I've been given the honor of writing our last post of 2008 and have been thinking a lot of what to say and finding am image that best says it. Going through our large photo archive, I've found this shot, from the Paralympics Opening Ceremony and feel its the best choice (though our photo is pretty crappy, its the idea behind it).
More than any moment during the Olympics, it was this moment, Hou Bin pulling himself up to the roof of the Bird's Nest while sitting in his wheelchair, that for my money was the greatest athletic feat of 2008. It offers both the necessary pride and hope that was (and is) needed as 2008 comes to an end and we enter 2009.
Look at how China pulled itself up and prepared for the Olympics, hosting one of the greatest ever Summer Games. Look to the people of Sichuan as they try to pull themselves up from the ruble of the massive quake that struck on 5/12. As you face the current economic crisis, be brave and know that no matter what, you can always pull yourself up from it.
Pull yourself up. Hou Bin did it, we can all do it too. Look back at all the joy that 2008 brought, honor those who left us during the year, and plan on how we can all work to make 2009 an even better year.
My colleagues here aren't known for their optimism and are far more cynical (probably why I was chosen for this?), but a new year means a new start and is the time optimism is required. Look at that picture (or watch the video) and remember, you can do it, pull yourself up!
1. "Style" in Communist China has only been around for 25 years. Before that, everyone was basically dressing the same way and touches of style that made you stand out were a negative. But look at the recently released Life photos or images from the pre-Communist era, those people had style and they were Chinese, there is definitely hope.
2. Asian business people in general tend to dress very badly.
3. "Style" is usually not cheap, especially without any second hand stores around the city. Guys in China have a lot of pressure on them, if they want to get married, they basically must be able to buy an apartment and often aren't from rich families or even the big city to begin with. The people around us and many that we know work insane hours and don't have much time for shopping. Even if they did, the majority of money is either saved or sent to their parents.
4. Nobody wants to stand out in the workplace for anything other than his work and when the boss(es) rarely wears a suit, its hard for his underlings to do so. The casual nature of the Chinese workplace makes it hard for someone who wants to be stylish to fit in with the overall office aesthetic. Even in the US or UK, if you go to a major international law firm or i-bank, the style is very conservative and a lot of people would fall short of "stylish", perhaps expectations are too high.
5. Street style is extremely diverse and relatively fashion forward here, because people who are in fields that allow them to wear street wear to work aren't usually faced with the limiting issues 3 and 4 mentioned above.
So be a little more gentle and encouraging towards Chinese style. And by the way, with the example many expats in China set, can you blame the Chinese?!? We're fighting the good fight, though, in our Thom and Tom suits, Churchs shoes, and oxford cloth button downs.
After a long hiatus, we're back on the laowai watching track, and what better to talk about than the Great Wall? The Great Wall is one of the wonders of the world, it is an absolutely amazing place to see that is a must for every visitor to Beijing. Laowai make it a point to visit the Wall, but in typical laowai fashion, just seeing the Wall isn't enough for them.
The Badaling section of the Great Wall is packed with tourists all times of the year, often including those "evil" groups of Chinese tourists in colored baseball hats. This is because Badaling is the closest part of the Wall to the city and the most accessible. Much of it has been rebuilt/renovated to make the climb a little easier and trams and rides make it even more touristy. You don't even need to be part of a tour, a city bus will take you from Dongzhimen to the foot of the wall in an under an hour for less than RMB20.
This is too easy for laowai, who deride Badaling (crowded, but still beautiful) as "inauthentic" and "boring" in comparison with the Simatai section in Miyun. To laowai, Simatai is the authentic and "genuine" Great Wall, all other sections are imposters. To get to Simatai, its an over 4 hour trip independently, but most laowai organize a tour through one of the many Nanluoguxiang hostels (as laowai love staying in hutongs). Further, they often do it as a hike from Jinshanling to Simatai, as laowai love to pretend to enjoy the outdoors. Plus, it gives them the chance to insult Beijing's air (as in "wow, it feels so good to see blue skies and breathe fresh air") making it an optimal choice.
