Category Archives: What to know about China

Shanghai in 20 years.

It’s hard to believe that a city could change this much in 20 years. From (via Rolfe Winkler via Business Insider.) Apparently, this is abuzz in the twitersphere today.



Shanghai is bisected by the Huangpu River–the Western side or the “Puxi” area is where the historic city center is. Across the river is the newly developed Pudong–and you can really see just how new that development is from these pictures. The financial district called Lujiazui is also on the new Eastern side.

Foxconn doing what it can.

Apple said today that they’re quite pleased with how Foxconn (the maker of the iPad) responded to the series of 12 suicides last year at their mega-factory/dormitory complex in Taipei… they’ve put up nets to catch jumpers (which reminds me of the Golden Gate Bridge fence controversy), created a 24-hour suicide hotline, and hired psychologists. And like Jobbs said last year Foxconn’s suicide rate is still 1/4 of the rate in the States… but it still freaks us Westerners out to think that the 400,000 people who work there live in dorms that look like a submarine and rarely leave their employer’s property; not only do they live a stone’s throw from where they work, but there are grocery stores and movie theaters in the complex as well. But maybe all this is not much different than a mining town? And then there is the work itself which seems like it would be mind-numbingly boring, but likely not as dangerous as going underground several miles. And did I mention how much I love cooking with my iPad?

Fake wine.

(Chine Photos / Getty Images)

And when I say fake I don’t mean that the grapes have been doctored, I mean that they’ve taken alcohol and food coloring, mixed them together in a lab, plunked it into a bottle, labeled it as some fine vintage and shipped it off to some unsuspecting Chinese person who has only tried wine a few times in their life and has no clue. Some interesting quotes from a farmer, who was the main source in a recent South China Morning Post article about Changli – a small coastal county in Hebei , China’s equivalent of France’s Bordeaux region.

‘Eighty per cent of the wines made by these wineries were not 100 per cent grape juice.’

‘To make wine, you need three to four months to extract and ferment the grapes. Not even the most frugal workshop owner can make a bottle of wine for less than 12 yuan (US $1.50). All you have to do is mix water with chemicals, and overnight you’ll see a profit.’

‘I can promise you that if you buy a bottle of wine for less than 30 yuan in Beijing, it must be fake.’

As the Chinese get wealthier, they have been snapping up Western goods at insane rates… they’ve single-handedly driven the price of Bordeaux worldwide through the roof. Wineries in France are now saying that their most important market is China, even before France!! The article goes on to summarize why the Chinese are so hesitant to trust local products:

The result is yet another blow to public confidence in the mainland’s food safety standards – an issue that came into the spotlight two years ago when powdered baby formula made from milk adulterated with the industrial chemical melamine to boost its protein level made 300,000 babies ill and killed at least six. However, how long it will take for Changli – once China’s wine-making hope – to shed its label as a fake wine production hub is anyone’s guess.

What they study.

Stone soup recently put together this fascinating list comparing what our leaders studied versus the Chinese. It’s pretty scary stuff. I know our founders intended for serving office to be a temporary, not life-long, affair and it’s just plain scary how much legit building expertise the Chinese have! And I feel like I can say this being a poly sci major myself, we all know the engineering students were just smarter. BUT it may also explain why none of the Chinese guys really seem like people people.

United States (first nine in order of succession, modified Senate pres.)

Barack Obama, President: law

Joe Biden, Vice-President: law

John Boehner, Speaker of the House: business

Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader: law

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State: law

Tim Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury: economics and East Asian studies

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense: history

Eric Holder, Attorney General: law

Ken Salazar, Secretary of Interior: law

(Pelosi majored in poly sci.)

China 9 members of standing committee of politburo

Hu Jintao, President: hydraulic engineering

Wu Bangguo, Chairman of Standing Committee: electrical engineering

Wen Jiabao, Premier: geology and engineering

Jia Qinglin, Chairman of Nat. Com. Of CPPCC: engineering

Li Changchun, head of propaganda/media affairs: electrical engineering

Xi Jinping, Vice President: chemical engineering

Li Keqiang, First Vice Premier: law

He Guoqiang, Secretary of Central Commission for Discipline Inspection: inorganic chemistry

Zhou Yongkang, Secretary of Central Political and Legis. Comm.: geophysical survey

(Apologies for not being able to make this picture look any prettier!)

Egypt from over here.

As Egypt continues to unravel, amid continued concern in Tunisia and Jordan, it’s no surprise that the average Chinese person has no clue about this “Jasmine Revolution.” The search for Egypt in Chinese returned no results on TenCent, Sina and other microblogging sites yesterday. As we’ve talked about before here, China’s “Great Firewall,” requires domestic websites to self-censor, and blocks overseas services like Twitter and Facebook.

