Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Late Night Game of Gongbei-Ball

Just missed . . .

boy misses catching a paper ball in Zhuhai, China

Caught . . .

boy catches a paper ball at night in Zhuhai, China

Evaded . . .

boy jumps out of the way of a paper ball thrown by another boy in Zhuhai, China

Bounced off . . .

paper ball bounces off the hands of a boy in Zhuhai, China

Late yesterday night in Gongbei, Zhuhai, I saw several boys playing a game of Gongbei-ball. I made up the name, and the game's rules appeared to evolve over time. The main piece of equipment was paper crumpled up and taped into a ball. The boys granted me a throw. I must say, it was a pretty good ball.

The narrow street could easily be labeled as an alley in today's Zhuhai. If you want to find Gaosha Middle Street (高沙中街), as it is identified on posted signs there, good luck. Several online maps give it a different name or no name at all. But these kids know where the street is. And it is full of life even at night.

boys posing for a photo in Zhuhai, China

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

No Facekinis on a Cloudy Day at a Zhuhai Beach

Most of the time I see photos of China's beaches in the news, they either feature incredibly dense crowds or people wearing facekinis. So here are two photos from a small beach across the road from Haibin Park in Zhuhai which show an everyday side which may look a bit more familiar to people outside of China.

The beach's location makes it convenient for a quick stop between other popular activities. The beach affords views of Zhuhai's iconic Fisher Girl Statue (in the background of the first photo) and an urban area of the Xiangzhou district (in the background of the second photo). And Jingshan Park, previously featured here, is an easy walk away.

On this day some people likely welcomed the overcast sky since they would not need to worry about getting a tan. No facekinis, which raise more questions about burkini bans in France, were needed.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mooncakes Go to the Dogs

In past years I have shared Mid-Autumn Festival scenes in Macau from locations such as Taipa Village, Portas do Cerco, and Largo do Senado. Mid-Autumn Festival isn't until September 15 this year, but signs of preparation for the holiday are already visible, such as in Largo do Senado.

preparations for Mid-Autumn festival in Macau

In addition to lanterns, mooncakes are a popular way to celebrate the holiday. I saw a sign in Macau indicating that they won't be restricted to only humans.

sign for Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes for dogs and cats

Although they perhaps aren't a familiar aspect of the holiday to many in China, pet mooncakes aren't a new thing and other brands are out there. Mooncake flavors listed on this sign include carrot salmon, Aussie beef flavor, tuna cheese, and chicken, pumpkin & sweet potato. All are listed as acceptable for dogs. Only the the tuna cheese is listed as cat friendly.

I don't know what will happen if you try to give a carrot salmon mooncake to a cat. I also don't know if a human would like them. People may want to take extra care when selecting which box of mooncakes to regift.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Last Sandwich in Taiyuan

As recents posts here and here indicate, I am no longer in Taiyuan, and have most recently been in Zhuhai and Macau far to the south. Leaving Taiyuan proved to be more challenging than I had expected. After I told the person at the Taiyuan Wusu International Airport check-in counter my destination, she asked "What time?" with a tone voice indicating something wasn't quite right.

My flight had been canceled. C'est la vie.

Long story short, it made more sense for me to take the flight at the same time the next day than taking a flight much later than same day which I believed had a good chance of being delayed. Fortunately, Taiyuan's airport isn't very far from the city center. Soon the staff of the hotel where I had been staying was surprised to see me again, and I was taking advantage of the opportunity to do / eat a bit more in Taiyuan.

When I arrived at the airport the next morning, all was fine except I was hungry. At an airport in a city such as Taiyuan, I would expect to find restaurants serving overpriced and / or unexciting Chinese food and KFC. But the Taiyuan airport offered a changed of pace.

Subway sandwich shop in Terminal 2 of the Taiyuan Wusu International Airport

I didn't expect Subway to be my last meal in Taiyuan. Admittedly, it wasn't my first sandwich in Taiyuan, but this one didn't have donkey meat.

Another Late Night Meal

A return to a familiar place . . .

restaurant in Zhuhai, China

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Not Much Action Here Today

I am going to follow the spirit of a sign I saw today and keep things low key here.

"Tuesday Action Off" sign

If I see this sign for sale, I will be tempted to buy the whole set.

Monday Night on a Street in Macau

Sign for Rua das Virtudes in Taipa, Macau

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Step Away from Adidas: Adisco Shoes in China

Business is getting better in China for sports brands such as Nike and Adidas. But as Bruce Einhorn reported in Bloomberg, not all sports brands are happy:
The sports boom has yet to pay off for some of China's home-grown brands. Competition from Adidas, Nike and other foreign brands is hurting many of them, with order growth falling from high double-digits last year to low-to-mid double digits in early 2016, according to a Fitch Ratings report published on June 3. Fitch expects “smaller domestic manufacturers' margins to come under pressure in the next five years due to increasing competition, their limited pricing flexibility to distributors and rising labor costs.”
In response, some Chinese sports brands are "looking for foreign assistance". I saw one potentially relevant example in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, although I don't think it is what Einhorn had in mind.

