Archive | December, 2013

What a “black guard” does

28 Dec

One of Shanghaiist’s top longform China articles of 2013, this Caixin piece about a black guard is a striking one about a rather dirty job. A black guard is basically a guy hired off-the-books by provincial departments to intercept and take back petitioners who come to Beijing to their home provinces. There’s some chilling stuff about grabbing people and confining them into hotels or secret jails before escorting them home, though the former guard in the article says,”Usually we don’t hit anybody.” The black guards have no official power, but are basically “hired muscle” of local governments.

Longform stories of the year, and top slogans

26 Dec

If you like longform stories and you like reading about China, the Shanghaiist has the perfect list for you. The “10 best longform stories of 2013” include features on a “black jail” guard, the problems with traditional Chinese medicine, and the sad fate of an 85-year-old gynaecologist who exposed an AIDS scandal in the 1990s.

The BBC lists important official slogans that have been used to describe major goals in China in the past 57 years. One of these- “改革开放” (gaige kaifang) – was for Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening up that started in 1978 and is also used by Chinese to refer to the event. Slogans are popular because they’re short and simple, and they resemble traditional Chinese proverbs or 成語 (chengyu), which are often short as well.

Highway at the top of the world, and HK’s most diverse building

24 Dec

The Atlantic has a decent story about the Karakhoram highway which links China and Pakistan, and is the intersection of three of the world’s highest mountain ranges – Himalayas, Hindu Kush and the Karakhoram. Focusing mostly on Pakistan, it’s about the development and the places along the highway, which have seen some violence in recent years, but which might bring on economic growth for Pakistan, mainly due to increased trade with China.

Hong Kong’s notorious Chungking Mansion seems to have become respectable. The large sprawling building located near the southern tip of Kowloon features cheap hotel rooms and businesses, mostly frequented by people from the third world which means it’s one of the most diverse places in Hong Kong. It’s not a place where many local HKers go to, but this seems to be changing. The BBC seems to be a little late to this story, since I’ve seen a number of Chungking Mansion stories in recent years.

Top 10 polluted cities in the world, and little Kanye West in China

7 Dec

So where do China’s cities rank in the top 10 of cities with the most air pollution? Answer: they don’t. That’s because the top 10 polluted cities in the world are in Mongolia, Pakistan, Iran, and India. But you wouldn’t have known that given the way how so much negative media attention is focused on China. Yes, Shanghai is going through some terrible haze this week and Beijing had a bad period at the beginning of this year, but it’d help if media reports could cover other parts of the world that are even more polluted and have more serious problems. The data, from the World Health Organization, covers PM10, airborne particles smaller than 10 micrometers in diameter. The data also shows that the five most polluted cities in India as way more polluted than the top five in China, which is surprising to me. Again, where’re the media stories and reports on air pollution in India or Iran?

Kanye West lived in China while he was a kid, in Nanjing specifically where his mother was a visiting lecturer.

RIP Nelson Mandela

6 Dec

Today is a sad day because of the death of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former leader, freedom fighter, peace advocate and “unifier,” not to mention a global icon. He was ailing for a long time but he was dignified and respected to the end. Here’s a short piece about his relationship with China which he visited in 1999 as president. It’s interesting that he had an open stance for a while regarding Taiwan. The state media reported on his death, with heavy coverage on TV, which is not surprising, as was the respectful comments coming from the government. Mandela’s longtime fight against the apartheid regime of his country is something China can openly respect as fighting “imperialism” in the form of Western, white power, though on the other hand, people like Mandela who was in prison for so long due to his stance against the authorities won’t have it easy in China, something that some Chinese have noted online.

Abducted guy’s remarkable return, and accusatory “victims”

3 Dec

The BBC has a fantastic story of how a young man found his way back to his real parents and home after being abducted as a kid 23 years ago. Child abductions and trafficking is a serious problem in China, fueled in large part by the one-child policy which creates a demand for sons, even if not your own. The man’s story is all the more remarkable and heartwarming in that he was trafficked halfway across China, taken from Sichuan to Fujian, where he grew up after being sold to a family there. He never forgot his past and tried to search for his real family online. Eventually through a forum and helpful netizens, he found a place which resembled his old home and took a chance to fly there to meet the people who turned out to be his real parents.

One of the biggest problems in mainland Chinese society is the lack of trust, in everything from business transactions to everyday interactions.  This problem has been made significantly worse by the hustling of good samaritans by the very people they tried to help, specifically by people who’ve fallen on public streets and then allegedly sued or accused people who helped them as the ones who were responsible for their mishaps, even going so far as to take them to court. This piece looks into recent cases of this problem. One of the more telling parts:
Tan Fang, a professor at South China Normal University in Guangdong Province, believes that the nation is “in serious trouble,” after years of unbalanced economic and moral development since the reform and opening-up policy began in 1978.  Lack of mutual trust is one contributor to this “abnormal” society when senior citizens think helpers are actually wrongdoers and passers-by fear of being extorted for helping the elderly, according to Tan. “

Corruption crackdown effect on foreign firms, and Chinese expat running for office in Mali

2 Dec

China has been cracking down relatively hard on corruption over the past year, a result of the new leadership. More than just urging officials to reduce their spending and extravagance, a major aspect of the crackdown has been taking on multinationals that have “hired” individuals as “consultants” or “advisers” who coincidentally are related to high-ranking officials.

A bit old but still interesting, Astan Coulibaly was running for a seat in a city in the Western African country of Mali. She’s from Shanghai and her original name is Yu Hongwei. Not surprisingly she’s the first Asian to ever run for a seat in Mali. Unfortunately I can’t find the results of Mali’s parliamentary election which was held at the end of November, so I don’t know if Coulibaly (Yu) won.

Orphan parents, and snooker superstar

1 Dec

One of the problems of a single-child policy is what happens if your only child dies before you. This post looks at China’s “orphan parents,” people who lose their only child. With the recent loosening of the one-child policy, there should be less of this.

Meanwhile this is yet another Chinese superstar in an individual sport that’s not exactly mainstream (in terms of spectators, not players of course). Ding Junhui is the world’s No. 3 and is China’s best hope to win a World Championship. He’s been living and training in England since 2003, and seems to have developed a soft spot for it. According to him, “English people are very gentle, very polite. In England, I obey the rules very carefully. In China, nobody seems to care. Everyone wants to go first – quick, quick, quick. I feel like I have to be like that as well and it makes me unhappy.”