Google

2008/11/30

Yet Another Example of Chinese Retro Chic

While few at A Modern Lei Feng are big fans of Shanghai (a bit of an understatement), we must admit they have some classic old brands like Forever bikes, Warrior shoes, and Seagull cameras. To me, the design of a Forever bike is still as beautiful as it was back in the day, definitely retro cool, though the one I have sure isn't the smoothest of rides.

Well , Shanghaiist recently pointed us to a new collaboration with another classic brand, Shanghai watches. I'm certainly a big fan of a few of the designs, though the "Shanghai" on the dial is more than a little annoying to me. Not sure about the prices, though they'll be offered at major Paris and NYC boutiques, so don't expect a bargain.

So why is it that Shanghai has so many great traditional brands? Why are Beijing's brands centered around alcohol (Yanjing and Red Star Erguotou)? What other classic Chinese brands deserve revival?

Vote Early, Vote Often

Chinalyst once again started is annual competition for the best China blogs on the net. As always, I advocate the Chicago way of voting early and often for this blog, which is once again in the General blog category (competition is sure to be tough). Go here to vote for me, I want to say I appreciate all your votes. While you're there, consider voting for other great blogs like Beijing Boyce, China Law Blog, Silicon Hutong, and any of the other fine blogs in my blogroll.

Sunday Photo Thread: Food






I hope all Americans had a happy Thanksgiving, we're taking this time to celebrate food as well...

2008/11/28

7 Deaths...

The sudden announcement of the death of Yang Jia, the Beijinger who entered a Shanghai police station armed with a knife, killed 6 officers, and injured 4 others, brought about a storm of online thoughts. The story of Yang is far more complicated than just the facts, it includes having been arrested a few times and roughed up by the police despite his claims of innocence. It shocked many around China, though surprisingly many supported him or, at the very least, could sympathize with him.

I am not surprised by the reaction of working class Chinese, migrant laborers, and others who deal with being looked down on and mistreated by the police and others in power on a regular basis. However, when I saw this passionate entry by the popular middle class, white collar blogger, Wang Jianshuo, who almost never writes anything remotely "political", it did make me do a double take.

It doesn't matter what class you are or what your background is, it seems, abuses of power are just too common in China and people recognize the frustration that must have took over Yang, even if they don't agree with the end result. It is never okay to kill 6 people, but all the facts behind Yang's case (check out Black and White Cat below for more details), make it shocking that the government acted so swiftly, carrying out the execution less than 6 months from when Yang committed the horrific act.

I've been thinking about this for the past few days and I'm still at a loss as to what to say, so read the coverage from other fine sources:
NY Times
WSJ China Journal
Black and White Cat

Embarassing Other Leagues, Promoting the Domestic League?

The Chinese domestic soccer league was plagued with issues of fixed matches a few years back and it significantly damaged the domestic game. Now underground Chinese gambling syndicates have been implicated in a match fixing scandal that has hit the Korean K3 League (Korea's 3rd division). When I first heard about it, I thought it was gamblers doing their "national duty" and embarrassing a foreign league to make the Chinese Super League (CSL) look better, but the reality of the situation (3rd division?!?) is surprising and, at the same time, unfortunately unsurprising.

This isn't the first time Chinese gamblers have been implicated in betting (and fixing) games abroad or at the lower levels of soccer. There has long been rumors of Asian gamblers betting on Scottish reserve and youth team games. The gambling craze in China could have even been the reason for a double murder in England.

The government outlaws gambling in China, but it still goes on and, as with a lot of things, being forced underground leads to a lack of regulation and an anything goes environment.

2008/11/27

Hockey in China?

Having started a mini firestorm by simply offering what was in many Chinese papers and bbs' (about the possibility of Gary Payton coming to China), I wasn't going to post about Claude Lemiux until it was confirmed and now that it has been, I find that I'm already too late, as his buddy Doug Wilson recently offered him a contract.

Its rare that I have a chance to talk about hockey and China in the same breath. The Asia Hockey League, which is what Lemiux had his brief experience in, is made up of 7 teams in Japan, Korea, and China and fails to garner much attention, even in the countries where it is played (in his league debut, the 43 year old Lemiux played in front of 500 people in Korea, probably the smallest crowd he's played for since he was 12).

The China team, the China Sharks, is backed by the San Jose Sharks, who moved the team from Beijing to Shanghai this season. The current squad plays out of the Songjiang University City Arena, not a good idea if they want to attract a crowd, but even in Beijing they played outside of the 5th Ring Road.

Hockey in China is basically non-existent, there are few places to play (outside of the northeast) and even fewer players. That said, there is a lot of optimism, the Sharks (SJ) talk about how the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) only became viable less than 20 years ago. Others talk about how China's soccer team is ranked in the 80s [actually its in the 90s] in the world, while the hockey team is in the 20s [though I didn't know there were more than 10 countries in the world who play hockey].

What will make hockey take off in China? It's not going to be easy, though a serious winter sports program is starting to be developed, especially as there are nascent hopes of hosting the Winter Olympics. China never before had a strong field hockey, beach volleyball, or boxing program, but the Olympics showed what China can do when they put their minds (and money) to it. Charles Wang, owner of the New York Islanders, did what he could to promote the game in his homeland, but

Harbin bid for the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, both weren't serious bids, though I can see Harbin trying again in 2018 (or even Changchun taking a run at it), and if it receives backing by the government, the city could put together a serious bid. Though, Harbin borders Russia, the host of the 2014 Games, so one wonders if the IOC will want to go in that direction. Also, many feel China will bid for the 2018 World Cup, I don't see the IOC and FIFA granting them both events. A Winter Olympics in China would bring about a focus on winter sports and is the only hope hockey has of growing seriously in China.

What is Safe to Eat (and drink)?

When I'm traveling, I love to check out the local food markets to see what is on offer. When in the US, I do my food shopping at local farmer's markets supplemented by Whole Foods and ethnic grocery stores. Currently, Organic China Expo 2008 is taking place in Beijing as a way to inform and promote about organic eating.

When in China, grocery shopping is never easy. Sure, things are far cheaper than abroad and the abundance is huge, but where do you go? Big box shops like Carrefour have amazing selection, but I'd prefer buying locally when I can. Popular foreign grocery stores like Ole are incredibly expensive and often aren't very different from what you'd get anywhere else. In Beijing, Lohao City offers organic produce and other products, but at my local shop the selection is limited, prices are very high, and the vegetables rarely seem fresh. The other option is to buy local from a "cai shichang", where the vegetables and fruit are typically from the suburbs or nearby provinces like Hebei, though where they actually come from and the state of the farmer's land is unknown to the buyer.