Before highlighting the notable shoe store, I will first share a photo of a different shoe store in Taiyuan. Its sign features Adidas, Nike, and New Balance:

One could ask whether the store in Taiyuan sells genuine Adidas, Nike, and New Balance shoes. I did not ask this question. Instead, I took the photo simply because I wanted a recent example of the Adidas three bar logo. So simple. So recognizable.

Now, here is a shoe store I saw in another shopping district in Taiyuan which has arguably received some foreign assistance:

Adisco store in Taiyuan, Shanxi, Cina

As I assume most readers immediately noticed, Adisco's logo, indicated as registered, is rather similar to the Adidas three bar logo. One difference is that two of the bars are subtly divided into smaller sections.

Adisco's shoes display a similar approach. Many feature a three stripe design Adidas fans would quickly recognize. Two of the stripes are subtly divided into smaller sections, though.

Adisco shoes for sale in Taiyuan

A shiny golden certificate in the store declares that Adisco is a "China Shoes Apparel Industry Well Known Brand".

Gold plaque proclaiming Adisco is a "China Shoes Apparel Industry Well Known Brand"

The certificate lists an official website for inquiries: I have yet to find anything functional at that address, so I have not able to inquire about their standards. But the certificate's shininess is undeniable.

Also undeniable is that the store was using a Nike shoebox.

Monitor sitting on top of a Nike shoe box at an Adisco store in Taiyuan

It seemed like an odd choice. Perhaps they were going for a "we're crushing Nike" message.

Although there may be little doubt about Adisco's source of inspiration, I don't know if Adidas has challenged them or how Chinese courts would rule. There are many relevant factors to consider, and the results of trademark disputes can be surprising. One of Adidas's competitors which appears on the first store's sign has run into much bigger trademark problems. More about that later.

Friday, August 12, 2016

More Play and Another Chainsaw in Taiyuan

An advertisement for Jolin Tsai's concert wasn't the only example combining "play" and "chainsaws" I have seen in Taiyuan. Alongside Dong'an Road I watched a man shoot water at a little girl who defended herself with an umbrella.

man aiming a water-shooting tube at a little girl holding an open umbrella and a toy chainsaw

She also held a toy chainsaw. I am not sure of what she had in mind. I didn't see any disco balls around, but it looked like a good time.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Play, Chainsaws, and Smashing Ukeleles in Taiyuan

billboard advertisement for a performance by Jolin Tsai (蔡依林) in Taiyuan

In a section of Taiyuan with several newer shopping centers, over a month ago I saw the above advertisement for Taiwanese pop star Jolin Tsai's (蔡依林) concert featuring music from her most recent album "Play". A concert poster with a fuller image reveals that Tsai is destroying a disco ball.

concert poster for Jolin Tsai's "Play" performance in Taiyuan

I am guessing that Tsai didn't really put herself at risk of being cut by flying disco ball shards, no matter what her feelings towards disco balls may be.

Whatever the case, the video for the song "Play" is remarkable. So much happens that I don't even know where to begin. In the 2014 piece "Asia’s Dancing Queen May Have Given Us the Year’s Best Pop Music Video" in Time, Nolan Feeney highlighted some key parts:
Nudity, aerobics-inspired choreography and fantastical colors all play major roles in the Sims-inspired clip. Also, someone gets hit in the face with a ukelele, so there’s that, too.
The scenes with apparent nudity are appropriately blurred, so the video should be safe for work as long as a company doesn't have a strict ukelele-violence policy. The official YouTube version doesn't include English subtitles, but this video does (may need to click "CC" to turn them on):

For those in the U.S. now wishing they could see the Play World Tour live, you missed a big chance. Tsai performed in Atlantic City earlier this year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Chinese Pavilion in Taiyuan

Another scene from Wenying Park in Taiyuan:

pavilion on hill at Wenying Park in Taiyuan

Although the pavilion was less secluded and didn't require as much of a climb, it reminded me of a xiangqi game under a pavilion in far-away Yangjiang.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Two Cs on One Head

Hearts aren't the only symbol I have seen on children's heads in Taiyuan. This boy's hair brought to mind the knockoff Chanel shirts I have seen in China:

hair on back of boy's head shaved into a Chanel logo

I think that is heart on the top of his head as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Two Hearts on One Head

While most children in China don't have their hair shaved into a recognizable pattern, I have seen numerous examples of the practice. A recent one from Wenying Park in Taiyuan:

boy with hair shaved in the shape of a heart on the front of his head

same boy with hair shaved in the shape of a heart on the back of his head

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Cleaning the Water Lily Pond

two men working together to spray water underneath a water lily in a drained pond at Wenying Park in Tiayuan
Drained pond at Wenying Park in Taiyuan

I saw the two men in the above photo working together to spray water underneath the large leaves of water lilies in the drained pond. The man with the hose also sprayed water at areas of the pond's bottom not covered by water lilies. I believe the genus of these large water lilies is Victoria but am not sure of the species. I can't find any information about caring for them that recommends draining a pond, expect for transplanting. The previous time I passed the pond, it was filled with water and contained similar, if not the same, floating water lilies. While it appears to be a cleaning of some sort, I am not sure what may have motivated it. I would welcome any insights from water lily or pond aficionados.