January 30, 2011: A lone protester steps into the path of an oncoming tank near Tahrir Square as demonstrations continued for a sixth straight day in Cairo, Egypt. (Michael Robinson Chavez/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

June 5, 1989: An unidentified protester known as Tank Man blocks a column of tanks in Beijing the day after the deadly massacre at a peaceful democratic protest in Tiananmen Square. (Associated Press)

It’s also not surprising that the pictures of tanks and protesters remind many here of Tiananamen Square. While Egypt and China are both under authoritarian rule, it seems unlikely that the revolution will reach this far East because unlike Egypt, Beijing has been able to provide economically for her people. Nonetheless, the Party is still paranoid–and rightly so. It is incredible how much us humans are inspired by the example of others.

Despite how hard the Egyptian government has been working, with the help of the U.S. and the U.K. companies by the way, to shut down technology to stop the protesters from organizing and mobilizing… technology always seems to be one step ahead. While the protests were initially organized by new social media like Twitter, that ceased to work when the Internet was shut down, which, by the way, Obama also has the power to do if the same thing ever happened in the US. As a result, the Egyptian revolution has in many ways been a satellite television revolution. But just recently, because some cell phone service still exists, a new service lets people call a number to speak their tweets, which are then published under the handle speak2tweet. It’s this kind of quick resourcefulness that makes me think that if a revolution were ever to take root in China that the government just wouldn’t be fast enough to repress the technological work arounds.

China state dinner.

The Obamas rolled out all the stops for the State Dinner with President Hu last night, unlike the Bushes who offended Hu by refusing to throw such a fete for a non-democratically elected leader.
Mrs. Obama donned a serious ballroom gown by Sarah Burton of the London house Alexander McQueen. The gown not only signaled the formality of the event, but it’s red color paid specific homage to the Chinese.
At the request of the Chinese Delegation, the White House arranged a “quintessentially American” evening. Of course here at HKH, we’re always interested in tabletop design. From the White House:

  • Bryan Rafanelli of Rafanelli Events drew his inspiration from the fabric for the dinner linens for the “quintessentially American” designs. The print features pheasants on patterned backgrounds in jewel tones, reminiscent of the work of iconic American artist John James Audubon, our country’s preeminent naturalist. The theme and design of the dinner take cues from Audubon’s work, which reflect the beauty the natural world.
  • The Pheasant is the native bird of China, revered for its beauty and seen as a symbol of nobility. The linens for the State Dinner reflect a pheasant motif, done in tones of blue, red, and brown prints.
  • A symbol of China—yellow, the national color—will be present throughout the cocktail area.
  • The classic architecture of the State Dining Room will be accentuated by a deep red lighting scheme.

The American menu featured the stereotypical Pear and Goat Cheese Salad, Maine Lobster, Lemon Sorbet, Dry Aged Rib Eye with Buttermilk Crisp Onions and Double Stuffed Potatoes, with Old Fashioned Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream for the grand finale.

Of course, it always seems like a bunch of political rhetoric, but it seems that a little progress has actually been made… Hu acknowledged America’s worries about North Korea and said China “recognizes and also respects the universality of human rights.” The White House has not shied away from human rights during Hu’s visit–they did, for example, invite Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of the Human Rights Watch.  Among other notables, Vera Wang and Jackie Chan were both invited to represent Asian Americans. Anna Wintour and Barbara Streisand also made the cut… Streisand said she was included because she once worked in a Chinese restaurant.

Hopefully, all the pomp and circumstance–which the Chinese certainly appreciate–went a little way towards making Hu and Obama a little more chummy.

China right now: Double family no more.

I’ve talked here about how I’ve seen polygamy in action here in Hong Kong, but now the government is doing something about it. The party’s number one fear is civil unrest… to that end, they’ve just released a marriage database in major cities where you can look up online if someone has ever been married. They plan to have the entire country’s marital records online by 2015. From the AP:

China’s opening economy over the past few decades has led to a high degree of mobility among cities and regions, creating what Beijing-based lawyer Chen Wei described as a “strangers’ society” in an interview with the China Daily newspaper about the marriage database plan.

One study of extramarital affairs in China, published in the U.S. in 2005, said 20 percent of 1,240 married men surveyed in urban China and 3.9 percent of 1,275 married women said they had had an affair in the past 12 months.

In one of the most recent cases, a county official in the central province of Hubei was detained last month on suspicion of killing his mistress, who was pregnant with twins, after she reportedly asked him to marry her or give her 2 million yuan ($302,000).