While I believe in buying organic, in China the choices for those who do want to buy organic are few and far between and when you find them, they aren't always that attractive (nor, in a lot of cases, local). At the same time, with all the stories about food safety and pollution, I can't deny that in the back of my mind, there are always thoughts about the quality of the food I'm eating.

Of course, buying locally is also important, but unless you buy in the suburbs and bring it into the city, you don't really know the farming techniques the farmer employees (and a lot of times, the farmer's themselves are unaware of all the chemicals they use or problems with polluted water, etc).

And with this item about used tea leaves being dried and repacked, is there anything that is still sacred? Is there anything safe? Do you take the attitude, like most, of just eating whatever you want and hoping its safe? Does anyone think the FDA's presence in China will help improve the quality of what's for sale on the domestic market? Or do you, like some cynics, believe, FDA-rejected items will simply be dumped on the Chinese market? If you are a conscious, green consumer (or have pretentions of being one), how do you deal with the question of grocery shopping in China?

Don't They Read China Law Blog?!?

I was unsurprised by yet another story of rioting at a factory in Dongguan. For the past few months, riots seem to be erupting all over China, but factory riots and general discontent has become a common thread amongst workers in Dongguan and Shenzhen. Therefore, when I saw the story "Workers riot at Chinese toy factory" about workers running rampant at a Hasbro factory in Dongguan, I was unfazed and quickly skimmed the article, until...this quote:

Guo [Chenming, cited as a "local Communist Party official"] doubted the allegation, saying it would be foolish for the police to incite such a massive crowd. He also said the 80 workers didn't get full severance because of bad performance. But he added that the company didn't fully understand new labor laws and was also to blame.

The Labor Contract Law has been something that foreign lawyers in China and legal bloggers writing on China (none more so than China Law Blog) have been talking about ever since it was first announced in June of last year and the fervor continued once it came into force on January 1 of this year.

Most Chinese companies quickly tried to sign contracts with their employees and dot their i's and cross their t's in preparation for the law, but some ignored it, either feeling the government wouldn't enforce it or that their employees wouldn't realize their newfound rights.

With the spotlight on factories of the Pearl River Delta as of late, workers, even migrant laborers working in factories, aren't as ignorant as they used to be and either know of their rights or know enough to find a lawyer who promptly informs them of their rights.

Though the factory claims to have paid all proper compensation under the law, it wouldn't surprise me if they cut some corners and didn't follow the full letter of the current labor law. If you are a business owner in China, you can't be too careful, especially if you're a foreigner, DO NOT play fast and loose with this law, make sure you are in compliance with it (and while you're at it, make sure all foreign employees have the proper visas).

PS: While we're at it, 2 asides, the article paints a good picture of how these protests can come about as well as a brief look at the current (scary) situation in the PRD. And while its not connected, I saw this cartoon today on a Korean blog I regularly visit as to how some Koreans get around the laws/requirements of a contract. Good stuff!

2008/11/26

(Chinese) Beer's The Thing

Today's news reports that Snow Beer is now the world's best selling beer (hat tip to Shanghaiist), overtaking Bud Light according to an article in the Guardian. The article states that last year "Bud Light sold 5.18bn litres – about 9bn pints - while Snow sold 5.12bn litres", though this year Snow has already sold 5.1 billion litres in the first 9 months of the year (is this an Olympics bump?!?). This is a 20% raise in sales of Snow, while sales for Bud Light are down this year.

What's most interesting about this, and significant for other Chinese brands outside the beer industry, is that Snow hardly has a presence in China's major cities. Yanjing Beer controls the Beijing market, Guangzhou is ruled by Zhujiang, Shenzhen is dominated by Kingway, and Shanghai has a number of brands battling for top spot. In these cities, Snow is often absent from the restaurant picture, or only available at smaller establishments. So how does Snow do so well? Through major marketing and dominance in restaurants in second and third tier cities, Snow has left its mark on the China drinking picture.

Yes, you can be like the major brands and focus on the top 4 cities in China, or you can get down and dirty and battle it out in the provincial capitals and small countryside towns around the nation. Price is incredibly important if you want to get into these markets and distribution (especially for something like beer) is equally important, something Snow has down pat.

While this approach might be different for foreign brands (pricing is often preventative), other Chinese brands should take note, and some have (ie Li Ning). It's not easy to go head to head with the big international boys in the major cities, but its a vast country, take to the countryside, and the results just might be impressive market domination.

Since we're discussing beer, very interesting news recently from China's nascent antitrust regulators who have approved the Anheuser-Busch -Inbev merger (discussed previously on this blog), though they also barred the megabrewer from expanding its stake in Qingdao as well as preventing them from pursuing Snow and Yanjing. Interesting both for the antitrust aspect in itself, but also for the limits placed, though I will save that for someone else to write about.

2008/11/25

Getting Between Shanghai-Beijing Faster

Currently there is only 1 high speed "D" train plying the Beijing-Shanghai rails, taking just under 10 hours (9 hours, 44 minutes), basically trimming the time of the overnight "Z" trains by 2 hours. The "D" train leaves in the late morning and gets in late in the evening, but rumor has it that before the end of the year, there will be an overnight "D" train making the trip.

With the current price for the "Z" and "T" overnight soft sleeper trains at RMB499, it will be interesting to see if the price for a "D" sleeper berth will remain at RMB499 or go higher. If the price remains the same, it will definitely be an attractive option, most likely leaving around 9-10 pm and arriving at 6-7 am. While plane tickets can sometimes be had cheaper than the soft sleeper train tickets, this option is far more convenient, dropping you off in each of the city centers.

Of course, the "bullet" train that will make the trip in 5-6 hours is still a few years down the line.

The Bar is Passing People By

Having talked with a number of sources at a few more top law firms in China, the anecdotal evidence is starting to add up to more than a small anomaly. The bar exam pass rate at China's top 4 firms this year seems to be around 75% with some offices being as high as 90%. If this was the US, this wouldn't be so surprising, but considering that even at T4 firms, the pass rate last year (and typically) is lucky to reach 50%. I've yet to see any official data released stating the overall pass rate, but from mainly anecdotal evidence and the few stories I've seen, it's much higher than the typical 10-15% and possibly even higher than last year's pass rate (though there were also 20% more test takers this year). The pass rate over the past few years looks like this:

2002 - 8%,
2003 - 11%
2004 - 11%
2005 - 14%
2006 - 15%
2007 - 22%

Does anyone else have any anecdotal stories about the bar (US or China) this year? Any theories as to why the pass rate has been slowly rising and if this will be a permanent thing?
Will we eventually see US style (or something closer to California style) pass rates? Would love to hear some theories on this.

