Live From Shenzhen: Photo Edition II

no more trees
at the desk

Poor, Defenseless Li Ning

I love Slate and read it on a daily basis, I've recommended it to friends looking for a good news read and to Chinese colleagues who want to get an understanding of the US. While they make up catchy headlines and pictures that would cause one who didn't read the article to suspect that Chinese shoe companies had some kind of endorsement deal with Kim Jung Il, they should have spent more time on the facts.

An interesting article could be written on Chinese shoe company endorsement deals. Li Ning has led the way and served as a model for the other brans. Knowing they could never sign one of the big names (or at least suspecting so at the time), they couldn't get Lebron, but they could put his teammate, Damon Jones, in Li Ning sneakers, getting them some attention whenever the Cavs are on tv in China (which is a common occurrence). Since then, they've gone after Yao Ming's teammates (and other Chinese companies have followed) and also signed a deal with the NBA, ATP, and the biggest of all, with Shaquille O'Neil. As the Slate article rightly points out, they failed to win the bid to deck out the Chinese Olympic team on the medal stand for the first time in as long as I can remember so instead have signed a deal with CCTV-5, the sports station and the station the Olympics will be televised on, by which all of their presenters always wear Li Ning gear when on the air.

While its a good article overall and gets some exposure for Li Ning, a favorite brand of mine and one I've previously blogged about, the attacks on them for sponsoring Sudan and another Chinese company for their deal with North Korea are simply idiotic. I'm sure that neither country's athletes were previously going naked and I'm pretty sure they weren't wearing domestically made sports attire. I know for sure that North Korean soccer had a deal previously with Adidas and then (and perhaps still) with the Danish company, Hummel, yet there is no calling into question those companies (or countries).

I don't like the argument "well, they did it so we can too," but it just seems unfair in an article that will probably serve as Americans first introduction to these companies and an overall positive one to bring in politics and question the sponsorship policies of these companies with no mention that European companies are at the same time (or recently) sponsoring these same questionable regimes. The Olympics being in Beijing and captivating the entire nation, it makes sense that Chinese companies will want to do whatever they can, sign as many deals as they can to get their products into the limelight. It must also be said that these countries don't have the same negative image among China's overtly apethetic "me generation," the ones most likely to be buying gym shoes, that they do in the West.

SBSBSBSBSBSBSB! Please Don't Arrest Me!

While it may be frustrating being a fan of Chinese soccer, and especially frustrating being a Beijing Guoan fan, it is not worth going to jail. Then again, it would allow you to avoid watching the games. Soccer supporters are a crazy group, read this article to find out just how crazy. I am a rabid Arsenal fan, but it doesn't have the hold on me it once did, mainly because no matter what, I'm so far away from North London at the end of the day. Plus, when the EPL is wrapping up, there is the fresh hope of a new season for Guoan and equal amounts of disappointment as the Blackhawks once again fail to miss the playoffs. Sorry about the aside, I just really wanted to throw in that great article by Adrian Chiles. Perhaps I will have more on that at a later date.

Back to the subject...Sporting fans the world over, if they are lacking in one area, it is culture (at least when inside the stadium). Philly fans booing and pelting Santa Claus with snow balls, Rangers fans whistling during a moment of silence for the Pope, basketball fans taunting Steve Kerr about his father, etc. Beijing fans are extremely passionate and when they get mad, instead of hearing boos, the "Jing Ma" comes out. One blogger (i'm only calling him out because he came from nowhere to kick my ass in the chinalyst blog voting) incorrectly said the habit of going to the stadium and booing is "jing ma," when any true fan (or anyone who speaks Chinese and has spent anytime in Beijing or has at least a bit of knoweldge about the city) would know that this term refers to "sb."

For whatever reason, this is considered absolutely unacceptable to those in charge of Guoan and the Beijing government. It started out by idiotically putting up banners calling for Workers Stadium (or Gongti) to be a "cultured" venue. When that attempt quickly proved pointless, they started playing a recorded track of fan cheering whenever the "sb" chants started getting too loud for their liking. It's not like it wasn't obvious to everyone in the stadium what was being said by the person sitting a few seats down from them and it was simply laughable, killing the hard work of the fan groups that put a lot of time into organizing the supporters sections.

Now they've given up both of those and are just starting to arrest fans, at least that's the case for one individual who made the mistake of using the internet to try and organize other rowdier elements amongst the fans. Booing, fan anger, and even the sb chants are ordinary, foreigners and foreign reports expect that sort of thing at a sporting event. "Clean words" are simply not required at sporting events, especially ones as emotional as a soccer match. Similar to what Imagethief talked about in his post on the Olympics, people expect that sort of thing, it is the absence of it, and China's heavy handed response in cases like this, that will appear strange and make these games feel "staged." I'm confident the Beijing Olympics will show the good aspects about Beijing and China as a whole, I just hope that they'll give up this wishful thinking and deal with more concrete problems.

PS: This is what happens when you blog late at night, sloppy writing and missing out on ideas. My original post was motivated by my anger as a Beijing sports fan at the stupidity of this and also as a Beijinger who wants to see these Olympics turn out great and is fearful of some who want to turn this into the Potemkin Games, which is simply impossible to do in the 21st century. To Beijing, and we shall love you, just the way you are.

