Hater in the House, Part 1*

During the run up to last summer's Olympics, we ran a series called Bylines at Customs made up of all the stupid pronouncements made by good (and not so good) journos who came to Beijing looking for the "real" story. Journalists come to Beijing, see a small example of something, and want to blow it up into something larger. Often these stories are about making the Chinese seem "more like us", ie they eat fast food, just like us, they listen to such and such music, just like us or are cliches about contradictions in modern China. Stories that are almost completely false or without any real backing, like this waste of space on George Bush remaining popular in China, get printed because to the editor back in the US, it sounds good. To borrow from a Chinese saying, its the case of "the mountains are high and the editors are far away."

Therefore, when the New York Times ran a story last week on Chinese hip hop, it was a "stop the presses" moment here at Modern Lei Feng, almost enough to bring us out of our hibernation. Lots of phone calls back and forth and disbelief, but nobody bothering to pick up the pen. Perhaps its because we thought we dreamed the article, the idea of a burgeoning hip hop scene in China just made us laugh. Then we found this generally on point snark filled blog post about the story and realized we could no longer stay quiet (though his hip hop vs. rap note shows where he's coming from).

Jimmy Wang is generally a good reporter on China, perhaps this article was a case of not having enough material or already being on mental vacation due to the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday. It has all the signs of a hack "they're just like us" story by a Chinese first timer.

The article discusses how Q-Tip and Eminem (first record release: 1999) have been popular in China "since the 90s". Interesting. I defy you to find me 5 Chinese "hip hoppers" who know that Q-Tip isn't one of those things you stick in your ear, or even know what group he belonged to. It talks about hip hop clubs that opened "across the country" and yet the "hip hop clubs" in Beijing or Shanghai cater musically more to the tastes of suburban teens than any real hip hop heads. The article spends so much time building up the idea of hip hop in China, only to end with the reality that its still nothing more than a tiny niche.

While we have a lot of problems with the way the author puts things in the beginning of the article, like: "Over the last decade many students and working-class Chinese have been writing rap as a form of self-expression. Rougher and more rebellious than the well-scrubbed pop that floods the airwaves here," which is just wrong on so many different levels, the big problem is that this story is more expat rag fodder (and something they've been writing since 2001 or so), not the kind of august journalism one (should) expect from the New York Times.

As the saying goes, a picture speaks a thousand words, the main picture that accompanies the article shows 3 "rappers" surrounded by an almost exclusively white crowd with nary a Chinese face to be seen, so much for Chinese hip hop.

*Part 2 is coming soon, our own look at the hip hop scene in China


$3 Million Down the Toilet

The Beijing city government recently declared it will be investing US$3 million in the city's soccer team, Beijing Guoan, to improve the quality of the capital's soccer squad. The money will be focused on funding youth development programs, but will also be spent on offsetting costs of the Manchester United visit this July. The government also declared that this isn't just a one time investment but a longterm cooperative program between the city and the team.

Will it work? In China, money has an "odd" way of going to the wrong things even when in the hands of government, but when in the hands of a private entity, corrupt usages of it wouldn't be surprising. As it is an investment in youth programs, it will be much harder for the average person to see if the money is being put to good use.

Since the team announced that they won't be playing in the Bird's Nest, there is still a question of where the team will play, returning to its traditional home at Worker's Stadium or remain in Fengtai. While the Bird's Nest would have required attendance figures above and beyond what the team usually got, the draw of the stadium would have been great (at least early on) and helped to promote the team.

The team's quality has been improving the past few seasons, will this investment in the future be enough to put the team over the top and deliver a first championship to Beijing or will it just get caught up in red tape and mishandled?


China's Got (Shoe) Game

We here at A Modern Lei Feng love high end style and love stepping out in a fresh pair of John Lobbs (at least those of us who can afford them, the others just drool jealously), but we also like street style as well. For those who are shoe fiends (collectors) like us, 2008 was an awesome year to be in China. With Beijing hosting the Olympics, a lot of limited edition releases took place, some limited to China only.

While some collectors thought 2009 might be a major drop off, 2009 isn't even a month old and 2 major releases have hit Chinese shores. First was Nike's annual release for Chinese New Year, but the moment everyone was waiting for was the release of CLOT's offering to the Nike 1World Air Force One collection.

The CLOT Nike1World Air Force One has a red silk upper with a traditional Chinese pattern on it, perfect for Chinese New Year, but also features leather with the same pattern under the silk that can be exposed through wear or intentionally cutting or burning the silk away. It is an extremely limited release, sold only at Juice in Hong Kong and ACU in Shanghai (those in HK get the better deal as its sold for HK$2800 there and RMB2800 in Shanghai). The shoe was released on January 16, so if you didn't get yours, call ahead and make sure they still have pairs in your size. The Shanghai release party even made it to Hypebeast. ACU's located at 139 Changle Lu (by Maoming Lu).

Let's hope this recognition continues in 2009 and shoe collectors have more to brag about than access to releases of China only branded NBA kicks like the Li Ning Shaqs (and Baron Davis' if they ever come out) and Peak Jason Kidds.


Sunday Photo Thread: Winter in the Jing

Random Thoughts on Beijing Scene in 2009

Here are a few random thoughts I've been pondering over the past few days as we enter 2009, it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out:
  • Will the new higher end bars/clubs/restaurants that opened in the run up to the Olympics (or worse, after) be able to survive long enough to see their 1 year anniversary?
  • Will there finally be a good English blog written about the Chinese art scene? There are enough foreigners involved in it, but nobody is blogging from an insider's point of view.
  • Will Red Cliff be a total dud overseas (as I suspect)? Will the 2nd part match the first in its success in China?
  • Will this be the year Chinese soccer finally pulls itself out of the malaise? With no international competition for the national team its going to be hard, but perhaps a run in the newly expanded Asian Champions League by a Chinese club side will make the difference.
  • Will Beijing Guoan finally move back to Worker's Stadium this year?
  • Will the Bird's Nest actually be used for something? What will be the first big event in the Bird's Nest this year?
  • Who will be the first major foreign band/singer to rock Beijing this year?
  • With the economy in the tank and all the new openings, will we see far fewer new restaurants and bars this year?
  • Will Crobar Beijing ever open? (Or at least update its webpage, which still has it as coming soon)
  • Will China finally take the step and promote tourism outside the country to avoid taking major hit in tourism due to economy?
  • If it does take a hit, how will all the new 5 star hotels in Beijing be able to survive?
  • Will Liu Xiang be able to come back?
  • What will be the new food craze in Beijing? Will organic finally garner wider acceptance?
  • What kind of limitations/security will take place for 60th anniversary of the People's Republic and will the new policies have any effect on the nightlife scene?

Alright, there are some of the "big" ideas we've been discussing the past few weeks. The economy plays a major role in a lot of them and so it could go either way. We aren't going to make any wild predictions, but will try to provide the answers as we find them out over the course of the year.


Thank You Readers!

Thank you to all our readers who helped us finish 2nd in the Chinalyst Blog Awards, General Category this year. There are a lot of problems with the award system and voting, but, oh well, we're always glad for a tad bit of recognition. In 2009, we won't let you down!

2009: New Year, Same Old Blog

I wanted this to be the final post of 2008, but it was a very flustered and busy final few days of the year, especially due to the Winter Classic, so here it is as the first post of 2009. Hope everyone else had a fun, safe New Year's Eve and, unlike I, have already gotten over their hangovers...