Though any section of the Great Wall is sure to impress and amaze visitors and friends, if you want to become friends with a laowai, definitely propose a trip to Simatai.
*For those wondering, the first is Badaling and second is Simatai
While at first it seemed like beach volleyball would be largely ignored, despite the general love of volleyball among Chinese, it quickly became a very popular event, where even middle aged (and older) women let loose and followed the raucous MC, the DJ's strong backbeat, and the dancing girls who showed everyone how to do it. On the men's side, the Brazilians were dominant, while on the women's side, the amazing undefeated streak of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor was continued. The big story among Chinese, however, was the impressive performance of their women, who surprisingly took both silver and bronze in the competition, providing the new fans a lot to cheer about. Despite those who would claim these to be the "no fun" Olympics, everyone who set foot at the temporary Chaoyang Park venue was certain to have a great time.
Northwest's request was to delay the startup dates for its 2 routes up to a year, the routes in question are Detroit-Shanghai and Seattle-Beijing. The other airlines have all been given deferments of these routes already, and these will affect the following:
US Airways: Philadelphia-Beijing
United: San Francisco-Guangzhou
Continental: Newark-Beijing, Newark-Shanghai
Some of these are deferments and others are changes from daily service to seasonal service. All of these are consequences of the current economic crisis and the desire of the airlines to save fuel costs (this is, of course, despite the fact fuel costs have largely fallen to the cheapest its been in years). Airline penny pinching has travelers frustrated as the planes have been downsized as much as is safely possible (now 777's doing international service) and cutbacks have been taking place (charging for alcohol).
So much for flying the friendly skies.
Our guess on the times of the train were almost right on (the trains will all leave slightly before 10 pm and arrive slightly before 8 am). The price? As we mentioned, the Z trains (11 hours, 30 minutes) and T trains (13 hours) currently charge RMB499 (lower) and RMB478 (upper) for soft sleeper tickets. The new trains, like the Z trains, will be all soft sleeper, but will charge RMB655 and RMB730.
What?!? RMB730? A difference of RMB75 for upper or lower sleeper?!? Wow! This is truly stupid and has already met with complaints from travelers. And if you want to go between Beijing and Hangzhou, its RMB820! Flights (pre-tax) between Beijing and Shanghai would currently run you RMB450 on qunar. It doesn't make sense that adding the D overnight train has taken this long, but for these prices, though at these prices, its doesn't make sense to take it.
Is it fair to talk about China's love of biographical shows about Party members? Aren't a large number of US biopics about politicians as well? If its not about politicians, its typically about actors/actresses or musicians who've lived the sex, drugs, rock n' roll lifestyle to the extreme and thus make interesting subjects. However, China didn't really have "celebrities" per se before 30 years ago and too many of the ones that do exist lead very boring lives (at least by comparison to US standards). Can you imagine a Yao Ming biopic? Or Gong Li?
So if Mei Lanfang was China's first major biopic, who will be the second? I think a decent biopic could be made about Wang Zhizhi, especially his battle to go to the NBA and then his years left in the cold as a "traitor". It would be made a lot better if he develops a drug habit or fades away into obscurity (or gets into another road rage incident). But my top candidate? Wang Fei!
It has everything! Cultural Revolution repression, a family's move from Beijing to Hong Kong, a difficult road to stardom, a sudden rise, an attempt to take over the mainland after HK success, her successful return to Beijing and falling in love with a Beijing boy, and finally her 2 horrible romantic betrayals before finally finding true love.
This would make a hell of a movie, I'm starting work on the script now, expect it out around 2020 or so...
The problem is, the blog makes a MASSIVE assumption: that most expats in China can speak at least decent Chinese. This is also a big problem with the survey, as it doesn't inquire about the respondents Chinese fluency. Many expats are here teaching English who can't speak a lick of Chinese, and this probably accounts for a number of the lower salaries. I'm only taking a wild guess, but I believe that if you look at salaries of those who are fluent or have a high level of fluency to those who can't speak any (or very little) Chinese, the numbers would be fairly different. The survey also may be skewed because a lot of white collar expats who are making the big bucks work for bigtime foreign companies with very strict firewalls.