*its a slow morning (wait, its almost noon already) and my brain isn't really functioning, so forgive the title, its an admittedly weak reference to this classic joint, law and old school hip hop, don't they just go together?

2008/11/23

Why is Everyone So Surprised?

Over the past week, a new web phenomenon was created with the rapid spread of a recorded phone call an American made to a Shanghai restaurant delivery service. In the call, the American "taught", insulted, and demanded an apology from the operator. He also stated he had 2,000 employees under him and he makes RMB3 million a year, which makes one wonder why he was so up in arms about a 2-for-1 burger deal. It also seems obvious the operator couldn't understand much of his English and he didn't speak Chinese to her, its likely he can't speak any to begin with.

What seems so funny to me is how fast this has spread around the net and how roundly its condemned by everyone. It's not that I condone this kind of behavior, the way he acts is pretty appalling. Yet the reality is that this is fairly common among the expat community in China. I don't know if this guy has 2,000 employees under him and is making RMB3 million a year, but there are a lot of young 20 and 30 somethings (and even older) in China who are making a lot of money and who feel a sense of entitlement based on their passport.

While in this case it was an American, it just as easily could have been a Brit, a Canadian, a Frenchie, etc. It seems like a lot of expats want to pretend this is an isolated incident, instead of something that happens in the expat bars/restaurants on a daily basis, you know this guy, if you're in a cafe or bar, you could very easily be sitting next to this guy. I sent this to a friend, quite possibly the only person who hadn't seen it, and their reaction was "why are you sending this to me?" This "douchebag" attitude was so prevalent among those who they were around (mostly lawyers), that this call didn't seem odd in the slightest.

It's great to call out this guy on the net, with a lot of "brave" statements about punching him out and name calling in Danwei's comments, but the next time you come across "this guy" in a bar, club, or restaurant, how many of you will actually do something? It's not like this never happens, what never happens is that foreigners take notice and stand up for the Chinese involved.

2008 Olympics Retrospective: Baseball








Baseball had its curtain call as an Olympic sport in Beijing and though it was very foreign to most Chinese, it still had decent crowds of people looking for a day in the sun at the temporary venue at Wukesong. The Chinese team, making its first ever Olympic appearance, gave the fans a lot to cheer about playing hard against the Dutch and Korean teams and, most importantly, defeating Chinese Taipei.

Korea won the gold medal in a dramatic 3-2 clash with Cuba, while the US secured the bronze. While baseball (as well as softball) won't be part of the 2012 Olympics, the talk is that it will be reconsidered for 2016 (Olympic baseball at Wrigley?!?), though it could depend on whether Major League Baseball will allow its stars to participate.

2008/11/22

What Are They Thinking?

I try to stay away from blogging on the weekend, but there's too much to talk about this weekend, so here goes.

T!betans the world over are coming together in Dharmsala this week to discuss how to proceed in their dealings with the Chinese government. The meetings have taken on greater significance for two reasons, following the March riots in T!bet the calls for independence (and even violence) among some T!betans are louder than ever, and beyond that there is the pressing question of who will take over after the DL (abbreviated to avoid the Great Firewall).

The major issue is what comes after the DL? I talked about this a little in March after the riots and I still think this is critically important. If the T!betans hope to reach any kind of agreement with the Chinese government, it must happen while the DL is still in power. If they fail to do so, it's going to be a lot harder than they thought, why?

One thought is that the Chinese are convinced once the DL is out of the picture, they'll be able to name his successor and be able to slowly placate those who are in T!bet. Another possible line of thinking is that the DL is such a strong symbol of T!bet, a Nobel Prize winner famous the world over, but his successor won't be able to cultivate the same strong cult of celebrity.

The Chinese can be equally confident they don't need to be concerned about radical T!betan youth attempting to push for independence. As long as the DL is alive, the majority of T!betans will follow his "middle way" path, which was confirmed by their decision at the conference. The funniest part of an NY Times article on the conference states:
An independence movement, he [Jamyang Norbu, a T!betan writer in the US] said, would unite the exile community, keep T!bet in the headlines and increase pressure on the Chinese government. Supporters would organize economic boycotts of China. Young T!betans in the West would go door to door explaining the cause.
What? Economic boycotts of China will be impossible to organize except among some of the most ardent T!betans and some wacko leftists and will have no effect. They'll also fail miserably at getting much news coverage and creating any pressure on the Chinese. But the best part is the idea of monks going door to door in the US. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, the club of crazies, that's the club you want to join?!? I always pictured Tibetan buddhism as far more noble.

However, what's more laughable are the radical T!betans, basically terrorists, who are calling for violence against the Chinese. Not only does that go against everything they purportedly believe in as Buddhists, it will quickly get them denounced around the world, as well as quickly crushed by the Chinese.

An agreement must come while the DL is still alive, or else the Chinese will have little patience for negotiations. Without the DL, China will be under even less international pressure than the marginal pressure they're under now and they'll also be able to split the domestic T!betan community.

Interesting But Relevant?

US News & World Report went from the irrelevant step sister behind Time and Newsweek to a major player for its annual rankings of US universities, graduate schools, and hospitals. Though these lists are roundly denounced for being meaningless, law schools do everything in their power to improve their numbers (including sending out free iTunes cards to applicants).

Recently, US News released their World's Best Colleges and, unsurprisingly, Harvard is number 1. The list was put together based on 6 categories: Academic Peer Review, Employer Review, Student to Faculty Ratio, Proportion of International Faculty, Proportion of International Students, and Citations Per Faculty.

The University of Tokyo is the top Asian university that came in at 19th, while University of Hong Kong was 26th. Two other HK institutions were in the top 50 as Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was 39th and Chinese University of Hong Kong was 42nd. This would surprise a lot of HKers as the only school people want to attend is HKU. Beijing University was the highest mainland institute, coming in at 50th, no surprise, but the low ranking (especially behind the HK schools) may shock a few.

Other Chinese schools on the list:
Qinghua University, 56
University of Southern California, 102 (couldn't pass this up)
Fudan University, 113
University of Science and Technology of China, 141
Nanjing University, 143
Shanghai Jiaotong University, 144

So what do the rankings mean? Is there any importance to them beyond just an interesting discussion? How does one decide Beida is 50th and Dartmouth is 54th and does it even matter to anyone? Anyways, I'm a sucker for lists.

