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Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"Integration: Fusion and Adaptation" at the Wuhan Art Museum

"Integration: Fusion and Adaptation" is the fourth and current exhibition for the Wuhan Ink Art Biennale at the Wuhan Art Museum. As described at the museum:
The preceding three exhibitions present a chronological sequence of perpetuation and development, transformation and innovation, in Chinese ink painting since Ming and Qing periods. "Integration" showcases the richness of contemporary ink art through works that are rooted in tradition yet present new ideas, pieces that are more avant-garde in creative concept and method, as well as pieces by foreign artists working in ink.

One piece on display features Chinese calligraphy, common at art museums in China.

Chinese Calligraphy: Excerpt from Thoreau's A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (2012) by Michael Cherney


Less common is the calligrapher's home country — the U.S. — and the topic of the writing, which is captured in Michael Cherney's title for the work: Excerpt from Thoreau's A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (2012).

South Korean Shin Young Ho's piece Liquid Drawing_4207 (2015) doesn't include calligraphy, but it does have ants.

Liquid Drawing_4207 by Shin Young Ho


Li Huichang's Groan No. 66 (2015) has neither calligraphy nor ants, but there is still much going on.

Li Huichang's Groan No. 66 (2015)


One of the more colorful pieces at the exhibition is Paradise (2008) by Huang Min.

Paradise (2008) by Huang Min


Finally, the piece I pondered most was Stop! (2015) by Liu Qinghe.

Stop! (2015) by Liu Qinghe


Like many others on display, the large piece of art is worth a closer look.

closeup of person in Stop! (2015) by Liu Qinghe


closeup of people in Stop! (2015) by Liu Qinghe


The Wuhan Art Museum has much more. One sign indicates this exhibition was supposed to have already ended over a week ago, so I am not sure how much longer it will be around. In any case, the Wuhan Art Museum is free. You just have to scan your Chinese ID card to open an entrance gate. If you are a foreigner, don't worry. You can walk around the gate — no need to stop.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Visit to the Halo Cafe in Guzhen, Zhongshan

Today in Guzhen, a town in Zhongshan I will say more about in later posts, I unexpectedly saw a Halo Cafe.

Halo Cafe in Guzhen, Zhongshan


Since I had just mentioned two other Halo Cafes in a post yesterday, I felt compelled to take a closer look (and write this light post now).

inside Halo Cafe in Guzhen


Their menu lists a variety of drinks:

Halo Cafe takeout menu

Halo Cafe takeout menu


I went with a simple double espresso.

double espresso at Halo Cafe in Guzhen


Some will take issue with the cream (I also don't use sugar). But it looked like a double espresso. It tasted like a double espresso. And unless an incredible placebo effect was at play, it had caffeine. It cost 15 yuan (US $2.25), cheaper than then 20 yuan for a Starbucks double espresso.

According to the barista, Halo Cafe originated in Zhongshan and has spread to some other nearby cities, all in Guangdong province. I still had many unanswered questions, but I chose to leave him in peace. So I will just leave it at this for now. Well, except for one more thing . . .

In the outdoor seating area there was a claw crane game. These are very common in places such as shopping malls. I wouldn't have given it much notice, but this claw crane had an unexpected theme.

4th July crane claw


Happy Independence Day crane claw


I think it is only fair to ask why the American coffeehouse chain Starbucks can't show some similar spirit in China.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Because he's a ...": A Young Man in Bengbu, China, Succinctly Explains Why He Doesn't Like Barack Obama

Not long after finishing a post about people giving nazi salutes in Germany and the U.S., I stopped by a pedestrian street in Bengbu, China, for some late night food and a break from the bad news. As I waited for my corn on the cob to be grilled at a food stand, I spoke to several locals. To my surprise, one person said he recognized me. Indeed, a mutual friend of ours had shared a photo including me.

Soon a young woman and a young man approached. The young woman introduced herself as an American. Her English wasn't fluent, and she spoke with a strong Chinese accent. She said she had been born in the U.S. in a way which suggested to me she hadn't grown up there, but I didn't inquire further. The young man was from Bengbu.