What the article doesn't say is that there aren't any matches going on in Beijing now, so it would appear the man in question was arrested by police solely for internet posts. He wasn't arrested for booing and swearing, he was arrested for his intent to boo and swear. The booing and swearing is fine, its this sort of thing that make hairs stand up on the back of Western reporters (and their readers) necks. Arrested for the intent to boo? What law did he actually violate? As a lawyer, this is wrong in so many ways. There is probably some catchall about disturbing the peace or indecent behavior, but he didn't do anything in public, it seems he never even went beyond the intent stage. The police, however, don't need a law, the local government starts a campaign pushing for a more cultured populace and the police are then free to round up rabblerousers like this kid and put some fear into them to get their point across.


Live From Shenzhen: Photo Edition I

Hong Kong
empty soccer stadium
Wang Zi Restaurant
narrow alley
looking down on colorful buildings
sorry, I have no idea why the last 2 pictures came out sideways...

Bringing Internet to the Masses

This post on RedKemp got me to thinking about my oft proposed plan to bring internet to the masses in the countryside. The Chinese countryside is often sort of different from what you have in the US. While there are the same miles and miles of open farm land, in China, due to its collective farm history, when you do finally come across houses, they are usually grouped together, instead of like in the US where they are spread far apart.

Seeing this got me to thinking, more and more people in the rural "suburbs" of big cities, in China's 9th tier cities, and in the countryside are purchasing computers, but very few are able to afford home internet access. So my thought is, why doesn't the government (or an NGO) or even just the people that live there step in and start doing more to provide wireless internet? These buildings usually aren't very large, a few routers would be enough to service an entire building and would be able to give them all in home internet acess for around RMB700 or less plus internet fees of around RMB100 or so a month (split however many ways). Internet exists in these places, as is obvious through the proliferation of internet cafes, so the infastructure seems to be there. It would take some money to buy the routers and some wireless cards, if necessary, but it seems like an excellent idea. I would stop worrying about making Beijing wireless and start focusing on this plan.

I always thought there were a number of problems with this. The biggest is obviouslly IP registration, if one router has the same IP but 10 people using it, it would make it harder to track what each user is doing. Also, and this is no small issue, China Mobile would not be too happy about the loss of income. However, as mentioned above (kind of) there has been some discussions about Beijing going wireless. It makes no sense to eat the fees in a major city like Beijing where many people can afford the internet and still charge full price in rural places where the majority of people can't afford the internet.

I'm far from a tech person, so I'm sure there are a number of problems that I haven't thought about (feel free to inform me of them by comment or email), but I think this could really work as a way to bring the internet to far more people in China.


(Not) Giving 'Till It Hurts

I pride myself in my involvement with a number of charitable causes and my aiding my community, be it in Chicago or Shenzhen. I also would like to consider myself as a sort of armchair advocate for the disabled, for regular readers of this blog, there have been plenty examples of this. Further, being someone whose been in China for as long as I have, I know the ugly reality of those who beg on the streets, most whether disabled or not, are sent out by "older brothers" or "uncles" to collect money, most of which the individual who actually does the begging will never see.

The Guardian brought this home with a gut wrenching store on China's disabled children beggers. I can't remember on which blog it was, but I read somebody commenting on seeing a disabled person in the street who obviously needed help, however his fellow countrymen (this was a Chinese disabled person in China) failed to even offer him a glance, so the individual writing the post (a foreigner) felt conflicted whether he should offer a hand. When it comes to those begging in the streets, its an equally tough proposition. Sure, you'd have to be heartless not to take pity on the guy with no legs or the young girl with no arms, but at the same time, you know that the money you might give them won't be seen by them. It would be so much easier instead of giving them RMB5 (okay, expecting you to be very generous), to go and buy them a sandwich or a drink, at least you know they're getting the benefit. At the same time, though, by giving them money, perhaps you are sparing them a beating that evening when they come back without enough money.

So what do you do? Give hoping (or just being naive) that the individual is really out begging for themselves or their immediate family? Or simply walk right past them and try looking away? What about the Mr. Li in the article? Is he a decent person for taking in a baby they found by the side of the road and at least giving the child a home? Is it really that evil for a (step)father from some two bit town in the countryside to talk about his disabled daughter as a burden? In the US it would be considered child abuse, but in China where the disabled, even today, are often considered a burden, plus with rural thinking on the roles of women having not changed much over the past few umm, millenia, its just par for the course. One just has to hope that more NGOs come in and deal with this and the government starts enacting some serious welfare programs that will help these children.

So do you still give to them?

Live From Shenzhen: Giving Up My Barbershop for a Chinese Salon

The Crosstown Barbershop in Bloomington, Indiana is the epitome of what a barbershop should be. Its a place for men only, where the tv is always on ESPN, the walls are covered in IU sports memorabilia, the jokes are raunchy and rapid, and it serves as a community center for the men of Bloomington. It is the sort of place that if it hasn't been there for the past 50 years, it sure seems like it has, and things probably haven't changed much there for the past 50 years. The shop is authentically retro, not just retro because that is whats "in" at the moment. In my 7 years there, the price went up from US$9 to $11, and that change, toward the end of the 7 years, was an extremely difficult one for the owner to make and for customers to accept.