Chinese salaries for expats aren't as high as people think. Above the Law's Asian Chronicles recently mentioned that salaries in Biglaw on mainland China, which used to range from $35,00-60,000 a year now can go as low as $15,000. On purely anecdotal evidence, and I'm not one with a lot of expat friends, I would say that most 25-35 year old expats in professional jobs are making between RMB15,000-40,000/month (this is solely in Beijing and Shanghai). In these cities, I'd argue its hard to live comfortably, go out sometimes, and save a little on anything less than RMB15,000/month.
If you're an expat and you come to China looking for a job, you better have 2 out of the 3: a unique specialization, an idea, or excellent Chinese skills. As pointed out by bizCult, Chinese are speaking better English than before (and obviously speak better Chinese than you), are spending more times overseas than ever before, and are willing to work for less. That said, there are more foreigners taking jobs with Chinese companies (as pointed out by CLB), especially as Chinese companies take over more and more foreign ones, and Chinese companies are offering better wages than in the past (while maintaining their traditionally strong job security).
Just some random thoughts on a late afternoon in Beijing.
Mei Lanfang is by far the most famous Peking Opera star ever, known around he world for having played a variety of "Dan" female roles to perfection. The movie focuses on Mei's struggles rising up against a strict grandfather figure and later his tear between his wife and his desire for Meng. It also, correctly, shows his brave stand to refuse to perform, despite pressure and threats from the Japanese.
The movie is beautifully shot (often at Beihai Park) and well acted, especially Li Ming, who had a very difficult task. And while I'm not a fan of Zhang, I think she did a great job in her role and talked like a real Beijinger. While websites say it clocks in at 90 minutes, my feeling is that it was a little closer to 150 minutes and dragged on at times.
What's with the title? Chen's first great movie, Farewell My Concubine, that many feel was loosely based on Mei, was viewed negatively by Peking Opera aficionados and Mei's family due to its portrayal of the Dan actor as gay and his submission to the Japanese during the war.
If it was meant as an apology, this is an excellent one. While its a more accurate portrayal of Mei's life, I'd be curious as to truly how accurate it is. I'd recommend the movie, though with the caveat that it could be tightened up a bit.
PS: Is this China's first non-Mao, non-Party related biopic?
Previous NFL Commish Paul Tagliabue spent a lot of time attempting to expand the NFL overseas and really wanted a game in China, though his successor, Roger Goodell, has gone a long way at reeling in Tagliabue's efforts. After the failure of the Buffalo Bills game in Toronto, was the NFL afraid of a similar failure in China? Perhaps Goodell realized the reality is that no matter what he does, it will be extremely difficult to promote the game in China, and one game isn't going to change that.
If I told you about a place where:
-the previous head of the government is currently in prison for racketeering and fraud
-there are protests in the main city's factories
-the government in the main city is regularly viewed as being hopelessly corrupt, its currently struggling in these difficult economic times, laying off workers and cutting back on city services
-the current head of the government is on his way to jail for corruption
-just yesterday a city sanitation employee who has worked for the city for 15 years (and been arrested 15 times previously) and who was bringing in $80,000 a year, was arrested again
Let me help you, the star NBA player recently was cut and required 10 stitches after "peeling an apple in bed".
Is anyone surprised that I'm talking about a state in the US? What the hell is wrong with Chicago (and Illinois)???
One wonders how long Blagojevich's arrest was planned and if it was delayed until after the election? One wonders what impact this will have on Chicago's Olympic bid. Further, the ultimate question is who is Senator Number 5?
If I'm going to do it, I'm going all out and plan on doing things organically, which will also help to solve my food problem. Am I getting in over my head? Any suggestions?
