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Friday, June 23, 2017

Baijiu Blue in Ningbo

Last December at the Ningbo Railway Station, I saw yet another example of advertising for Yanghe Distillery's blue-bottled brands of baijiu. As I saw more recently in Changsha, in this case Mengzhilan M6 was featured.

advertising for Mengzhilan M6 baijiu at the Ningbo Railway Station


Just as they often do above aboveground, the advertisements stood out in the underground area at the railway station. Nearby Ningbo (perhaps in Ningbo), I once noticed a man drinking baijiu (and beer as well) on a high-speed train. But since he stored the baijiu in a Tibetan spring water bottle, I don't know whether or not he was drinking the blue.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dog Powered Scooter

small dog pulls a boy riding a scooter
Early this year at the Funing Cultural Park (福宁文化公园) in Xiapu, Fujian

Posting lately has been lighter than I intended as I have been taking advantage of the opportunity to disconnect a bit. Tomorrow I will be back to traveling, hopefully at faster than dog-pulled speeds. And, somewhat ironically, that should mean more regular posting soon.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Assorted Links: Telescope Disputes, Seeking Justice, Seeking a Jail Cell, and 30 Years at a Square

1. Dennis Normile details the fascinating and potentially far reaching tug of war over the priorities for China's next major telescope:
On one side is an established engineering team, led by a veteran optics expert responsible for the nation's largest existing telescope, that is eager to push ahead with an ambitious design. On the other are astronomers reveling in a grassroots priority-setting exercise—unprecedented for China—who have doubts about the ambitious design and favor something simpler.

Now, a panel of international experts has reviewed the designs and come out squarely in favor of the simpler proposal, according to a copy of the review obtained by Science. But the conclusion has not ended what one Chinese astronomer calls "an epic battle" between the high-ranking engineers accustomed to top-down control over projects and the nascent grassroots movement.

2. Javier C. Hernández covers the immense hurdles Chinese citizens face when attempting to seek justice for harm caused by chemical pollution:

Doctors eventually determined that the children had lead poisoning and pointed to a nearby factory, Meilun Chemical Materials, which produced pigments for use in paints and makeup powder. Upset and demanding accountability, dozens of families prepared to sue. . . .

Yet in Dapu, as in much of China’s rural heartland, the chemical industry is king — the backbone of years of above-average economic growth. Local Communist Party officials depended on Meilun and other plants for their livelihoods and political fortunes, and they had a history of ignoring environmental violations to keep the factories humming.

Yifei’s father, Wang Jiaoyi, did not anticipate the backlash to the lawsuit. First, he said, his co-workers at a local farm warned that he might lose his job packing vegetables. Then thugs showed up at his door, threatening to hurt his family. After months of pressure, Mr. Wang decided to drop the case.

“There’s no way to win,” he said. “There’s no such thing as justice.”

3. A young man in Shanghai claimed getting sent to jail was his plan for stopping his computer gaming addiction. OK, but there are ways to do that without scaring two women:
Putuo District prosecutors said the defendant, identified as Xiaogang, had followed and attempted to rob a young woman surnamed Wang outside her home in the wee hours last November 23. He fled after being told Wang’s relatives were nearby.

On February 12, he followed another woman surnamed Wu and tried to drag her away as she was about to enter her home. She called for help and Xiaogang was subdued at the scene.

4. And to conclude, capturing a lot of change: "30 years in the life of one Chinese square – in pictures"
For three decades, Chen Zhixian has captured the action in the People’s Square of Jincheng. Moving from black and white to colour, then slide film and now digital, the only constant in his photos has been the statue of Chairman Mao.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Assorted Links: Hong Kong Seeks Innovation, Too Much Trump in Trumpchi?, Blaming China for Job Losses, and Panama Cuts Ties with Taiwan

It has been a while since I have done the "assorted links" thing. Time to get back to it with excerpts from four pieces worth a full reading:

1. Natasha Khan's and Enda Curran's piece about a proposed technology park on the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen could inspire debate on a variety of topics such as Hong Kong's integration with mainland China, environmental preservation in China, and strategies for fostering innovation. It also raises the issue that Shenzhen's now sees less advantage to partnering with its neighbor to the south after recent rapid developments:
Shenzhen forged ahead, clearing out most of its old, labor-intensive factories and building high-tech giants like Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. The city’s Nanshan district is a cradle for more than 8,000 technology firms, centered around the vast Shenzhen Hi-Tech Industrial Park, known as SHIP. Entrepreneurs have come from across the world, leading some to question why Guangdong needs to collaborate with Hong Kong on innovation.