Why do I discuss this in a post about Shenzhen? The fact is there is no equivalent to this sort of barbershop in China. While I say the Crosstown is the epitome of what a barbershop should be, every town has its own version, the one place (other than a bar) where men go to be men, talk about sports and girls, and get a simple, no frills hair cut. I guess the closest thing is the guy who is cutting hair in some local park or on the street. Salons rule the city, and most other cities in China. The process involves the longest hair washing of your life, followed by (for men at least) a very short hair cut and then yet another hair washing.

There is no need for me to go over all of this, Ben's blog details the situation well after having spent a month working at a barbershop. Why I want to talk about this is that as someone used to a no frills, cheap experience, its hard finding a place to go for a haircut here. There's a place right outside my building where they do it all for RMB35. For the price, the place is actually very nice. However, I was curious as to what else there is out there. I considered briefly going to the Salon Esprit in MixC, but figured the price (whatever it is) is too much considering my hair is not the most stylish and is extremely simple to cut.

After having seen a tip online about another place close to my apartment, on Bao An Nan Rd, next to Xiao Fei Yang, I figured I'd check it out. From the outside, the place looks very high end and the products are from the French line, Kerastase. The owner (or who I presumed was the owner) greeted me at the entrance and showed me to the washing area. There one of the "little sisters" took my bag, put it in a locker and gave me the key, as well as giving me a robe to put on over my clothing. This place has one innovation that I haven't seen elsewhere, while they have a flat screen tv at the entrance and tvs by the hair cutting stations, so that you won't be bored during the lengthy hair washing process, they have 3 tvs mounted on the ceiling, so as you look up, you can watch. The hair products were high quality, if not very manly (even today after 2 showers, I still catch a wiff of a baby powderish smell on my hair and back). Also, beyond the typical cup of lukewarm water, they offered pop, orange juice, and a few other options.

Overall, this is an excellent place for a mid-priced (well, I guess more high end) haircut. To a westerner, even a guy used to barbershops, the RMB118 I paid for the wash and cut won't seem too bad. Sure, they didn't do that much better than the guys charging RMB35 (and I had to walk a different way to avoid their looks, out of guilt, sort of like Jerry and Uncle Enzo), but I'm embracing the high end customer service. Having had my haircut for RMB6 and for prices that might cause even John Edwards to blush, I have to say that this place, which is higher end for China but still far from the most expensive, is a very good choice.

If you'd like to try them out, the shop is called 主流发型美容情报站 and it is located at 罗湖区宝安南路2078号深港豪苑首层, for those that can't read Chinese, just look for the "Hair Salon" signs next to Xiao Fei Yang on Bao An Rd. It isn't like the barbershops that I'm used to, but it will certainly do the job.


Are the Baozi "Fake" or is the Media "Fake"?

Beijing's had a tough few weeks. First it was news about "fake" water, then it was a rehashing of stories about "fake" yangrou chuanr (I must admit, this one was extremely hard to take), but when there were reports of baozi filled with chemically inhanced cardboard, including great investigative reporter cam shots, that was going a bit too far.

Now it seems that perhaps those reports were made up by a reporter looking to "break" a big story and drum up a bigger audience. The mind fairly boggles. With all the negative attention in the west on Chinese products and health standards, why would this reporter make things appear to be even worse? Doesn't that violate his patriotic duty? Are things so bad that we're at the point that there are even fake news stories? This is truly over the top.

I have a suspicion, and I really hope this isn't the case, but that story just went too far in scaring people from eating what is a common breakfeast or snack all over China. I hope China learned from SARS and this isn't some kind of cover up. I can see it now, the government bigwigs feel this is too much and so to minimize fear among the public, insist that the story was fabricated, while cleaning things up their own way without the Chinese and foreign press all over the story.

Either way, its a scary proposition.

Giving Out Some Love....

There are a lot of great (and even more not so great) blogs out there and I enjoy at least taking a look at what else is out there in the China blogsphere, recently there have been a number of posts I've enjoyed on other blogs and so its time to pass around some love...

On the Fringe - Go Ride a Bike
I love the idea of bike riding and think its one of the best ways to get to know a city. I've had a lot of great weekend bike riding adventures in Beijing (one to this place more love for That's BJ to come) and its really one of the best ways to get around that city. Unfortunately in Shenzhen, at least in Luohu, and often in other parts of the city as well, bike lanes are non-existant, forcing those who want to ride for their health, the environment, or just to avoid traffic to ride on the sidewalk, not a good idea.

Stranded on the Largest Island - A Change Comes Over HK

Well, this isn't so much "showing love," but if you want to read a very interesting article, read the post (and the link to the article). This is straight out of a John le Carre meets Red Corner Richard Gere spy story and my guess is that much (if not all) of it is ficticious/all in the writer's head. While its nice to flatter yourself, this isn't the late 80s/early 90s and the PSB has far larger problems to deal with.

The UGLY Chinese Canadian - Big Mountain and Other Adored Round Eyes

I've really enjoyed this blog, especially lately, but one thing he must know, at least among the expat blogsphere, you simply can't say anything nice about Dashan, the meaner the better, he is pure evil (I've made that point in the past, but can't remember where)....

