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On our recent 9,000 kilometre rail journey, on one of the trains we were given a little bag with lost of interesting items. One such item had this on the back:

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The long list of items are fair enough, but ‘positive energy’? I couldn’t help wondering if it too is organic.

On our journey across the Gulf Country – the Gulf of Carpentaria – we happened upon this intriguing piece of art amongst the graffitti of a rest stop:

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One cannot help wonder what situation generated this one.

We’ve begun a journey on the largest rail circuit in Australia and will disappear for a couple of weeks from any regular internet or telephone networks – still possible in the vastness of Australia. This entails The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin, driving from Darwin to Mt Isa (no rail for this part), The Innlander from Mt Isa to Townsville, the Spirit of Queensland from Cairns to Brisbane, and then the XPT back to Newcastle.

Apologies for the shameless self-promotion, but I have been in Auckland for a couple of days and then Beijing. Let me begin with the Beijing events, the main one of which was the preliminary ‘conference of experts’ for a funded project called ‘Chinese Marxism: On the Sinification of Marxism in Chinese Academia’. I had to front up before some senior and well-known Chinese scholars, each of whom gave a detailed response to the project. This is something of a ritual in Chinese projects, after which everyone goes to dinner and raises a toast to the project. Apart from the news item, a few photos:

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The lecture at the University of Auckland was organised by Robert Myles and Caroline Blyth and was called ‘What Has Marxism to Do with Religion?’ They even made a youtube video, which is here in all its glory:

Having completed a meeting with the Academy of Marxism here in Beijing (a subdivision of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), I am pleased to provide the following preliminary announcement. It will soon appear with more details on the University of Newcastle website.


The China Road conference focuses on China’s distinct path in the modern world. This path has also been called ‘Socialism with Chinese Characteristics’ and the ‘Beijing Consensus’. The conference will examine the meanings of these terms in the areas of Marxism, philosophy, economics, politics, society, culture, and international relations in the Asian Century. It will be undertaken in a supportive environment, seeking insight, understanding and constructive criticism. The conference is ideally placed to make a significant impact, attracting attention by the media and the wider public.


Date: 19-21 August 2016

Place: City of Newcastle, Australia (venue TBA)

Sponsors: Academy of Marxism (within Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) and the University of Newcastle, Australia


The themes of the conference are:

  1. The role of Marxism in Modern China
  2. The Chinese Road and the Asian Century
  3. Society and culture between China and Australia
  4. Australia’s engagement with the Chinese Road

In my long journey of learning Chinese, one the greatest pleasures concerns the myriad measure words. Every time you use a number with an object numbered, you need a measure word. The ones to use have an internal logic that defies me.

For example, long narrow things like rivers, snakes and trousers use:

条 tiao

‘Two snakes’ is: liang tiao she

However, when you want to speak of a section of something long, you use:

段 duan

‘The northern part of the canal’ is: yunhe de bei duan