Archive | April, 2014

Beijing a top 10 city

28 Apr

Beijing, despite its horrendous smog, has become one of the top 10 global cities, moving to no. 8 on a city ranking list done by a consultancy firm. Shanghai is in 18th place while Hong Kong is number 5 (Taipei is no. 40). Beijing’s political clout is obvious, and a growing number of  “international schools, museums, and broadband subscribers” have helped it rise.


Tencent the tech behemoth

21 Apr

When it comes to tech, China’s got some titans of its own such as Tencent, Alibaba, Sina and Baidu who often compete fiercely with each other in areas like e-commerce, gaming, messaging apps and even taxi hailing apps. Tencent has done extremely well with its messaging app Weixin (WeChat) which has spread rapidly in the nation. WeChat is also the main spearhead of Tencent’s ambitious thrust into overseas markets. In China, Tencent is famous for QQ, a social media platform that is like a combination of Facebook and MSN Messenger. However, it might be more accurate to describe Tencent as a combination of Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, AOL and more in China, because it provides services equivalent to all those companies. Fast Company has a profile of the tech giant, which might be seen as a rival of Facebook but also faces some worrying concerns about government censorship and surveillance. The article also has some interesting coverage of criticism of Tencent and the vicious tech battles in China. As it is, Tencent has gone from strength to strength and shows little sign of slowing.
Here’s a choice quote from the article:
“Tencent may become so liquid in China that they can buy anything they want in the world.” 

State of MMA in China

16 Apr

MMA (mixed martial arts) is getting really big around the world, but what about in China? It seems there’s a startup scene with at least one decent promotion, dedicated fighters and camps, though it’s not clear whether it’s enough to sustain a genuine trend. Vice Fightland has some very decent writeups of MMA in China, including the state of MMA, foreign fighters who hustle for fights and get hustled repeatedly, and a full-fledged promotion that has had a rough time so far. This one about a foreign fighter training young Chinese at an MMA center in the Shaolin complex is quite good.

There’s some negative stuff that doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
China’s Wushu Associations are the agent of sportification. They promote performance wushuthe acrobatic routines based on kungfu formsand Sanda combat sports through tournaments, standardized rules, state-sponsored training facilities, certified coaches, and most importantly, pay. Like most things communist, the system is heavy on numbers and low on excellence.

There’s a poignant part about the stark gap between Chinese and American fighters, even for those from low-income or poor backgrounds.
“I spoke to Herb Dean on the sidelines of RUFF 12, and one of the things we talked about was the huge gap in living standards between an American MMA fighter and a Chinese MMA fighter. In Dean’s hometown of LA, people shot at each other over sneakers, but even in the worst neighborhoods, people had homes, yards, and refrigerators.

“These kids out here grow up with a lot less than any of those gangsters in LA,“ said Herb.”

China’s first foreign sports agent

13 Apr

China’s got its first foreign licensed sports agent, an American who represent American basketball players in the CBA, China’s version of the NBA. You get to learn a little more about China’s basketball league, such as how and which types of foreign players can adapt and make it big, something which some do like ex-Knick Stephon Marbury. Others don’t quite make the transition, even if they’re able to do well on the court. Nevertheless the league is attracting more NBAers, though most of them aren’t stars like Marbury, or even regular starters during their NBA careers.

Issues with China’s impressive high-speed rail

12 Apr

China’s high-speed train network is the envy of many, but apparently not everything is as sound as it’d seem. It is impressive, having started in 2007, it’s become the largest high-speed rail network in the world, and traverses many major cities from north to south. China’s expertise and manufacturing capability now sees Chinese firms going across the world bidding for construction contracts, including even the US. One can take the train from Beijing to Guangzhou in 8 hours, a distance of over 2,200 km. However, you can also take a plane which would be much faster and only a little more expensive, as the article points out. And this is just one of the big problems with the high-speed rail, as the article explains. The network isn’t making money and the rail authorities are finding it hard to maintain financing and pay for construction and operations. Even worse is that some tracks are unsafe, owing to shoddy construction materials and hasty construction. Personally I’ve taken the high-speed rail several times, and find it good to use, however this article does raise some valid points.

Brief glimpse of old Beijing

6 Apr

A man goes back to Beijing after 75 years with his son, stunned by all the changes he sees, while remembering his life in the city when Peking (as it was then called) was still surrounded by an old city wall and was about to be invaded and occupied by the Japanese. It’s an interesting read that provides a picture of what old Beijing was like, albeit from a sheltered Western perspective, and reflects a disappointment and disapproval of the political and social changes in China. It’s not surprising that so much has changed in 75 years, though events like the Cultural Revolution, by literally destroying so much physical aspects of the past, caused a lot of the change.

Two great ROC warlords

2 Apr

During China’s ROC (Republic of China) era when it was ruled by Chiang Kai-chek, two of his ablest generals were these guys, who fought under Chiang from the 1920s until the fall of the KMT in 1949 to the Communists. The strong capability and competence of Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi though made them suspect to Chiang who eventually sidelined them, to the point where Li refused to go to Taiwan where Chiang and the KMT fled to after their defeat in the Chinese Civil War, choosing to remain in exile in the US until returning to China in his last years. The article is a fascinating account of these two men and those turbulent times in ROC China of warlords, wars, and civil strife.

Climbing over Shanghai

1 Apr

Shanghai is building a very, very tall tower, which will be the world’s second-tallest when it’s finished, and these guys climbed to the top back in February. The video is quite amazing when they reach the highest point, well above the clouds and looming over the World Financial Center and Jin Mao tower, which seem puny even though these two are supertall buildings as well.

HK’s crazy slum

1 Apr

Seemingly out of some dark dystopian futuristic movie, the Walled City in Hong Kong’s Kowloon was a crazy place. It was so crazy it was completely demolished in the mid-90s and turned into a public park and garden where a small museum and piece of rubble commemorate it. Some say it was a giant slum, while others say it was a great community; either way, it’s better that it doesn’t stand anymore. The park is attractive, with a large garden, traditional pavilions, and a lotus pond, though the museum, which features a 19th century Chinese official hall, seems a bit small and inadequate for remembering the Walled City. which housed over 30,000 people.