And while we're at it, some notables for our writers/readers:
King's College London, 22
University of Virginia, 96
Georgetown University, 110
Indiana University, 170

2008/11/21

Are You Serious, Clark?*

I was thinking about blogging the insanity of the Big Three CEOs taking separate private jets to DC when they went to Congress to beg for a bail out, but decided against it originally. Today, I saw this post on Ted Leonsis' blog (Ted's the big guy behind the NHL Capitals and AOL):
My family uses AIG as an insurance company on our homes and personal
effects.
We received in the mail today a huge Tiffany box with two champagne
glasses within as a thank you for our business and for good cheer this holiday
season.
All I can say is, "are you serious, Clark?" Don't these companies have PR teams or do they just not care?

*If you don't know what movie this is from, go immediately and rent (do people still rent movies?) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and enjoy, a great way to get you into the holiday spirit...

CBD Shopping: Craziness Both High and Low

The annual Guomao Shopping Bazaar is once again upon us and the masses have descended upon Guomao to fight their way through the crowds in search of major bargains. In reality, the Bazaar is a complete waste of time, as by the time you read this, all the good stuff has been picked over and many of the items look like they are outlet or made for China type things you'd never see in the brand's regular store. For guys there is very little to choose from, though Pink has some decent shirts for RMB850 (though many are from LAST winter's collection). Also, some decent Paul Smith (starting around RMB4100) and Neil Barrett suits (RMB5200) at the Lane Crawford stall, but that's about it.

In the middle of high and low is the new tshirt and bag store SQY-T, with some incredibly interesting designs and stores in Beijing and Shanghai, well worth checking out

At the other end of the fashion scale, an interesting "night market" environment has suddenly been created at the southwest corner of Guomao Bridge, running from the corner to the street dividing Yintai and Jianwai Soho. Everything from traditional winter food options like sweet potato, corn, and pineapple to gloves, sweaters, bags, dvds, jewelry, and small household goods are sold on the sidewalk and from the trunks of cars in this small stretch. It will be interesting to see how long this "market" is allowed to continue.

Congratulations to the New Lawyers!

As many American colleagues are finding out their bar results (or manically awaiting them), today the Chinese bar results are officially out. While in the US every state has its own exam, in China it is a national exam. Also, for Chinese law school grads it is incredibly difficult, as only 10% or so of test takers pass (in comparison 70%+ in the US pass).

This year, though, it seems the Chinese bar was a lot easier, as I've only heard about a very small number of people who didn't pass. Now the interesting question is, was the test just that much easier this year or was it a conscious decision that China needs more lawyers (more lawyers? just the thought of that makes my head hurt)? So far talk around the office is that next year the test will be made harder, what do you think?

2008/11/20

China's Tough Times Ahead

Long before the economic crisis began, I've been talking about the difficulties that China will face in the 4th quarter of this year and the first few quarters of next year, but I feel like I'm always "crying wolf" in an environment that just doesn't want to hear it. The Olympics were incredibly costly, as talked about yesterday, the final price tag might have been in the neighborhood of US$40 billion and the pay off in return is sure to have fallen far short of what the government expected. There were definitely plans for how to deal with the costs of the Olympics, but even with the best plans 1. the losses were greater than expected, and 2. at some point they have to actually pay.

Beyond the Olympics, there was the unexpected consequences of the Sichuan earthquake and the huge bill that comes from that as schools, homes, and businesses need to be rebuilt from scratch in many cases. Even in the best circumstances, things were going to be hard, but when the global economy suddenly went down hill, its' going to be harder than ever on China, and especially those in earthquake damaged areas. This point was brought home excellently in a post on All Roads Lead to China.

Chongqing is far more tempting than Chengdu for most companies, especially as Bo Xilai works his magic there, but for companies looking to help (and get some good PR along the way), Chengdu should be seriously considered if they are looking to get away from the east coast.

Also, while on All Roads, I came across this scary post about fake Corona beer and some interesting comments. Having consumed more than my fair share of alcohol, its a sobering thought (sorry for the pun) and having been involved in some deals involving high end maotai, when you find out how little they actually produce each year and how much is actually out there, its pretty obvious that a large amount of the maotai for sale isn't kosher.

Bylines at Customs: The $40 Billion Disconnect

The Wall Street Journal's China Journal posted results from a survey yesterday regarding the "brand values" of countries and saw China only ranked 56th out of 78 countries while only 29% of respondents around the world rated China as "excellent" or "very good".

I'm not sure why the Wall Street Journal attempted to tie it in to the Olympics, but to me there seems a major disconnect between the two. This Olympics, more so than anything, was not meant as an external statement, but a necessary moment of pride for the Chinese people, it was about domestic nationalism just as much as portraying the image of a modern power abroad.

Further, almost as a throwaway, at the end is the paragraph:

The Futurebrand survey did toss China a bone. The country beat out United Arab
Emirates to place first in a category called “Most Impressive Last Year” – given
to the country with the “most noteworthy performances.”

The survey data is more or less what one would expect. Further, reading the survey further, China is deemed a country "in vogue" which means that it is becoming the "new 'it' destination" and "establishing itself as the new place to be." The survey is also centrally focused on the tourist industry above all, something that WSJ fails to mention. What frustrated me about the blog entry was that somehow the Olympics were less of a success or that China should regret the huge price tag due to this one survey.

Unlike a lot of countries (including fellow Asian destinations Singapore, Malaysia, and Korea) China does no international marketing/ad campaigns in an attempt to promote tourism and a more positive image. Perhaps a more proactive marketing campaign would be helpful, but China is well aware that the world knows the major tourist sites in China and no marketing is needed to bring people to the country. While that is true, there are many amazing natural sights and tourist gems that don't get enough international attention beyond the limited focus of most tourists on Shanghai, Beijing, and Xian. When issues like T!bet and food safety were in the news a lot over the past year it is understandable why the "Chinese brand" would not meet with overwhelming positive responses. Not to mention the fact that among most travelers, China's absolute foreignness is, unfortunately, a deterrent to visiting.

The results, to me, don't mean that the Olympics were a waste, it just means that it may be time to start doing more promotion and showing more of what China is about to foreigners, especially now that the nation is still in the limelight after the spectacular Olympics. However, with the global financial meltdown, people aren't spending as much on vacations and the one big hurdle to traveling to China, the expensive airfare, is sure to deter many from visiting. Considering how the government is PR-stupid, it makes such a campaign extremely unlikely.

2008/11/19

If a Coach is Named in the Forest...

The Chinese Football Association (CFA), the much maligned organization formerly headed by the hated Xie Yalong, has completed its search for the next Chinese men's soccer (football) team coach and it is...wait for it...Wang Baoshan. It's such a big story that not even People's Daily/Xinhuanet bothered carrying it in their English editions.

