Archive | August, 2013

Hong Kong-mainland unions growing, and has HK lost its mind?

21 Aug

Here’re a few good articles from Hong Kong’s SCMP newspaper. First, a growing number of Hong Kong ladies are marrying mainland men, with Cantonese often being the main language. It’s encouraging news for HK-mainland relations. These couples make up a significant part of HK households- “Since the handover, more than 388,000 cross-border couples have married in either Hong Kong or on the mainland, which accounted for 16 per cent of the total number of households in Hong Kong.” The article says these HK women are highly educated, well off, and have high positions at work, so it says something about HK when many such women will choose mainlanders over local men.
Secondly, this opinion article, which has a great title, looks at the anger of many Hong Kongers, often using the mainland as a convenient scapegoat, and in particular, criticizes a recent case involving a primary school teacher who openly swore at policemen at a protest. The article seems incomplete though, but I guess the point of the article is what the title says- has Hong Kong lost its mind?

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Hukou reform possibility

20 Aug

The hukou is one of China’s most well-known social systems, though not for positive reasons. It’s a household registration system which basically means a person is linked with his/her hometown (which is usually where one is born, though not always). It’s a major part of every citizen’s identification since it affects where they can legally live, work, and use the health facilities and education. Taiwan also has the hukou though it’s not as restrictive. Hukou restrictions mean many migrant workers who flock to wealthier cities like Beijing and Shanghai can’t change their hukous and thus, use the local social services like health insurance or schooling for their children. Hukou reform is something that’s really important and it was recently proposed by some top scholars. The main reason for a reluctance to reform the hukou is likely, the possible increase in social welfare costs incurred by major cities when more people move to live there, which is something many local residents may not support. However, at least one study (mentioned in the article) shows that costs would not be so high as previously feared and will be manageable. Here’s hoping something comes of it in the near future.

China vs India on diversity and plurality

19 Aug

Here’s another article about China and India, and this time it’s about the more broader and abstract issues of diversity and pluralism. It’s a very interesting article, comparing China to India in terms of these two issues, examining Chinese views on treating minorities in China and how Han “hegemony” can be lessened, and the writer’s insightful overview of India. First of all though, I wasn’t so aware of the differences between diversity and plurality. Diversity refers the existence of a varied range of something, such as people, languages, cultures etc, while plurality, I believe, is the implementation of this diversity in policy, such as official languages or religions. In short, China and India are both diverse, but India is more pluralistic – over 10 official languages as opposed to one in China, for instance. The main setting of the article is a conference in China about minorities, which sees some interesting frank views put forward by Chinese scholars showing an awareness of the issues concerning how minorities can be better integrated into China’s society rather than just pure assimilation. These views they admit would be difficult to express in Beijing. Furthermore, a greater appreciation of minority cultures and peoples can also lead to a better appreciation for diversity within Han people. After all, while being Chinese, a Beijinger might be different from a Cantonese who might be different from a Fujianese in terms of language, beliefs, behavior, and diet. It’s also interesting to see Hakkas mentioned, as that is part of my heritage, though I don’t agree about the writer stating that being part of the Chinese diaspora is why Hakkas are considered Han and Uighurs are not. The author (an Indian) is told by a Chinese scholar that China could learn some things from India about freedom of express, and that “If India was not so economically backward, it would persuade the world more easily about how it has nurtured democracy and diversity.” Of course, India’s diversity and pluralism isn’t harmonious, which both its post-independence history and recent events show, and the author admits this, saying pluralism “remains fragile”. I’m also not convinced that having a multitude of official languages is a benefit (though I don’t think suppression of local dialects is good too). Still, it’d only be positive if both giants could learn and interact with each other more. It’d also be a big benefit for China to better accommodate its minorities, especially the restless Western regions.

Chinese and Indian dambuilding

18 Aug

China and India are both in the midst of a dam-building boom in the Himalayas, which not surprisingly has been criticized in some media outlets. GoKunming interviews a scientist who is an expert in this topic to get a better and more nuanced understanding. The reasons both countries are building such dams is to meet electricity demands and to use a cleaner source of energy than coal, which both countries depend heavily on.

Not reading much?

16 Aug

Chinese people don’t seem to be reading much books, and this Atlantic piece takes a look why. Growing materialism and busier and pressure-packed lives are cited as factors, but a more serious reason might be the restrictions on writers, which limits how much they can say or criticize, and in turn, make their books less exciting or relevant. On the other hand, it seems that many people are reading novels or short stories on online sites, or buying illegal copies of books, as opposed to genuine versions. Nevertheless it is a little disappointing that reading habits and the quality of literature published have dipped, but not surprising. China is a very interesting country and there’s so much that can be written about by its own writers, rather than (and in addition to) expats or foreign writers.

