

American youths also grew up much faster than Chinese youths.  On the average, their interest in alcohol, dating and sex starts at least four years earlier than Chinese youths.  This starts in high schools, and often in middle schools, instead of starting in college.

More Experiences and ObservationsWhen I was a senior, a friend and I were helpers staffing the entrance table at one of our high school dances.  My friend would sneak inside his winter coat several cans of beer.  When no one was watching, he would take an illegal sip from one of his beer cans.  I didn’t think he did it because he really liked the beer.  It was probably the satisfaction and the macho image from doing something that was prohibited.  Having come from a traditional Chinese family and society, I was surprised that many American youths would just ignore family, school, and society’s rules.  This brings to a more serious issue that I think this is not just a youth problem, but also a problem of the adults.  If the adults do not drink excessively, indulge in casual sex, and take drugs, then similar types of problems for the youths will be diminished significantly.  Take for example, the drug issue, which became a serious issue starting in the 1960s.  If the demand from the adults is reduced significantly, then the number of youths who copy the adults will be reduced significantly.  If the demand is reduced, then drug trafficking issue will be reduced significantly.

Excessive beer drinking was another phenomenon I observed when I worked as a surveyor at the U.S. Forest Service during summer jobs after my high school graduation and after my college freshman year.  Our job was to do surveying to prepare for constructing new logging roads in the El Dorado National Forest east of Placerville.  Our surveying crews (totaling 10-15 young men) would go out on Monday morning, live in trailers at campsites near our work locations, and return home on Friday afternoon.  Often after dinner, many of these surveyors would drink many cans of beer until they fell asleep drunk.  The next morning, we would see many of their sleeping bags hanging outside on the drying ropes, because they urinated in their sleeping bags during sleep.  Again, it was a cultural shock to see many young men would engage in such seemingly frivolous, time-wasting, and unhealthy acts.

One summer while I was working in the Forest Service, one of the summer workers was an Iranian foreign student, and he was often discriminated against.  His colleagues would make fun of him by calling him names like “camel jockey” and doing nasty things such as putting a snake in his sleeping bag.  Again, at that time it seemed normal and acceptable for these young men to be doing such nasty things to other human beings, and there wasn’t anything that this Iranian student could do except to roll with the punches.

One of my observations in high school was that respect is the key to excellence.  It seems that we placed much more emphasis on being a good athlete than a good student.  If you were a good athlete, your school newspapers and local newspapers would write articles about you, and your fellow students would know about you, respect you, and perhaps even envy you.  But if you were a good student, it is unlikely that you will be written up in your school newspapers and local newspapers, except perhaps at graduation when you win some prestigious swards or scholarships.  Such environment would entice many more youths to work on their athletic skills than on their academic skills.  For example, in our grade there was a brilliant student who was extremely good and creative with technology, especially with high tech gadgets.  But there was no reporting of his fantastic knowledge and skills; there was no outpouring of respect or admiration for him; the other students did not envy him or want to be like him.  In his adult life, he became a very good and successful high technology consultant  The title of my high school valedictorian address was “Respect:  Key to Excellence,’ which is just as applicable today 55 years later considering the huge salaries of professional athletes.

American DreamThe U.S. is a country of immigrants.  For a hundred or more years, people from all over the world immigrated to the U.S. to seek a better future for themselves and their children.  If you are willing to study and work hard, you will be successful.  That is known as the American Dream.  Many immigrants succeeded, including my brothers, my sisters, and myself.  What were the reasons for this successful achievement of the American dream?  People usually point to the American democratic political system in which the people elect the leaders, there are checks and balances between the three branches of government so that no single person or organization can gain the power of a dictator, freedom of speech and freedom of the press so that opposing voices are not silenced.  All of these are valid and contributed to the success of the American Dream.  However, I believe that there were several features unique to the U.S. situation which may no longer be available which makes it questionable whether the American Dream can still be achieved on a large scale.

First, the U.S. was a vast country with very few people and large natural resources.  In 1776, the U.S. population was 2.5 million; today it is 323 million.  The U.S. still has vast natural resources, but now imports 94% of Gallium, 81% of Cobalt, 81% of titanium, 56% of Chromium, 44% of Silicon, 43% of nickel, etc.  The U.S. was bordered on the north and the south by two relatively new countries also with a vast land of their own and a small native population.   Now, due to the relative difference in economic strength, millions of Mexico’s citizens have crossed the border illegally into the U.S.  For almost 200 years until WWII, the U.S. was able to live relatively peacefully without worrying too much about the threat of foreign invasion.  Thus, it could focus its resources and energy internally to develop the country.  But today with long-distance fighter jets and intercontinental ballistic missiles, including those from submarines, military threats can come from far away; the protection provided by the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean are no longer so meaningful.   Furthermore, terrorists can easily cause massive damage from inside.