1. Robert A. Mundell (Columbia University professor, Nobel Prize winner, advisor to Bank of China)
2. Franklin Yang Chen-ning (physicist, Nobel Prize winner)
3. Lee Tsung-dao (physicist Nobel Pirze winner (shared with Yang))
4. John L. Thornton (director of global leadership at Qinghua)
5. Ian Fok Chun-wan (HK businessman, philanthropist)
6. Hein Verbruggen (IOC member)
7. I.M. Pei (architect)
8. Henk Bekedam (WHO's Chief Rep to China during SARS)
9. Werner Gerich (first foreign manager of Chinese company)
10. Sabriye Tenberken (blind German who started school for blind in Tibet)
11. Morihiko Hiramatsu (worked on agricultural programs in China)
12. Seiei Toyama (Japanese environmental expert)
13. Shoichi Hara (worked on rice cultivation in China)
14. Moris Topaz (Israeli surgeon who flew to Sichuan after the earthquake)
15. Edwin Maher (CCTV9 broadcaster)
Considering 3 members of the list were born in mainland China and one was born in Hong Kong, one wonders why the list didn't also include people like Wang Lee Hom and Chen Kaige (American citizens) and Gong Li, the controversial new Singaporean.
Out of the 15, how many did you know? A pop quiz here at A Modern Lei Feng revealed even our smartest expert only knew 4 (naming 1, 6, 7, and 9). Many Chinese, when only presented the Chinese names, could only come up 3 or 4. So what SHOULD the list look like?
Why is this a non-story? Shouldn't China be worried about the tourism downturn? The answer is a resounding no. It would seem to make no sense why tourism was down in August, but it was a purposeful plan of the government. These Olympics were for the Chinese and while foreign tourism was down, I'm sure the number of domestic tourists was way up. The article confirms that overall, domestic tourism "remained strong". Further, Beijing's shops and restaurants hardly suffered during the Olympics, if the news and anecdotal stories are accurate. Plus, while the number of tourists were down, that doesn't include the number of athletes, journalists, and business executives that came to China for the Olympics and Paralympics, who, after the Games (or their events), were basically tourists.
While Chinese tourism may suffer a bit during 2009 due to the global financial meltdown, the reality is that 2008 wasn't as bad as some are reporting.
Here's a (crappy) video of what happened and a news report showing a little more of what started the tension, Liu Wei wrote a blog entry about his "most unhappy game", which can be found here (in Chinese).
For more on the CBA, check out this post from another blogger who recently attended a game. In other player news, while it isn't the Glove, one of Payton's former Seattle teammates, Vin Baker, is currently in China trying out for Shanghai. There's also this interesting story about some CBA players ages changing from last year's media guide to this year's guide, some by as much as 3 or 4 years. But before you start yelling conspiracy, this story was originally broke by Chinese media and has received wide coverage in China, the main reason for the changes is due to an updated registration system that is far more accurate.
Hopefully this will be the last incident of this kind for the CBA, which could run the risk of becoming like the farce that is Chinese soccer. Though, US athletes sure aren't doing well either, recently, with guys shooting themselves in the leg and getting suspended before the game even begins (what's so wrong about "sloppy seconds"?). Enjoy the game!
While we're at it, make sure to stop by Chinalyst and vote for us! We're a bit back in the polls right now, but we believe we can make a come back. I don't mind losing to China Smack, which is a great blog that I really respect, as they do so much work translating interesting stories from the Chinese web for English speakers. However, we don't want to lose to the current leader, a blog that looks like it could win a China Blog award despite the fact the writer(s) seems to hate China.
Why am I bringing this up? All these thoughts occurred to me when reading the recent "No shit, Sherlock" article in the New York Times on hotel security in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. The article is your typical, lowered standards at the NYT bs. It referred to the "fact" that hotels are "becoming magnets" for terrorist attacks, though it only refers to the Islamabad attack last month and Mumbai's recent troubles. The thing that really got me was this part:
Worse, hotel executives and security experts say that little can be done to stop
extensively trained gunmen with military assault rifles and grenades who launch
attacks like the ones that left this city’s Oberoi and Taj Mahal Palace &
Tower strewn with bodies.