Anyhow, Taiwan also has serious problems, lagging even mainland China, when it comes to reading, so much that even the government is concerned, and it doesn’t have the excuse of being authoritarian or pressure-packed.

Mainland students not so positive about studying in Taiwan

15 Aug

Taiwan struggles to attract more mainland students to come over but it’s also not “winning over” the mainland students that are already in local schools. I’m quite familiar with this story last year I wrote about this for a local magazine. The numbers are dismal, with only 951 students recruited last year, and 2000 expected this year. That is a low number and the reasons are various- poor reputation and quality of Taiwan schools, bans on working part-time, and applying for work after graduation or receiving scholarships. Things have improved though, from when mainland students were allowed in 2011 to enroll in universities, such as being able to obtain health insurance after 3 months just like any other foreign students. It’s interesting because from a public standpoint, and the opposition party, the DPP, the mainland students are seen as a threat to local students especially on the job market, whereas university and government officials see them as a solution for Taiwan’s declining student population. It’s this ambiguous attitude towards the mainland that I feel paralyzes many Taiwanese and makes them unable to decide on their future.

China ends up 5th in FIBA Asian tournament

12 Aug

China’s men’s basketball team managed to finish fifth at the FIBA Asian Championships, which concluded Sunday. China defeated Qatar in the fifth-place game, but had earlier been beaten by Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) in the quarterfinals. Taiwan was very ecstatic over this victory, being the first ever over China in men’s basketball, but were quickly brought down to earth by losing to Iran in the semifinals and then trounced by archrival in everything South Korea in the third-place game. Taiwan had a good tournament in general, but their poor ending kind of mirrored their showing at the World Baseball Classic earlier this year, when they did well to advance to the knockout stage but lost their last three games. I don’t know if it’s a case of freezing in the big time or just not having the guts or ability to overcome tough foes. One of Taiwan’s best players in the FIBA tournament was a naturalized black American, who only got his Taiwanese citizenship last month. For China’s basketball team, who were the defending Asian champions but had a terrible showing at the 2012 Olympics, I really hope they don’t become like the men’s football team and go through a long period of futility. The top three teams in this tournament automatically qualify for next year’s international basketball championship, so China is out of that.

China’s basketball misery, and Hong Kong’s Tai O

10 Aug

Bad news for Chinese basketball as China was knocked out of the FIBA Asian championships by Chinese Taipei (Taiwan). It’s a first for Taiwan, who reached the semis and will face Iran, while China goes back home in tears. China’s coach offered a vague message about hope, and I really hope China gets it act together for the next Olympics, as they will not be going to the next world championships. This follows on China’s dismal performance in the 2012 London Olympic Games, when they finished bottom of their group in the first round. Yi Jianlian, China’s best player and a former NBA first-round draft pick, was injured in the first round but came back for the second round and quarterfinal.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s unique Tai O fishing village faces a big challenge in trying to maintain its heritage while undergoing development. This village features stilt houses and is in an isolated area on Lantau Island, where the airport and the cable car are on. You can eat fresh seafood, buy salted seafood, walk around and enjoy the mangrove swamps and scenery, and even go on boat rides to see the Chinese white dolphin, which is actually pink. I went there back in 2008 and it was quite decent. There were some visitors, but it wasn’t overflowing and the village was quite old, even a bit shoddy. We went on the boat ride twice before we actually spotted dolphins which was cool. I think more development would not be too bad, especially since while more people will want to come, they will still need to come by bus over the hills. I think one resident sums it up very well near the end “I think Tai O has lost part of its unique character with all the development going on. But that the price we pay to get a better life and to help this community to survive.”

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The best photo I took of the dolphins. Apologies for the poor quality; it was very hard to focus because of the dolphins’ and the boat’s movement, plus my eyes were actually on the dolphins.

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Hot all over

9 Aug

It’s very hot in Taipei, and it’s even hotter in Beijing and Shanghai. Temperatures have reached the mid-30s in Taipei, with yesterday reportedly hitting 39.5! In China, which is experiencing a record heatwave, people have actually died, and given that many residences don’t have air condition, it’s caused people to resort to doing things like swimming in public lakes and sleeping in subway stations, as shown in the links above.

New documentary sheds light on tragic topic

6 Aug

A new documentary has just come out about a rather sobering topic– that of child abductions. Living with Dead Hearts, by blogger and writer Charlie Custer,  is available to watch free online here. While I haven’t seen it yet, I knew about this project for a while and know that the film will be rather eyeopening and tense. Every year, at least tens of thousands of children are kidnapped and then sold to other couples, often desperate for a son.