With China knocked out of qualification for the 2010 World Cup and only a few boring friendlies on the horizon, the next year or so will be incredibly dull for fans of the Chinese national team. The CFA limited their "search" to domestic candidates, they claimed the limitation was due to economic considerations, a fair point, but what international coach in his right mind wants to come to a team where they'll be able to coach in nothing more than friendlies for the next 2 years?

Even when considering the numerous domestic options, the choice of Wang seems strange. His Shenzhen side currently sits 14th in the CSL standings in 3rd to last place and is (?) in the midst of a relegation battle. (or possibly saved by Wuhan being removed from the league). Most of the articles are so bold as to state that the search basically narrowed down to 6 options, Shen Xiangfu, Yin Tiesheng, Gao Hongbo, Cheng Yaodong, Wu Jingui and Wang. Out of the 6, Wang is by far the least famous/experienced/accomplished, so is it any surprise the CFA chose him? The choice was based on his knowledge of the players as he served as an assistant under the previous manager.

To call the CFA's debate over who should become the new coach a "search" is almost laughable, considering the position has remained open for nearly 6 months and the end result is that all the usual suspects were trotted out. What is interesting is that no mention of former players like Fan Zhiyi or Hao Haidong was made as part of the search. Granted, neither have any previous real coaching experience, but that hasn't stopped even better footballing nations and sides from throwing players into the fire. Plus, with the calls for a new revolution of Chinese football, it might take a firebrand like Hao to actually deliver.

The choice of Wang as the next head coach doesn't inspire me to believe that the next few years are going to see Chinese soccer improve very much. It may be hard to believe, but its possible we've yet to see the national team hit rock bottom.

It's tough being a Chinese soccer fan, which is probably why so few exist anymore.

No More CCTV for CSL

After a crazy ending that resulted in a huge kick boxing, punching, and general handbags skirmish in the recent Chinese Super League (CSL) match between Beijing and Tianjin, all caught by tv cameras, CCTV has announced that it is no longer going to show CSL games and will limit or entirely stop its news reporting of the matches. It should also be noted that the now post-controversy match ritual of stoning the away team's bus by wannabe hooligans was employed. Chinese soccer, which rarely garners any mention in the foreign press now must deal with widespread negative press, as the story of CCTV's decision was picked up widely (I was shocked to see it first in the Guardian's "Fiver" this morning) due to an AP story on the subject.

What the AP doesn't mention is that this isn't the first time CCTV has stopped its live coverage of CSL matches, that matches will still be broadcast on local sports channels which are commonly received around the nation, and that in a Netease poll (part of this article), 65% of respondents stated that the CSL is so crappy that CCTV should have done this sooner, while another 30% of people stated that they never paid attention to the CSL anyways. Only 3% were unhappy with CCTV's decision.

This is sad as this has been an incredibly exciting CSL season this year, with Shanghai and Shandong tied at the top of the table with only a few matches left after Shanghai's heart stopping late goal victory last weekend (just wait for the cries, or worse, of match fixing). Chinese football is in a major funk, as was reported here recently, and this isn't going to improve the situation.

In somewhat related news, CCTV has reached an agreement with UEFA and will continue broadcasting Champions League matches for the next 3 years.

2008/11/17

When Old Red Friends Meet

It's always interesting when China meets with the two Communist strongholds that represent the old order of things, Cuba and North Korea. These sort of meetings attract attention not only among China hands, but watchers of global politics in general as comparisons between the progress of "Communist" China and Communist North Korea/Cuba can't be helped.

Currently, Hu Jintao is on a state visit to Cuba to meet with the island's new head, Raul Castro. Classic lines like "China adopted market economics long ago while Cuba still has a Soviet-style command system where more than 90 percent of the economy is in state hands" can't be avoided by reporters. While China will openly acknowledge the "strategic" relationship between the two countries, in reality, it always feels like China is playing the role of the big brother who simply can't bring himself to cut his younger, hard up, loser brother off due to the strength of familial ties.

While I am optimistic enough to believe that more and more university student exchanges between the US and China will promote understanding, I'm not one to believe that China will serve as a model for reforms in these other countries. China would be able to help, of course, especially in the Cuban situation as there are similar advantages (ie a large population of often highly educated, or at the very least rich, emigres living in the US who would love to help Cuba out or even return just as soon as the government changes), yet it would mean another competitor and potentially the loss of a market as China would likely have to go head-to-head against the US.

Those in China are sure to "enjoy" a night or two with lots of news images of Hu shaking hands with Cuban leaders, embassy meetings, etc, but whether anything really comes from this is yet to be seen. At the same time, its hard not to pay attention when these nations meet.

More US Students to China, a Trend that Surprises Anybody?

The New York Times is reporting that while American college students are still heading to England, France, Italy, and Spain in large numbers, China is now number 5 on the list and the number of students traveling there is rising incredibly fast, 25% over the previous year.

While that shouldn't surprise anybody, especially regular readers of this blog, equally interesting is that the number of Chinese students at US universities has also risen by 20%, most likely due to visa policies allowing more students to easily obtain visas.

One of the purposes of this blog and our work in general is to help promote understanding between the two countries, with this ever growing trend, it will certainly make our job easier.

2008/11/16

Bylines at Customs Returns?

The Olympics have been over for less than 3 months, but the mass of reporters in Beijing to cover the Games left before the start of September and skipped out on the Paralympics. Despite that, it seems reporters are still out published total crap stories on China. You see them all the time and they are utterly disappointing and rarely worth my time picking them apart. China Law Blog does an excellent job picking apart the Newsweek story about China being the world's most stressful place.

These sort of trend stories based on one or two incidents are just laughable, but easy to sell to gullible editors back home who know little to nothing about China and so the story passes their smell test. The problem is that too many readers will go on to believe it because "it was written." What is surprising is that the story is by Melinda Liu (at least it carries her byline) and while nobody is perfect, there are few with her depth of knowledge and experience writing on China nowadays. Even the best can make mistakes sometimes...

Am I Missing Something?

Over the weekend huge crowds came out around the country to protest against California's passing of Proposition 8, banning gay marriage. In my home state of Illinois, around 2,000 people were out in full voice despite the cold temperatures to protest, but was anyone listening? And why protest a California law when Illinois forbids gay marriage itself? Why not rally against Illinois law?



To be honest, there are a number of issues that I'm concerned about and focused on, I have no time to pay attention to every issue, and gay marriage is one that gets lost in the void to me. I can understand both sides of the argument and to call the side who doesn't want to allow gays to marry "racist" is really misunderstanding the issue. To me, if gay people want to get married, it has nothing to do with me and is none of my business, nor is it the government's business so they shouldn't legislate against it.



