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World Cup’s China connections, and Beijing Guoan

13 Jun

The World Cup kicked off yesterday and though China is not in it, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good football articles about China around. For instance, feast on this feature story about Beijing Guoan and its rabid fans and culture, with some Chinese social commentary and football history thrown into the mix.
Then, here are 10 ways that China is connected with this year’s World Cup, including making the official ball, fake sick notes, and the president himself, Big X, possibly making an appearance at the final. There will also be 6 players from the top Chinese football league who’ll be at the World Cup representing their respective countries.

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.

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.” 

Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande get it done in Asia too

12 Nov

Guangzhou Evergrande, as expected, captured Asia’s top club football crown Saturday in Guangzhou. Evergrande drew 1-1 with FC Seoul in the second leg of the Asian Champions League final, winning on the away goals rule after having drawn the first leg in Seoul 2-2. This was the first victory in Asia’s premier club competition by a Chinese team since 1990. Besides Asian success, Evergrande, led by Italian World Cup winning coach Marcelo Lippi, were rampant in the Chinese league, which they won again this season for the third year running. The final was a tense affair since the South Koreans proved to be tough and refused to give up. Evergrande scored first in Saturday’s game in the second half, but within minutes the Koreans drew level, so the final twenty minutes were quite nervewracking for Evergrande supporters. As I said before, Evergrande was carrying the hopes of all of China, not just Guangzhou, and a lot of the Chinese media and public have been lauding Evergrande.

Evergrande will now represent Asia in the upcoming Club World Cup in December, where they will face African champions Al-Ahly from Egypt in the quarterfinals (the competition is a straight knockout tournament).

Go Guangzhou Evergrande!

19 Oct

I’ve been a bit tardy with this news, but congratulations to Guangzhou Evergrande on reaching the Asian Champions League finals. They will face FC Seoul over two legs, the first being on Oct. 26. Evergrande became the first Chinese team to reach the final since 1996 when Dalian Wanda did it, and if they win, they’ll be the first Chinese team since Liaoning in 1989. Making this achievement sweeter was how devastating their victory in the semifinal was, when they overwhelmed Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol 4-1 and 4-0. Evergrande also won the Chinese league for the third season in a row.
On the national front, China suffered a big setback when they drew 1-1 with Indonesia in an Asian Cup qualifying match they were widely expected to win. The other two teams are Iraq and Saudi Arabia, both of whom are formidable Asian opponents. China is currently second after three games, the midpoint stage of group qualifiers, so there’s still hope.

Random links again finally

27 Sep

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here and it’s for good reason- I finally moved to the very place that’s the subject of this blog, China. To be honest, I should have updated here earlier so apologies.

Here’s a set of nice photographs of China in the 1940s during World War II. They’re mostly of Chongqing, Chengdu and Kunming, in southwestern China. The photos that are being shown on the link are part of a book, which features over 200 such photos, so it should be a fascinating spectacle.

Meanwhile, Peter Hessler, widely considered one of the best modern-day Western nonfiction writers about China, if not the best, is interviewed in the Washington Post about his life in Egypt, and his views on China and Egypt. Hessler left China last year to go to Egypt long-term, mainly to challenge himself and to try and use his skills elsewhere. Well, living in Egypt, and tackling Arabic are two mighty tasks and he seems up to the challenge. He provides some frank views on the different political developments in both countries, and his views of China are worth noting.

I’ve saved the best for last though- Guangzhou Evergrande is set to reach the finals of the Asian Champions League, after a 4-1 destruction of Japan’s Kashiwa Reysol in Japan in the first leg of their semifinal matchup. This means Kashiwa will need to score at least 4 goals in Guangzhou in the second leg on Oct. 2 to win (not a chance… I hope). Being in China now, I can actually see Chinese (and European) football on TV, and I was glad to have caught Guangzhou’s prior drubbing of Qatar’s Lekhwiya 4-1 in the quarterfinal second leg. If Guangzhou really reach the final, it will be the first time a Chinese club has done this since 1998, a long time indeed.

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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Biking cross-country after graduation, and swimming success at the Worlds

4 Aug

Here’s a decent story about a girl who cycled 1,200km from Xian to Jiangxi to mark her university graduation. That’s quite impressive, given she didn’t ride bicycles much before she embarked on this trip. It’s a very memorable way to mark your graduation as well.

Meanwhile, the World Swimming Championships are going on in Spain right now, and China is doing very well, with 25 medals, 13 of which are gold, to be in second place (as of 4.23PM Taipei time, Sunday). Sun Yang, China’s young male superstar who won China’s first individual men’s swimming gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, has picked up two golds and will try for a third in the 1500m.