Beijing Boyce - Hooters: A place for bird lovers
This is a great blog in general, though with how often it seems he goes out and drinks, I can hardly imagine the condition of his liver. While I thought I used to be up on the "in spots" in Beijing, I don't think I could hold a candle to Boyce. I found this entry particularly interesting,

Ben's Blog -
The Time China Blog and Other Media Greviances
I've talked about Ben's blog before and his stint in the barbershop was certainly interesting, but I really enjoyed this post which hits hard at Time and other western media outlets that only see (or want to see) the problems in China and fail to show more than just one side of the issues.

All Roads Lead to China - Why Lou Dobbs Scares Me More than Chinese Toothpaste

Lou Dobbs doesn't belong on CNN, he belongs on Fox News and his show, supposedly focused on business, has become a flag waiving, anti-immigrant, anti-globalization, and more than anything, anti-China rant over the past few years. So often the points he is trying to make fly in the face of logic and just ignore the current state of the world. We cannot, and shouldn't want to, push back globalization and while there are some problems, there are a lot more benefits, even with US interaction with China. You don't believe me, read this article about a woman who forced her family to stop buying anything "Made in China" for one year and see what you think (even if you do believe me, go to the article, its well worth it).

Danwei - Serious Patriotic History or Giant robot battles?
Danwei is an absolute must daily read, though it can be aggravating at times, if I'm not quick enough (ie posting it within a few hours of seeing it), it will probably pop up on Danwei before anyone else can bring it up. Plus, they find all different kinds of very interesting stories, this is a perfect example. A movie about the Nanjing massacre being released right around the time (7/7) that the war with Japan started? Must be a big hit in China where patriotic mobs even attacked people driving Japanese cars a few years back? No? The fact that Chinese would prefer seeing Transformers to understanding a bit of the history of Nanjing and seeing a very excellent movie is fairly disappointing. Perhaps they feel Transformers is a "theater" movie and Nanjing is a "fake DVD" movie, but still, this makes you wonder about those times all that anti-Japanese fervor is built up...

Black China Hand on Yi Jianlian
This seems to be an excellent blog, unfortunately I can't view it in China, though typically can read it thanks to Chinalyst. His post is based on this article from ESPN. He makes some very good points, but the reality is that this sort of situation has existed for a long time in other sports around the world, namely soccer, and isn't unique to China. In recent years, it's even popped up in the US soccer leauge, the MLS, where players even wanted to go to other teams abroad, but their clubs wouldn't allow it. I just think it was idiotic of Milwaukee to draft Yi, considering how clear it was that he didn't want to go. Sort of like Lindros and Quebec, but let's hope Yi has a far better career than Lindros.

And that's it for this blog wrap up, perhaps I'll do this again soon...Keep posting those great entries!

Asian Cup Recap: Speechless...

I never expected China to win the Asian Cup (well, to be honest, a part of me thought it could be done), but I also never expected (though I could forsee it) that we'd be knocked out in the group stage. The one thing that makes the loss a bit easier to accept is that I failed to get myself fully involved in the match as I had prior plans which meant I only watched the first half (yes, amazing as it seems, I've something resembling a life away from the office). That meant that I saw the subbing of Mao before the end of the first half, something that could only ellicit laughter at this point (much like Zhu's lineup which saw no fewer than 3 players arguably playing out of position). What it also meant, though, is that I missed the 3 goals and thus didn't suffer the gut-wrenching pain of seeing us go down once again and fail to pull ourselves out of the hole we dug. So what's new? Its an unfortunate thing to say, but I really can't remember the last time China was able to come up with a late comeback to win or draw a game. It's as if once they're down by a goal or two, the game's over and the press is already writing the negative headlines.

So what can I say? Set pieces. Against Malaysia I was saying how weak our defense looked against set pieces, Iran scored their goals on set pieces, and once again crappy defense of set pieces, despite the height in the lineup, killed us.

I honestly believe with decent coaching strategies and the right lineup, the semifinals and even the finals wasn't too much to ask for, but Zhu's strange insistance on a 4-5-1, goofy substitions, and overall strange lineup selection cost the team dearly. I was confident even before the Cup began that Zhu would be fired, now I think its a given (if he doesn't choose to resign in shame first).

It's time the CFA really make some changes, many fans have been saying that for years, but hopefully CFA will finally do something. Failure to get out of the group stage is truly embarassing, especially considering the strength of our squad and how unnecessary it is for us to be in this position. A new coach, one with some fire in his belly and a solid soccer background, whether Chinese or foreign, will be the first step.