However, it wasn't the government who legislated against it in the California situation, the voters of the state of California voted in favor of not allowing gay people to marry. Perez Hilton's voyaging into politics just makes me laugh, but it annoys me that a "Conservative" like Andrew Sullivan is dedicating so much time to this issue. Those who were against the Proposition could have, should have, and in many cases probably did vote against it, but the majority of people in the state voted for it, since when are we against letting the voters speak?



Okay, okay, I know the feelings of the anti-Prop 8 side feel that it is akin to allowing people in say Arkansas circa 1960 to vote to banish all the black people from the state, but most people don't view the issue like that.



Further, as I said above, what motivates someone in well, the majority of states in our Union to come out and protest against Prop 8 when their own states don't allow for gay marriage and the people of California have already spoken?



I simply don't get it.

2008 Olympics Retrospective: Track and Field








The track and field competition was as exciting as ever at this Games. There was a surprising domination by Jamaicans, the incredible failures of the Americans, and the national grieving over Liu Xiang. One name more than any other will be remembered from the track events at these Games, the incredible (and aptly named) Usain Bolt, whose lightning speed led him to 2 world records and the title of fastest man alive.

2008/11/14

How Ever Will CCTV Survive?!?

It seems the Chinese Ministry of Culture has basically condemned CCTV to hours upon hours of blank air and brought an end to the annual Spring Festival Gala show in one fell swoop. That's right, they have proposed a draft law that would ban lip synching at concerts and on tv and publicly name and shame repeat offenders (its a rare day that I get to link to Perez on a post about China). Cui Jian has long been on a quest against lip synching after turning down a request to appear on CCTV, but being told he would have to lip synch. If you've ever watched the mega concerts on CCTV, especially "Tong Yi Shou Ge", its pretty obvious that a large percentage of the acts are lip synching, so what's going to happen to them all now? Is this the first step to China developing real singing talent of its own? Is this the end of lip synching Taiwanese pop stars coming to the mainland? What the hell is CCTV going to do now that these "singers" actually have to sing without the help of studio editing? This year's Spring Festival show would certainly be worth watching (the first time in a long time, though more for the comedy than for the performances), if this rule was actually enforced.

A Change for the Disabled? Will It Matter?

Long time head of the China Disabled Persons Federation, Deng Pufang, son of Deng Xiaoping, has been replaced at the most recent national meetings by fellow paraplegic, Zhang Haidi. Deng, who was injured during the Cultural Revolution, used his father's connections to help first set up the Chinese Disabled Welfare Fund and later the Disabled Persons Federation. He has been in charge of both of them since they were founded back in the 1980s. At this year's meeting, he was named Honorary Chairman, though Zhang will take charge of the day-to-day work.

Zhang, who became disabled after a surgery at the age of 5, didn't attend school, but studied hard on her own and taught herself multiple foreign languages. During the late 70s/early 80s, she was used as a model student who all Chinese should learn from.

It's doubtful this change fully removes Deng's influence from the scene, so its not quite a new day, but at least with new blood at the top, it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes or lobbying takes place.

2008/11/12

Golden Oldies

Over the course of the past week, a lot has been said about the changes to American society over the past 50 years. The other day when I picked up the new Vanity Fair, it was brought home once again how different things are now.

When talking about 60s music, there are many great names you can throw out, but one word will touch a nerve with everyone, Motown. The music that came out of the Motor City, to be more specific, out of Barry Gordy's little studio there, touched the world, it brought together both white and black at a time that the nation was very divided and it lives on today as new generations love it and are influenced by it just as much as their parents and grandparents. Its amazing music and an amazing story and Gordy and others offered up an excellent oral history in VF, as well as classic photos of the players by THE American photographer, Annie Liebovitz

Lock Him Up!

Lots of politics as of late, but that's the way the world is going. Former leader of Taiwan, Chen Shuibian, was arrested the other day and its been determined he should remain in jail until he stands trial. While many mainland government leaders have been accused of corruption, its rarely as blatant and as costly as that of Chen and his family. For a "Taiwanese patriot", it's laughable how he plundered the wealth of the island for himself and his family. I tend not to care about Taiwan, I, like any Chinese, wants unification to happen, but its not an issue I obsess over and I could really care less about the island 99% of the time.

In any case, the site of Chen in handcuffs brings a bit of joy to me (and his son's story does too), lock him up and throw away the key.

Gary Payton to...the CBA?

Gary Payton, the "Glove", was one of the greatest defenders (and guards) of his era and amassed a large following of fans the world over. Despite playing on mostly mediocre Seattle teams, his team hopping toward the end of his career lent him the opportunity to finally win a championship to top of his storied career. At the age of 40, he is now retired and just beginning his career as a tv commentator. However, if rumors are true, it seems Payton's agent is reaching out to CBA (that is China Basketball Association) squads.



It seems that Payton's agent was in touch with the CBA squad in Shanxi and somehow gave them the impression that Payton could be had for $50,000/month, but after further talks, it seems like the price for Payton is closer to $100,000/month, which was out of Shanxi's price range. While it may be too much for Shanxi, it seems as if Payton is being shopped around to other teams in the league and it will be interesting to see if anyone in the CBA feels the Glove is the right fit for them.*



The CBA is not a league that appears to be raking in the dough and it would be hard to imagine a guy like Payton, even if he went to a team like Beijing or Shanghai, being able to survive a league that plays in some pretty far flung destinations. Sun Yue accepted the Lakers demotion to the NBDL instead of coming back to China to play in the CBA. For Payton, it may be more about "developing basketball" in China rather than the money, but it still doesn't seem very plausible. We'll have to wait and see.





*major apologies for that pun

2008/11/11

2008 Olympics Retrospective: Opening Ceremony






With only a month and a half left before 2008 comes to a close, we're going to share with you some of our favorite shots taken by our correspondents during the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics. We'll start it off with what started it all off, the opening ceremony.

Rebirth of Cool


Look at the 2 above photos. Let the image set in, a smiling President Obama and his equally happy (and tall) wife next to that funny looking monkey and his drab (and crazy) wife. Despite the economic difficulties the country faces, there are signs already the country is in for a new era of Camelot, and already hip Chicago is going to get even hipper.
The election of Obama is bound to benefit Chicago in one major way, its 2016 Olympics bid surely just got strengthened and now the city is bound to be a front runner for the Games. Obama and his Chicago gang of staffers will make regular trips back and restaurants are sure to gain a lot of hype from it, especially Rahm's favorite, Manny's.
But beyond that, just look at the 2nd photo, of the Obamas coming out of Chicago's Gold Coast institution for high end Italian, Spiaggia. The very chic Michelle, the very cool, relaxed and a little detached Barack, long strides and hands in his pocket. I have no idea how Obama will do as President. It's important to remember that he's only 4 years removed from being a STATE Senator.
At the same time, looking at the above, its hard not to feel hope about what comes next for America. It's such a departure from what we've seen and what the alternative was that you can't help but be excited. President Obama, he's cool like dat.