“That ship has sailed,’’ said Felix Chung, chairman of Hong Kong’s pro-business Liberal Party. “The plan could have been good 10 years ago but have you seen Shenzhen lately? It has the ability to do so much on its own.”

2. My April Fool's post last year, "Donald Trump to Bring His Chinese Car Brand to the U.S." took advantage of the similarity between Trump's name and the Chinese automaker GAC Motor 's brand Trumpchi. Now that Trump is president, GAC has some very real concerns about the similarity:
Executives at the firm and its parent Guangzhou Automobile Group (601238.SS) say they may now change the Trumpchi brand - which was meant to sound like its Chinese name Chuanqi, which is a play on the word "legendary" and means passing good fortune - after it drew some ridicule at the Detroit auto show in January.

"We saw people were laughing at this and took pictures looking only at this detail, and also put on Facebook or other websites," GAC Motor Design Director Zhang Fan told Reuters. "When we read all that feedback, we realized it might not be very positive promotion for the brand."
I don't know if this blog is one of the "other websites", but I do thank GAC for providing such excellent material. The April Fool's post has received a notable amount of traffic during the past year.

3. William H. Overholt argues that both of the major political parties in the U.S. unfairly blame China when it comes to jobs:
[Politicians of both parties] find it convenient to blame China [for "job declines caused mainly by technology"].

Why? Because interest groups dominate the Washington conversation and both parties are beholden to constituencies with an interest in the post-factual illusion. Democrats depend on unions that see protection of current jobs, not helping workers prepare for the future, as their task. They see every gain for workers in poor countries as a loss for U.S. workers. Preparing the workforce for a changing future could threaten union leaders’ power. . . .

Republicans reject reality for different reasons. If you acknowledge the inexorable disappearance of manufacturing jobs, and the fact (documented by MIT Professor David Autor) that, without government help, whole communities stagnate, then you must authorize the government to analyze the areas of loss and gain, and follow through by spending money to retrain workers and help them move. However, to avoid taxation, wealthy Republican constituents will denounce expanded government authority and expenditures as socialism.
4. No excerpt for the final link since the China Digital Times piece is itself a collection of excerpts with links: "Panama Severs Ties With Taiwan, Pledges Allegiance to China".

Putting a Face on Property in Changsha

Just a block away from the baijiu advertisement I saw at Huangxing Square in Changsha was another visually striking advertisement. One billboard displayed a mundane advertisement for AIST — the "beauty hospital" whose promotions have caught my attention before. However, below it another advertisement stood out in the busy shopping area.

billboard advertisement for a "beauty hospital" and a property sale


If your first thought after looking at the two painted faces was "there must be some residential property for sale" then pat yourself on the back. The advertisement reminded me of a "colorful" billboard with eye-catching faces promoting a commercial real estate project in Guiyang.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Photography Work

photographer and couple taking wedding photos next to the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin


couple taking wedding photos next to the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin
Next to the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Harbin (September 2016)

Monday, June 5, 2017

28 Years Later, Another June 4th

A year ago I shared scenes from a vigil in Hong Kong commemorating the anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square. The post also includes links to older posts offering windows onto what I have seen elsewhere in China on June 4th — something I have done every year since beginning this blog.

I am in the U.S. for a bit right now. So this year I can't capture more June 4th scenes in China. Most of today will be a very happy occasion for me — my sister's wedding. But I still want to take some time to remember what happened 28 years ago and consider some perspectives on what it means today. So I will point elsewhere:

This year's vigil in Hong Kong

— "Hidden Away for 28 Years, Tiananmen Protest Pictures See Light of Day"

— "Interview With Yu Zhijian, One of the ‘Three Hunan Hooligans’ Who Defaced the Portrait of Mao Zedong Over Tiananmen Square in 1989"

— "Support grows in China for 1989 Tiananmen crackdown"