Asian Cup Recap: A Tale of Two Halves

In their second Asian Cup match, China came out strong from the start, with an early chance from Han Peng less than 30 seconds into the game. The surprisingly offensive tactics led to an early goal off a great free kick by Shao Jiayi and was followed by a goal by young workhorse Mao Jianqing. Mao has been putting in some fabulous performances in the first two games and the goal was well deserved. Goalie Li Leilei came up with some good saves to keep it 2-0, but after the referee granted Iran a questionable free kick in injury time, they capitalized with a beautiful free kick of their own. At the half, Chinese coach Zhu Guanghu made the mistake of deciding to sit back and play defensively and some questionable subs, especially Zhu Ting for Mao, cost China dearly as Iran was able to get another goal and make it a 2-2 game. When Han suffered a minor knack which had him limping, Zhu made the decision to take him off instead of removing the tired Shao and put on central defender Du Wei instead, leaving China with no striker for the crucial end of the match. Fortunately, the defensive strategy paid off as Iran was unable to capitalize and both teams walked away with a point after the 2-2 scoreline stood.

As a fan, the result was extremely disappointing, especially considering how the China squad took the game to the Iranians in the first half, but I think before the match, if you talked with most Chinese fans, they would have been more than pleased with a draw. China will need at least a point against Uzbekistan to advance in the group, that match is to be played Wednesday evening.

In other news, if China can advance, their path is made far easier knowing that they won't have to meet the Koreans in the next round as they've been knocked out. However, China can't look past the Uzbeks and must focus, a preview of that game will come tomorrow. Some other bloggers are writing on the Asian Cup, to view Shanghaiist's wrap up of the Iran game, go here, as well as China Machete who has some issues with how the Chinese media is portraying the Aussies (sorry, don't have the link right now, but then again, I don't blame the media, as the Aussies arrogance coming into the tournament, and into the AFC as a whole, set them up for such ridicule).

Live from Shenzhen: Wasting Away a Saturday When I Encounter Beckham

The day started with a late departure to "Wang Zi" (or the Grand Prince Restaurant) located in MixC (why the hell is there a c on the end of that?). The place was packed and everyone seemed to be speaking Cantonese. Being in Shenzhen, in Guangdong Province the home of Guangdong hua (Cantonese), perhaps you think this is normal, but Shenzhen is a city of outsiders, and this is a truly rare experience. But there are still native Shenzheners (and of course plenty of HK residents over for the weekend) and they need their dim sum on a weekend morning, so its no surprise, especially considering Wang Zi is probably one of the best (and definitely one of the most impressive places) to enjoy "yum cha." For dim sum fans I'd highly recommend it as its one of Shenzhen's best spots and its a truly impressive restaurant. However, make sure to get there early as the lines get long and prices go up (not sure if they offer the lower prices on dim sum on the weekends or if that is only during the week, will investigate more later).

After that it was off to Dongmen. How to describe Dongmen? Being a Beijinger, that is my reference. So imagine a marriage between a crappy version of Wangfujing and a crappy version of XiuShui. Otherwise just imagine Xidan Shopping Center on a Saturday afternoon, times ten. It is teenagers galore buying fake (or at least very cheap) clothing and bags mixed with a few reputable shopping malls that cause for an unbelievable mass of people at this "walking street" that is extremely easy to get lost in.

What stopped me, and is the main reason for this post, was a discovery in one of the stores selling fake soccer and basketball jerseys. I truly regret not taking a picture of this one of a kind sight. Alongside fake versions of Ronaldinho Barcelona jerseys and Shevchenko Chelsea jerseys, there it was, displayed prominently, a Beckham jersey, but it wasn't a Madrid jersey, nor even an England jersey, it was an LA Galaxy jersey (I really, really regret not taking a photo of it). I am still at a loss for words over this finding. While I don't think Beckham to LA will heighten the quality of play in the MLS or will lead to more stars going there, this is a major coup for US soccer. Ten years ago I bet even a lot of players in the league couldn't name many of the teams and media coverage, even in MLS team cities was nonexistant (not that its much better now). Today, the league is receiving coverage around the globe, granted its all due to a single player and is likely to die down after a few months, but for those that wonder about the impact Beckham is having and how global it truly is, let me tell you, believe the hype.

After Dongmen, more shopping, but this time a bit higher end (fake) shopping at Luohu Commercial Center. The towering behometh, a 5 story building where buying fake purses is just as popular as getting your nails done, is converged upon by visitors in from HK for the day. Here the quality of the fakes is probably better than anywhere else and the focus IS on fakes, mainly fake bags, clothes, golf clubs, and small electronics. It is not a fun experience as the sellers are even more pushy than what you'd encounter at Beijing institutions like XiuShui or Hongqiao, but the goods are good.

Dinner was more Cantonese food at ShengJi, next to Lizhi Park on Hongling Lu (not too far from the DaJuYuan (Grand Theater) metro stop). While it is a bit pricy (much like Wang Zi) the food is high quality and the portions are large. Seafood is what's on the menu and you'll walk past the many tanks full of fish as you enter. The waitresses are relatively helpful (though they don't speak English, for those non-Chinese speakers, the menu is in Chinglish) and surprisingly will offer good recommendations and not just suggest the most expensive items on the menu. The setting and the food mean that it gets my seal of approval.

Not sure if there will be more posts like this in the future, but we'll see. My love of food (and my lack of time to cook) means I eat out a lot, but typically just around my home base. While I've written plenty of reviews on dianping (see the sidebar on the right for my page with all the reviews), I haven't brought that over to this page, yet.

In any case, this is the 3rd in the "Live from Shenzhen" series, expect more to come in the future as I encounter the strangeness and contradictions that make this city what it is.