All along, the U.S. has always had many internal problems and weaknesses.  For example, from the very beginning of the U.S. Constitution, all humans were not considered to be equal; a black slave was counted as 3/5 of a white person in determining the number of seats that a state would have in the U.S. House of Representatives.  The U.S. government essentially engaged in ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans, robbing their land. displacing them to other territories, and often killing them.  Even though President Lincoln declared the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 that legally freed the slaves, it took about another 100 years with the civil rights movement that began in the 1950s before the Black people gained substantial equality.  There was always disparity in the distribution of wealth in the U.S., although more so in certain periods.  But when the economy was expanding and you are getting more, it didn’t seem as important that other people are getting much more than you.  Corruption also always existed.  You could buy your influence with government officials in the old days as you can today.  Again, if your economic situation was improving, you sort of look with a blind eye.  The prime motive for a company is to maximize profit, so sometimes you employ or tolerate tactics that could maximize the profit for your company but that may be unethical, unfair, and could even be not beneficial for the larger community.  Again if your economic situation was improving as a whole, you again sort of look with a blind eye.

As discussed earlier, we believe that an important contributing reason for the U.S. being able to offer the American Dream is because of its unique geographical or natural environment that isolated and protected the country while offering the country with plenty of land, natural resources, and a very small native population.  This allowed the U.S. to continue to absorb more people and continue to expand.  In other words, for the first 200 years of its existence, the U.S. was in a continuing expanding economy.  With all the above advantages, it was able to develop into a rich and powerful country.  Furthermore, compared with most other countries, it suffered relatively minor damages from WWII.  This enabled it to develop into the richest and most powerful country in the world after WWII.  Then for another 25-50 years before many other countries developed into credible economic competitors (e.g., first Germany and Japan, and then Korea, India and China), the U.S. was able to reap great economic advantages all over the world.  When the best and the brightest from other countries come, settle, and work in this country, the U.S. benefits even more.  That is like the top basketball players in other countries all come to play in the NBA, thus making the NBA far superior to any other country’s professional basketball league.  However, in the last 20-30 years, the U.S. has essentially fully expanded, so its economy has transformed from a continuing expanding economy into a zero-sum economy.  In a zero-sum economy, the benefit of the larger entity must be taken into account.  Adopting a greed and self-centric approach may benefit one part in the short term, but not the whole and in the long term not even that part.  Thus, in the future in order for the U.S. to compete successfully and for the American Dream to continue, it cannot do business as usual.  It must operate very efficiently and creatively.  All its parts must work together and synergistically, but not against each other.  It must reinvent itself. [2]

SummarySeeing many old friends recently at my 55th High School Class Reunion in Placerville, California brought back many old memories.  It allowed me to reminiscence on the 61 years since I immigrated to this country as a 13 year old.  I found that:

  • The American people are friendly, easily offering a helping hand, but at the same time not so easy to establish deep and close friendship
  • The American people are very good with their hands to repair and build
  • They have a tendency to spend their money quickly, and don’t like to save for a rainy day
  • At an earlier age, the American young people put much emphasize on alcohol, dating, sex, and drugs.  But this is really not just a youth problem, its source or origin is really an adult problem.  If the adults reduce these problems, then the young people will follow and their problems will be reduced.
  • Discriminations against blacks, other minorities, and people from other cultures are prevalent, although not necessarily more prevalent than in other countries
  • There is a misalignment of priorities, with sports on the highest pedestal, and academic excellence far below.
  • The American Dream has been real for many decades, but there are unique geographical and natural features of the U.S. environment that helped to fulfill the American Dream.  However, starting about 20-30 years ago, that environment may no longer exist due to various changes in the past 200 years.  This makes it difficult for the American Dream to continue on a large scale unless the U.S. government and the American people are willing to honestly and carefully examine themselves and reinvent themselves.

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[1] My father transferred to MIT after his freshman year.

[2] For a more detailed discussion of “Can the American Dream Be Continued?”, see http://www.dontow.com/2010/01/can-the-american-dream-be-continued/.

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