— "Learn from us on democracy, Taiwan tells China on Tiananmen anniversary"

— "Illegal Tiananmen Square Liquor Arrives in Hong Kong"

— Some tweets:








Thursday, June 1, 2017

Baidu Map, a Banana, and Baijiu: From Guiyang to Changsha

Not so long ago in Guiyang, I woke up early one morning and caught a taxi. At the first intersection, the driver took an unexpected turn. Based on the traffic signals, it seemed plausible it was a wise choice, and I said nothing. A couple of blocks later, he signaled to make a turn heading in a direction nearly opposite of where I was headed. It didn't seem likely this choice was in my best interest, so I asked why he wasn't turning a different direction on another road. After some back and forth, I mentioned I had checked the routes on Baidu Map. The best option was rather clear and the most reasonable alternatives didn't involve what he had in mind.

He said "Oh, you checked Baidu Map. Then we will go that way."

It worked out pretty well.

Once I was inside the departure hall of the Guiyang North Railway Station, I wasn't surprised by the small crowd. I was catching an early morning train at 6:52 a.m. after all.

quiet departure hall at the Guiyang North Railway Station

Guiyang North Railway Station departure hall

But I found it notable that the retail space on the upper levels on two sides of the departure hall, a design common in China's larger new railway stations, appeared to be completely vacant and lacking any restaurants or cafes. There wasn't even a Texas Burger. It reminded me of a similar pattern I saw five years ago at the Shenzhen North Railway Station — a place that is more occupied and busier now.

Soon I was on the high-speed train, which departed on schedule. Like my previous two trips, I was traveling a route for the first time. This route spent less time in tunnels than my previous trip though. And the train traveled at a much higher speed (about 300 km/h) than on the previous two routes (which maxed out at about 200 km/h).

A college student sitting next to me on the train kindly offered a welcomed banana, providing some balance to having had a mangosteen stolen in Guiyang. After discovering I liked spicy foods, she then gave me two small packages of spicy treats. One of them was especially tasty, and I was confident I was not going to go short on my salt intake for the day.

When I later mentioned I was catching a flight out of the Changsha the very next day, she asked whether I couldn't have flown out of Guiyang instead. Indeed, I would have done that had I better predicted things when I purchased the ticket. My schedule during the past month or so hadn't gone exactly as first planned. I spent more time than expected in Hengyang, which meant I had to skip Yongzhou. I then spent more time than expected in Guilin, which meant I had to skip Liuzhou and some other potential locations. I had just spent more time than expected in Guiyang, which meant I had to skip Kaili and Huaihua. In short, I wasn't arriving in Changsha a few days before my flight from a closer city as I had first expected. All of this reflects a tension between spending more time in individual cities versus visiting more cities. Both have their merits.

So after a three hour and twenty-something minute train ride, I had about 24 hours in Changsha. I initially thought I would put together a "day in Changsha" post similar to the one when I was last in Changsha, which also involved a one day stay followed by a flight. But that visit had occurred less than half a year after an earlier visit to Changsha, when I spent much more time there. A quick catchup here made sense. But this visit involved a one and half year gap from the previous one day visit and a nearly two year gap since my last extended stay. Not only was there much more which had changed, I more effectively maxed out my time. By the end of the day I wasn't just exhausted, I felt like all of what I had found deserved more than being put together in a single post.

So instead of a new "day in Changsha" post, for now I will share a single scene from Huangxing Square in Changsha which reminded me of scenes I have shared from Guangzhou and from Shenyang.

Mengzhilan M6, Oppo, and Huawei advertisements displayed at Huaxing Square in Changsha

Yes, on the digital billboard is yet another blissfully blue baijiu advertisement from Yanghe Distillery. But instead of featuring their Tianzhilan baijiu, it features their Mengzhilan M6. which according to Yanghe:
. . . inherits the element of the ancient Yanghe Liquor, and transforms itself gracefully in the new historical period by perfectly interpreting the definition of the treasured Liquor with pure and exquisite technology.
How about that?

Anyway, more soon. I will be in less of a exploratory mode during the next few weeks, so I hope to get slightly caught up on some things. Just need to decide what is next. Perhaps more about Changsha. Perhaps where I headed after Changsha. Perhaps where I was before. Perhaps some other new historical period.