Asian Cup Preview: Battle for First

China vs. Iran 18:20 kickoff tv coverage: CCTV-5 live from Kuala Lumpur

Tonight China has its second, and arguably most important, game in the Asian Cup group stage, facing off against Iran. China will be looking to follow up its drubbing of Malaysia with a good result against Iran, while Iran will be out for revenge after China knocked them out of the 2004 Asian Cup in the semis.

China was dominant, but not exactly impressive despite the one sided score line, in their opener. Iran was able to pull out a 2-1 victory against Uzbekistan that was workmanlike and not overly impressive. These two sides have long been considered the favorites to advance out of the group stages with Iran seen as one of the stronger teams in the competition. China coach Zhu Guanghu will probably stick with his 4-5-1 and put out a relatively defensive side, looking to poach a goal on the counterattack and otherwise walk away with a draw and one point, which will put China in a solid position to advance.

Expect almost the same lineup as last game. The only question will be what Zhu does in the midfield. Last game, Zhou Haibin was non-existant at center mid, I predict Zhu will give the start to Li Tie, despite Tie zi's weak performance as a sub in the Malaysia game. The alternative would be to play Zhao Xuri or stick with Zhou. On the wing, Wang Dong had 2 goals and an assist last game, but there are fears that his lack of speed will hurt China against the stronger Iranian side. Zhu could choose to put in young Zhu Ting on the wing or even play Dong Fangzhou in this position, though its not a position he's played a lot.

My prediction: Being optimistic, I'm predicting a very defensive game resulting in a very boring 1-0 victory for China.


Confident China Cruises Past Malaysia

China got off to a great start in the 2007 edition of the Asian Cup with a dominant 5-1 victory yesterday over host's Malaysia. The team jumped out to an early lead with a goal from Han Peng after 15 minutes and followed it up with a Shao Jiayi strike later in the half. The team followed it up with another goal by Han Peng as well as two by Wang Dong in the second half.

Despite the imposing score line, China had a number of problems, especially in handling Malaysia's set pieces. Further, while the 1 striker formation was enough against Malaysia, whose defense was full of huge holes, it might not work so well against stronger teams like Iran and Uzbekistan. Zhu has a few decisions to make because despite Wang's 2 goals (and an assist), his pace on the right wing is lacking and this could stunt China's counterattack opportunities. Also, Zhou Haibin, who got the start in Li Tie's traditional central defensive midfield position, was nonexistant on the pitch, but Tie Zi, who came in as a sub, didn't perform very well. Will Zhu stick with Wang or go with Zhu Ting? What about the situation with Zhou or Li Tie or another alternative, Zhao Xuri?

While it was a pretty good overall performance, China fans can't get overconfident. The team got the job done, but the job will get much harder when they face off against Iran this weekend. Iran tied them for first in the group with a 2-1 win tonight against Uzbekistan. A full preview of that match will come this weekend.


The Asian Cup Begins in Earnest Tomorrow Night!

The Asian Cup, which typically takes place every 4 years, was moved up this year so that it won't go up against the European Championships and the Olympics next summer. This year there are 4 hosts for the Cup, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. Frustrating as it is, not only will I not be in attendance (though I may have to make the trip if China makes the semis), but the most expensive ticket for China's group stage games in Malaysia are cheaper than the cheapest ticket when the tournament was played in China in 2004. Though the competition is only a few days old, there have already been big surprises with Australia and Japan (two of the main favorites) only earning ties in their first round matches.

China's group contains hosts Malaysia, perennial Asian powerhouse Iran, and Uzbekistan. In 2004, in front of the home fans, China was able to make it to the finals where they suffered a heartbreaking loss, this time around anything short of a semifinal appearance and Coach Zhu Guanghu is sure to get the boot. Fans have been placing a lot of pressure on Zhu and his charges, and calls for him to step down have been coming hard and heavy over the past few months, especially after being upset by Thailand and then embarassing themsleves in the US, but all would be forgotten by a great run in the tournament.

Probable starters:
Li Leilei
Sun Jihai
Li Weifeng
Zhang Yaokun
Sun Xiang
Zhao Xuri
Li Tie
Shao Jiayi
Zheng Zhi (Captain)
Dong Fangzhuo
Han Peng

Tomorrow night's game will be live on CCTV-5 starting at 20:35 and be sure to stop by here after the game for post-game analysis!

When Pirates Kill...

It was a bit shocking this week when the story of a young man in Lanzhou who was killed when his mobile phone battery exploded was splashed all over the news. These kinds of incidents have gotten wide coverage in the US for awhile and it would stand to reason that many, many more Chinese use off-brand batteries (or worse) and yet this was really the first public case of a major mobile phone incident. That was quickly followed up, though, with news that batteries are exploding all over, including here in Guangdong. There was also another interesting story in the local papers on Monday, within 24 hours of the release of the iPhone, a local Guangdong company released an almost identical mobile phone.