Happy Single's Day

November 11th (11/11) is celebrated by young Chinese as "Single's Day" (光棍节). This "holiday" came about on university campuses in the early 1990s as an excuse for singles to get together and party, set up blind date events, or just take comfort in their own singleness. In China, being single and in your mid-20s, especially for females, is seen as a negative and causes them to face a lot of pressure from parents, relatives, and friends. It's an excuse for 20-somethings (in most cases) to go out and have fun or possibly find a mate. It's also part of the desire to "own" singledom and stand up in the face of all the pressure from those around them.

In China, a trend of marrying later, especially in cities, has been going on for the past 10 years or so. For some, this is a personal choice that they take pride in, for them, this day is a day of celebration and fun. For those who would prefer to succumb to familial pressure and get married, there are plenty of meet-up events in major cities offering the chance to meet that special someone. These two ways of celebrating Single's Day shows the interesting differences in young culture in China. So if you're still single, have a great Single's Day! If you're in China, we'd love to hear how you "celebrated" this "holiday".

2008/11/10

Soccer Hooligans in the PRC

This video (hat tip to Shanghaiist), coming after Saturday's 1-1 draw in Shanghai, is the most recent example of the urh...intensity of Shanghai soccer fans. The draw leaves Shanghai 1 point behind Shandong for the league title with only 4 games left (Beijing is in 3rd, 8 points off the title race).

The scene in the video shows some rowdy soccer fans who are having some fun, setting fire to a stuffed version of Beijing's mascot. Their chanting of the "Jing Ma", humorously, could get them in trouble if they were in Beijing. While this sort of spirit makes attending a soccer game more fun and is part of the atmosphere inside the stadium, I've seen myself what happens when it is turned on visiting fans. China's large size makes attending a soccer game similar to the US where, in most cases, there are no fans of the visiting team or just a small contingent of traveling fans and people who have relocated to that city.

There are some "derby" games, when Beijing and Tianjin play or in the old days when there were two teams in Shanghai and often there would be a certain degree of violence outside the stadium. Even now, there are times when large traveling contingents will take to trains and buses and suddenly show up in a nearby city for a match. The police is rarely prepared for these situations or turns the other cheek, though this year there was a large presence in Beijing that led Shanghai fans out of the stadium and onto their bus.

While the big incidents of Chinese soccer violence get reported only because there is no way of avoiding it (huge fights in the stands in Xian, attacking the Japanese bus after the Asian Cup in 2004, etc), there are many small examples of brawls outside of stadiums that simply go unnoticed and unreported, because there is rarely anyone around with a camera and the police doesn't want to be bothered with these "minor" incidents.

The inconsistency and lack of knowledge about how many traveling supporters will show up makes things hard for the police to prepare. I've said it before, but its going to take a death outside a stadium, something not wholly unimaginable, before police take note and step in to make fans safer. It may seem like an off the wall prediction, but when you see the unruly and excitable mass of people above, its not hard to imagine them turning violent very quickly.

Concert Review: Kanye West Lets Us Down

Multiple date/venue changes, check.
Crazy expensive tickets, check.
Change in opening act, check.
Title misnomer, check.
Short set, check.
Kanye West in Beijing, check.

It's been a week since Kanye came through Beijing to much fanfare and ended up disappointing most in attendance. I'm a big Kanye fan (does anybody do it better repping the Chi?), but a show that saw us hitting the bars by 10 and with the disappointing usage of the "Glow in the Dark" title, it was an absolute disappointment. Sure, we knew this not to be a true part of the "Glow in the Dark" tour, there would be no Rihanna, Lu Fiasco, and all the rest who were supporting him on US/Europe shows, but could we at least get the amazing stage setup that was offered in those other locations? This was a very pared down version of the show that cost more than tickets in the US did. Sure, Kanye came a long way and is one of the few hip hop acts to come to China, but why give China fans of his both a scaled back show and high prices? Why not go the extra mile? Why not do more to excite the hip hop masses in China, a scene that definitely could use some excitement?

Wake up, Mr. West! And wake up promoters! This is exactly what people were expecting, a half-assed version of a concert, which is why so many people stayed home, despite the attraction of having the Louis Vuitton don in our capital. Kanye, you could have done better than that, what happened to going all out all the time?

2008/11/09

Book Review: My Favorite Wife

Not being the voracious reader that our former Editor is and not having access to a huge library nor the time, most of us around here haven't exactly been keeping up with our reading list, though on a recent trip abroad, I picked up Tony Parsons "My Favorite Wife" and it was passed around for a few of us to offer an opinion. Unfortunately, we don't have much good to say about the book. Note for those who haven't read the book and don't want it spoiled (if that's possible, STOP READING NOW!).

It's a simple story, wife forces the husband to move to Shanghai to escape their financial difficulties in London after being sold on the booming East, husband comes over all piss and vinegar full of righteousness then falls for a local girl made easier by wife deciding she hates Shanghai and wants to return to London, husband starts a relationship, wife finds out then forgives him and they live happily ever after, after husband exposes a huge corruption case and gets fired.

First off, the author does a good job at portraying the modern Shanghai, if at times he makes it seem a lot more seeder and a lot more desperate than it really is. I should say that its very difficult for me to read this sort of book, something that others had similar problems with, because we know the city so well and so much of our time is spent analyzing what he got right and wrong about the city that we miss out on what he's actually saying. Little things like referring to "the Dongbei" (incredibly annoying, but understandable, considering in English you would say "the Northeast", though Dongbei is more of a specific name, so it comes off sounding like "the Shanghai") drive us up the wall and make us lose focus on everything else that is being said for a page or two after it. His portrayal of Changchun is way over the top, he makes it out to be about as attractive as a city of lepers that arrived just after it got hit by a nuclear bomb. Though, to many, perhaps that is about as attractive as the city is. Again, its an issue of perception of us Chinese and a few expats who have been in China for awhile as compared to someone like Parsons (who at least made a few trips to China) who is unfamiliar with the city writing a character who is equally unfamiliar with the city and country.