Most of today I was focused on non-lily matters. I welcomed the momentary diversion the water lilies provided both at the park and more recently while I learned a bit more about how to care for them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Xiangqi for One in Taiyuan

I have seen many people in China playing xiangqi outside, and often a crowd will gather to watch the two players match wits. Onlookers aren't necessary for the game though, and this afternoon in Taiyuan I noticed that some don't even need a second player.

man playing a game of xiangqi alone next to a donuts & bread stand

I didn't try the donuts nearby. I will wait until I come across what I like to call Chinese donuts, otherwise known as xián jiānbing (咸煎饼) — something I won't miss whenever I am next in Guangzhou.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Taiyuan Xiangqi Moment

Yesterday in Taiyuan I came across an opportunity to add to the xiangqi series of posts.

man pointing at a game piece in a xiangqi game on a board sitting on the ground surrounded by 5 men
A game of xiangxi alongside Shuangta North Road

Assorted China Tech Links: Innovation and Control Mix, a Reason to Break Through, and Uber China Sold

Some longtime readers will remember the days when there was a more explicit tech focus here, and I hope to soon return to some old themes. For now, I will keep it simple and share links to six pieces on China tech:

1. Emily Rauhala pushes back against the idea that heavy censorship by the government means tech innovation has been stifled in China:
“You go on Facebook and you can’t even buy anything, but on WeChat and Weibo you can buy anything you see,” said William Bao Bean, a Shanghai-based partner at SOS Ventures and the managing director of Chinaccelerator, a start-up accelerator.

“Facebook’s road map looks like a WeChat clone.”

2. Despite the innovation, not everything is rosy about the Chinese internet. Christina Larson captures some of how the good and the bad fit together:
These stark contrasts—an Internet that is simultaneously dynamic and lethargic, innovative and stultifying, liberating yet tightly controlled—are easier to understand when you realize they are not necessarily contradictions. Being forbidden to develop tools for stimulating free expression or transparency essentially forces Chinese entrepreneurs to concentrate their resources on services that facilitate commerce, convenience, and entertainment. And the more successful those kinds of businesses become, the more money they and their investors have at stake, possibly cementing the status quo.

3. Zheping Huang looks at a specific case where Chinese people who previously didn't see a need to access online information and services blocked in China finally felt compelled to use a VPN to break through the Great Firewall:
Recently, hundreds of Chinese investors, who may be out $6 billion in one of China’s biggest financial scams, have leaped over the Great Firewall in an organized, determined way. After being ignored by China’s regulators and lawmakers, these desperate investors are pouring into Twitter to spread news of their plight.

While their numbers are small, their actions are already inspiring other Chinese investors burned in a monumental number of recent scams, turning Twitter into a new venue for angry Chinese citizens to protest. And as they leap over the Great Firewall, some are coming to a new realization—the government has been cracking down on free speech and civil protests just like theirs for years.

4. For something fresh from today, there is big news about Uber and Didi Chuxing:
Didi Chuxing, the dominant ride-hailing service in China, said it will acquire Uber Technologies Inc.’s operations in the country, ending a battle that has cost the two companies billions as they competed for customers and drivers.

Didi will buy Uber’s brand, business and data in the country, the Chinese company said in a statement. Uber Technologies will receive 5.89 percent of the combined company with preferred equity interest equal to 17.7 percent of the economic benefits.

5. The sale of Uber China comes as no huge surprise to many. Heather Timmons highlights how the writing was on the wall:
Then things got even worse—Beijing started to openly back Didi, with an investment by China’s sovereign wealth fund into the new Chinese giant. China’s state banks rolled out billions of dollars in loans to Didi.

In August 2015, Uber reported it was being scrubbed from WeChat, a move, Quartz wrote, that was “almost certainly designed to protect and promote Didi Kuaidi” and make it hard for Uber to do business.

6. And Josh Horowitz takes a quick look at the impact of beyond China:
Didi’s $1 billion investment in Uber likely gives it only a minuscule stake in the ride-hailing giant. But it nevertheless means it has its hands in every single one of its potential major competitors.

This changes perceptions of the future of the ride-hailing industry.