As I have seen on a daily basis from work, mobile phone piracy issues are huge in China. Major multinationals put up huge amounts of money and investigators and lawyers go chasing after the pirates. Much of the time, the phones aren't totally fake, but contain a number of real parts or have just entered China illegally to avoid tariffs. The reality is that this is a huge problem, but instead of hearing about it, the focus when people talk about IP is always on movies and cd's. Are Motorola's lobbying forces not as powerful as Hollywood? What's more important, a RMB10 disc that a person may only watch once or a RMB2000 phone which they'll use on a daily basis?

When purchasing movies, a buyer and seller both know that they are technically doing something illegal. Yet, with mobile phones, often the seller, and sometimes even the buyer, won't be aware of the dubious nature of the goods that are being sold. Also, the problem isn't restricted simply to small, hole-in-the-wall locations, you can find fake phones for sale at large electronics malls and fancy shopping centers.

So why is the US so focused on movies and not phone? Is it because, with the exception of Motorola, most of the major mobile phone companies are foreign (often European or Korean)? Is it because in the case of movies, both parties know they are doing something "wrong?" But, wouldn't that be all the more reason to go after those who sell (and especially manufacture) the fake mobiles? Further, its a problem that touches the US more than movies, because many phone sellers on eBay are Chinese or selling (fake) phones that originate in China.

So why aren't we talking about this more? Is it the power of Hollywood's lobby or is it too difficult to catch the sinners because they are all around us and not as blatant?

Live From Shenzhen: Solutionless Problem?

Chinese people love cars and everyone wants to own their own. They represent riches, freedom, independence. Unfortunately, they bring with them a number of problems, pollution, noise, traffic, but to most Chinese, these things are a small price to pay. Those that can afford to buy a car are doing so, those that can't are saving up and patiently waiting for the day that they can. Therefore, when the mayor of a city as prosperous as Shenzhen comes out and tells the people of Shenzhen that they should stop buying cars (Chinese only), it creates a big stink in the media.

His reasoning is based on 2 main things: the traffic and the enivornment. Traffic in the city is getting worse and worse and the more cars on the roads could lead to a decline of Shenzhen's currently very livable conditions. The mayor admits that this isn't a ban and he doesn't have the right to stop people from buying cars, but its more an attempt to encourage people to stop.

The problem is that he misses the main problem. The problem isn't with people owning cars, its with the number of people who end up driving those cars to work, instead of just using them for night/weekend transportation as in the case in most large cities around the world. The reason why? The abundance of cheap parking in the city.

A boss (like mine for example) living in OCT (Overseas Chinese Town, where much of the high end housing is located) is not going to take the subway into town and be amongst the "riff raff." A cab ride from there and back will probably run him close to RMB100 a day. However, he can probably find a place to park amongst the small, older apartment complexes that are within a few minutes walk of Diwang (Shenzhen's main building) and the Stock Exchange. How much would he pay for such prime parking? In a place like New York or Chicago, it may cost him in upwards of US$50 or even more per day, creating a major dissincentive for him to drive to work. But this is China, so how much does it cost? RMB50. Yes, that's right, when compared to cabbing it, he'll actually be saving money. After work if he wants to stop off at a bar or restaurant and needs to leave the car in a paid parking lot, he'll probably be paying less than RMB10.

Economics would simply say get all the people running the parking lots together, create their monopoly, and jack up the prices. The reality, though, is that these "parking lots" are often individually leased out by people who have apartments in these nearby older apartment buildings (or by the building owners), but don't have cars, so instead they rent them to workers in the building. Thus, its not going to be easy getting all these individuals together, unless the city takes over parking operations for downtown.

As long as parking continues to be so cheap, more and more people will go out and buy cars and, even worse, will drive them to work on a daily basis. Let's just hope positive measures are taken in other areas to keep Shenzhen green.


The Survey Says: Foreigners, Set an Example!

There has been an explosion of posts over the past few days and hopefully this pace will continue (as long as I keep having things to blog about at least). Hey, everyone, it's hard being on a server that is blocked in China, so again, please vote for me! I'm still considering changing to one of the other popular blog servers, but then again, there is no guarantee one of those won't get blocked again in the near future, so we'll see...

Speaking of being blocked, China Law Blog was blocked for awhile here, but thanks to their fancy email subscriber, I was still able to read their posts behind the Great Fire Wall. I know this is the second time today I'm talking about it, but it has been so relevant lately that it's hard not to talk about it. If you don't know about the blog or haven't heard of the writer of the blog and you consider yourself informed on Chinese issues, you must have been under a rock recently because its gotte itself splashed all over the place. Not that they need anymore free advertising over there, but thought I'd put in a good word (haha, perhaps being overly polite is enough to jump onto a blog roll?)...

In this post, though, the gloves will come off a bit. Dan had a great post a few weeks ago entitled "Take Advantage of China's Rampant Employment Discrimination." It's a topic that in one respect or another, I've been talking about since the start of this blog (come on, a restaurant in the dark that doesn't hire blind employees???). His post is based on an article from Xinhua on a survey conducted, the most interesting (to me at least) results of which is that 86% of people responded that discrimination is a problem and 51% viewed it as serious (the article can be found here). The survey also stated that 22% of those surveyed stated that they'd been denied a job due to their physical disability (though no data was available as to what percentage this was of disabled participants, my guess is close to 100%).