Regardless of the above issues, the craziness of the triple murder, the main character's sudden search for his mistress in a monsoon and the fight that ensues with a PLA guard, the knack for characters to constantly pop up out of the blue (especially the wive's journalist friend), and the wrapping up of the story (and total forgiveness of the husband) simply is too far beyond reality to resonate with any reader. Sure, it's a work of fiction, but good fiction has to be grounded in some kind of reality, and the actions of the main character (and others for that matter) are way beyond that. There are times the story threatens to get good and may hold your interest for a few pages, but it quickly goes back to being ludicrous, and badly writing at that.

Verdict: It's a book that can be knocked out in a few hours, but doesn't have a legitimately written woman character and can only be recommended for male China hands who want to read everything written about China. For anyone else, save your time, it could be made into a halfway decent movie, though its so far-fetched and the dialogue is so off that its not likely.

Is this Really Going to Help?

The news out of Taiwan after "the push" and the protests over the most recent meeting between the head of China's Cross Straits Relations organization Chen Yunlin and the head of the Taiwanese government (I will follow Chen's lead and not call him "President") Ma Yingjiu makes one wonder. In all of the news stories about the visit (at least those from outside of China) and as reported here, it seems that things got pretty contentious on the streets of Taipei during Chen's time in Taiwan. Whether those protesting in the streets and so openly opposed to Chen's visit represent the majority of the Taiwanese people or just an extremely vocal minority is not something that I can attest to knowing. It would be my guess that they would be in the minority, as Ma was elected through popular vote to run the island.

Is it just me or is it an interesting contrast that took place, sort of like the French police who beat the shit out of T!bet protesters? Taiwan may be taking the first steps towards unification with these cross straits meetings, but they are so concerned what their "big brother" will think of protests in the street that they resort to tactics that would surely be admired by the PSB. Maybe it's just me, but this just doesn't seem like the way unification is supposed to look like.

And let me throw this out of left field, I know its extremely unlikely, but there are those who think revolution is possible in China, so surely anything can be said without being laughed at. This is truly "outside the box" thinking and I am openly admitting that this is without having looked at any recent economic data on Taiwan (I, like the world, ignore its existence), but if China and Taiwan could somehow work out an extremely quick unification agreement within the next 6 months, the absorption of the Taiwanese economy and the positive feelings it would create on the mainland would go a long way at weathering whatever the economic crisis throws at China. Or just call me crazy.

UPDATE: In an interesting post on EastSouthWestNorth, a survey by Taiwanese media reveals that 50% of the population thinks the protestors went too far, while 21% had no opinion. Further, 46% agree with the way police handled things or don't think the police did enough, while only 33% think the police handled things too strictly.

2008/11/07

The Last To Know

So we interrupt all this election talk to give a shout out to some great software, though its all stuff that I'm sure most of you have been using for years. Yes, I'm feeling like the last one to the party, no idea why my other co-editors didn't enlighten me, but right now I'm obsessed with two great programs that have been incredibly helpful, Google Reader and AnchorFree's Hotspot Shield.

Google Reader is great to keep track of all my RSS feeds and has made daily blog and news reading a hell of a lot easier. Hotspot Shield is an excellent private VPN, allowing those in China to get around the Great Firewall, and doing so for free. Both have been around for a dog's age and both are phenomenal, if you aren't using them, it's time to check them out.

2008/11/06

What Comes Next for Republicans (and please don't let it be Palin)?

I would like to think of myself as a conservative. Back in the day, I was a solid Republican, before joining the Republican Party was about a litmus test on issues like abortion. When I say I was a conservative, it doesn't mean I was a screaming Rush Limbaugh type looney, or a bible thumping Bush lover, or a Lou Dobbs death to all immigrants maniac. No, there are very few contemporary politicians who I can identify as solid conservative idols, maybe (strangely enough) it would be a guy like John McCain, if you ignore the Iraq issue. If I would identify with one modern politician, it would be a different Arizona senator, Barry Goldwater, though arguments exist as to whether he would be the conservative conscience he was if he were alive today.

The Bush years saw me slowly float away from the Republican Party, to the point where it is no longer recognizable to me. It is now a party of hate, a party full of jackals who are isolationist, war-mongering, Jesus-freak anti-intellectuals. Some will not appreciate this characterization of the party, but can you really disagree with it. (President) Barack Obama was portrayed as an elitist for his Harvard law degree (with honors) and his U of Chicago professorship, but they forgot that he IS the American dream. President Obama didn't get to where he was because of affirmative action, he did so because of a close knit family (even though he was from a single mother) and through his own hard work (Bill Clinton's another Democratic example of this). George Bush, on the other hand, was famously "born on third base, thinking he hit a triple."

The fact that the Republican "base" was so energized by Palin, who could see Russia from Alaska, had no clue what the Bush doctrine was, and who didn't know Africa was a continent, is extremely worrying. As it comes out more and more that even McCain's campaign aides were referring to the Palins as "Wasilla hillbillies", one has to wonder what led McCain to foisting this mental midget on the US populace. Palin must go away, for the good of us all, but it seems that she is a damn good politician and, depending on how her Pretty Woman shopping spree turns out, she may not be as buried as most of us hope. If Palin isn't left for dead, the foreign policy experience and leadership skills that she lacks are things she can work on in the next few years to make herself into a more serious candidate. Will the GOP accept her mediocrity again? Will they finally realize that while being an elitist is a bad thing, being part of the intellectual elite is not?

Further, will the "Party of Lincoln" go back to being that? Will it be about small government and a strong nation, instead about abortion and immigration? In Tucker Carlson's Slate commentary on what the GOP needs to do, he states:

Social conservatives, a group in which I count myself, might profitably meditate
on how to disentangle our primary political goal—the protection of the
unborn—from secondary issues like, say, abstinence-only education and the debate
over evolution and intelligent design, which dovetail too easily with
caricatures of religious fundamentalism (as Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin both
discovered in the media coverage of their campaigns).

Tucker, is your bow tie on too tight? I agree, that the GOP needs to stay away from the "secondary" issues which make it easy to show you all to be insane. That said, since when is social conservatism defined solely by abortion? This is exactly what the GOP needs to get away from. Being a Republican should be about small government that stays out of your life and fiscal responsibility, it should not be a litmus test over a single issue. Anyways, doesn't this legislating what others can and can't do fly in the face of true conservatism?

After the Kerry defeat it seemed like the Democratic Party couldn't get any lower, how on earth could they have lost to Dubya? How does the Republican Party come back from this? It seems that the great divide in the Party, between the religiously charged "base" and the corporatism of the leadership, is worse than ever before. They need to unite again, find a way, a candidate, and a leader to pull back the "Obama Republicans" that allowed President Obama to win solidly Republican states like Indiana. It's not an easy task.