Really? What makes hotels different than city streets, malls, train stations, stadiums, etc? The reality is that unless everywhere we go starts installing metal detectors, x-ray machines (and people trained to use them), and other security devices all over our cities, there is no way to stop these kind of terrorist attacks. Surveillance of suspected terrorists and other pre-attack measures are the best way to prevent these attacks. When attacks happen, a fast response from highly trained authorities is all that can be done.
It's sad, but if we don't want to live in a police state, there is little that can be done to completely prevent terrorism.
In another interesting fashion related story, its being reported that Saville Row designer Richard James used Mauritius laborers to do the dirty work, then having the suits sent back to the UK to be "finished" in England and allowing them to be labeled "Made in England." This is the dirty little secret of the fashion world. Despite clothing, shoes, and accessories that are labeled "Made in England" or "Made in Italy", the majority of the work is often done in a developing country, with China often being the favorite choice.
Should this matter? It depends on your outlook. Those in the yes column argue that they are being overcharged. While they understand paying a lot for English or Italian craftsmen who, because of wage laws and experience, must be paid more, if in reality the majority of the work was done by a 18 year old Chinese or African girl being paid peanuts, there is no justification for the high price. The other side who argue that it shouldn't matter claim that as long as the quality is in keeping with what one expects from the brand, then it shouldn't really matter to the consumer if 60% of the work was done elsewhere and the product was only "finished" in England or Italy.
What are your thoughts? Also, any US "heritage" brands that you love or would like to see brought back?
For me, the game has always been something that I've shared with my dad and brothers, if not for hockey, we'd often have few things to talk about. We were lucky in that my father would often get NHL tickets and take us into Maryland to the old Capital Centre in Landover. At first, I was too young to go as there were only 4 tickets, but when my older brother went off to college, I was finally in the loop. I remember many a night watching guys like Rod Langway, Mike Gartner, and Mike Luet. There were lots of bad season, a few tragic losses (like the '87 playoffs defeat against the Isles), the Stanly Cup run in '98, and many very bad seasons after that, though now things are finally turning around with a new era of stars like Ovie, Semin, and Mike Green.
The Cap Centre is no more, replaced by the "Phonebooth" in Chinatown, and I'm a lot older and further away from northern Virginia, but I still try to catch parts of every Caps game online (thank god the NHL has kept their broadcasts free!), though it was hard getting excited during the playoffs last year for games that would sometimes start at 5 or 6 am.
My father and one of my brothers are still in the DC area, still attending games and for me, despite the distance, hockey, especially the Caps, is still a common topic of conversation for us. It's something I wish I can pass along to my kid, perhaps not the love of Caps hockey, but just hockey in general (though it wasn't the Caps, the NHL has come to Japan).
No matter how long its been since we last talked, no matter how strained things are, I know I can call or email my siblings and start talking hockey and it will be just like old times, breaking down the barriers that we sometimes put up when mad or frustrated. That is truly why sports, and specifically hockey, are great and why I love hockey.
So I'm not sure how long this video will be up (or at least accessible) on youtube, but I'm a bit surprised there hasn't been more talk in the blogosphere about it. Protests regarding listed companies that were approved despite not meeting the requirements to be listed (and thus causing great losses to these laobaixing investors took place the other day outside of the China Securities Regulatory Commission in Beijing and were dealt with harshly, as the police stepped in and arrested everyone. Yes, things have improved in a lot of ways, but this is a reminder that often its still just business as usual. One wonders if we're bound to see similar scenes as the economy continues going down the drain.
Mao appeared to be a rising star after his performance in the 2007 Asia Cup, though he has yet to show the same promise for the national team since and was only managed 2 goals for Shenhua this season.
Perhaps he was just angry that Shenhua only came up with a draw against Zhejiang, thus handing the CSL league title to Shandong the day before.