Every kind of imaginable discrimination exists in China. If you aren't a graduate from a top college who is fully healthy, has a big city hukou, and is relatively young (and of course not gay or HIV-positive), you might have a chance getting a good job with a top company/firm in Beijing, Shanghai, or Shenzhen. If you don't satisfy those criteria, good luck. I'm not sure how it is for women or older people or even homosexuals, but if you're disabled, you're basically screwed. First, if its a sensory disability, umm, sorry, you're screwed. If it's a problem with one or more limbs (due to amputation, paralysis, polio, etc), you're luck is a little better, but it all depends on if your parents were able to convince the school to let you in and possibly even be forced to carry you to school everyday. Okay, it seems I'm repeating myself, because I am, just go back and read this post.

It is a bad sign for a country when you need foreigners to solve your problems for you. Yet when it comes to job discrimination, Chinese are just going to go on discriminating, its slowly improving, but I doubt we'll see a Chinese ADA with teeth in my lifetime. Therefore, it is up to those foreign companies in China to take up the torch for the disabled (or the women, or those from the countryside) and give them opportunities. These foreign companies, the US ones at least, in the US would be forced to follow the ADA, so why shouldn't they be held to the same standards in China?

It's time for people like Mr. Harris and other foreign business leaders to step up and use their clout for the purposes of good. Take a chance on hiring a skilled disabled (or women, old, rural, whatever) employee, they are out there and they're probably also even harder workers than those who didn't have to fight so much on a daily basis to get where they are.

Sunday Photo Thread: Asian Cup Opens Edition

Can't Take My Eyes Off the Train Wreck (aka Career Suicide Was Never This Funny)

There are lawyers in China who are writing blogs, there aren't many, but they do exist...Of course there is Steve Dickinson of the Chinalawblog (which is finally accessible again in China!! And his partner, Dan Harris, sure has been getting an extended moment of fame as of late), I believe the guy behind the Black China Hand is a lawyer, unfortunately I haven't been able to read that blog for awhile due to its being blocked, and of course there is yours truly.

Yet my job and my bloglife are two separate things and so I will rarely bring up job matters on my blog, I would never mention my firm's name and would never say anything negative about anyone associated with the firm. Why? I like my job, but even beyond that, I want to be able to get a job in the future. That's when I saw The Life of a US Lawyer at a Chinese Law Firm (hat tip, again to Mr. Harris), I was more than a bit shocked. There are a lot of little differences that exist at Chinese law firms as compared to US ones, and it has a lot to do with the culture differences. My current firm, for all intents and purposes, runs almost exactly like a Western firm, it has to, that's how we get the top Western clients we do. However, I interned with a Chinese firm where there would be naps after lunch, meals with Party leaders, and other interesting activities that you wouldn't expect at a Western law firm (let me state that there was NEVER anything illegal (well, beyond software piracy)).

You can therefore understand my shock when the differences talked about by that US lawyer, going beyond the realm of just discussing cultural differences and instead issuing a full on attack against the ZhongLun Law Firm, one of China's top firms. The reality is that almost everything he talks about appears to be true, but...why talk about it? As a lawyer, this is Reason Number 1 why not to have a blog, but then again, nobody is forcing that kind of irresponsibility. It's a bit appalling, too, because some of what he talks about (the arcane nature of Chinese laws, the Office IT guy, bribery) are important problems and a rational blog could have a lot of good things to say. Instead, his blog seems more of a bitter outlet to attack a highly respected firm, I wonder what kind of effect this might have on ZhongLun. If the lawsuit against this guy comes (and I'm sure it will), I can't imagine him having much hope. Well, I can't wait for the next installment, the accident just keeps getting worse and worse and it was never more fun!!!


I don't want to make a big deal out of it, but I saw that I'm getting my ass kicked by a few other blogs, so I'll put a plea out, though I know its a bit late. This blog is elgible in the Chinalyst best blog voting. You can go here to VOTE. FOR. ME! Just click on that plus, that's all you need to do...I know there hasn't been a lot of new content lately, but there's a good story (or combo of stories) as to why, vote for me, and I will tell you, okay?


Live from Shenzhen, a Culture City (?)

Shenzhen has received a bad rap, somewhat desveredly, as a city without culture. It lacks the arts scene that exists in cities like Beijing and Shanghai and despite its close location to Hong Kong, its music scene is probably weaker than an armpit city like Jinan, which, despite its crapiness, its proximity to Beijing makes it easy for bands (which are usually based in Beijing) to make a trip jaunt south for a show.

Well, this weekend, my friends, Shenzhen became a happening city for culture...The famous rock band, Tang Dynasty, was in town for a show at Base Bar in Nanshan on Friday night. Further, there was a Peking Opera performance at the Grand Opera House on Friday and Saturday. To top it all off, famed writer Su Tong gave a lecture at the Shenzhen Library on Saturday. A pretty good weekend of activities, and more should be expected considering this week is some kind of "Arts Festival," at least according to the signs around DaJuYuan...And of course, Shenzhen always has an offering for those who aren't into "culture," the World is holding its Beer Fest, though there are conflicting reports on whether that ends today or runs through the week. Either way, it almost makes me consider making the trip out that way and going to the World (god forbid!)...