The light conversation soon meandered to American politics. I learned the young man liked Donald Trump. He then added he liked Clinton as well. From the context I assumed he meant Hillary Clinton. It was an interesting mix, but again I didn't inquire further. I just hoped my corn would finish cooking soon.

A little later when it came up that I liked Barack Obama, the young man quickly replied he did not.

Somebody saying they liked Trump and Clinton but not Obama truly piqued my curiosity, corn or no corn. So I asked, "Why don't you like Obama?"

With a self-satisfied smile, he cheerily replied in English, "Because he's a nigger."

I looked away to gather my thoughts. After a brief moment, I turned towards the young woman and said, "Please take him away."

Her reaction suggested she understood why I had made the request. In any case, without any further words exchanged she walked away with him. A few moments later I glanced back and saw them talking. I hoped the young woman was able to explain things to some degree.

I have no illusions about the amount of racism in China. There's a lot. And many times when I have come across it in individuals, I have tried to better understand and constructively push back. I have never responded like I did the other night in Bengbu before, but the choice of words and manner of delivery hit me. In the heat of the moment in an informal setting, I sought a way to make an impression that might have some tiny bit of positive impact when, admittedly, I wasn't sure I was in the right frame of mind for constructive conversation.

A few years ago in Chongqing, China, I met another young man who also expressed he didn't like black people. In that case, I engaged in conversation, but what followed also caught me by surprise:
After I pushed back against some of his following points, he sat quietly in thought, and I wondered if I had made an impression. A minute or so later he broke his silence and asked, "Are there people in America who don't like black people?"

I replied, "There definitely are." I assumed he was curious about racial issues in the U.S. So I thought it could be valuable to shed some light on the immense challenges the country still faces, despite recent progress.

But before I could continue, he triumphantly declared, "You see. So I'm right."
And so I must question whether the young man in Bengbu would have expressed himself in the same manner without news such as that about white nationalists and white supremacists in the U.S. making its way to China. I don't doubt racism would exist in China without any American influence. But perhaps some in China feel emboldened by what they see happening in the U.S. now. As somebody who would hope the U.S. could use its soft power for good, it is an especially troubling question to consider.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Stars & Stripes on a Boy and Motor Scooters in Bengbu, China

Today at a pedestrian street in Bengbu, Anhui province, I briefly met a little boy wearing clothing with a red, white, and blue stars & stripes design.

little boy wearing clothing with a red, white, and blue stars & stripes design


Nearby, I saw a familiar stars & stripes design style on a motor scooter.

motor scooter with US flag design in Bengbu, China


A very short walk away from there, I saw another type of stars & stripes design I have also seen before in China.

motor scooter with "Go With Me" US flag design in Bengbu

"Go With Me" US flag design on front of motor scooter


And across the river, I saw yet another red, white, and blue design.

motor scooter with red, blue, and white stars


All of this happened to come across my path in a span of less than 90 minutes. I saw more related designs later in the day and none of them struck me as out of the ordinary. The designs raise questions about American influence, or soft power, in China. In the next post, I will share a disturbing example of how that influence may be having an impact in an unfortunate way.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Nazi Salutes from Chinese in Germany and White Nationalists in the U.S.

There is a certain irony in Chinese traveling all the way to Europe only to get arrested for expressing themselves in a country where they were far, far freer to express themselves. Over a week ago two Chinese citizens visiting Berlin, Germany, apparently thought it would be a grand idea to take photographs of themselves giving the Nazi salute in front of the Reichstag building. This was, in fact, a really bad idea for several reasons including that:
The Chinese citizens are now facing charges for "using symbols of illegal organizations" which could carry a fine or a prison sentence of up to three years, according to the police.

The Nazi party is banned in modern Germany, and its symbols and imagery can only be used for purposes such as teaching or historical research.
However, they should feel fortunate no passersby responded as one person did this past weekend not far away elsewhere in Germany:
Police say a drunken American man was punched by a passer-by as he gave the stiff-armed Nazi salute multiple times in downtown Dresden. . . .

Police say the American, who is under investigation for violating Germany’s laws against the display of Nazi symbols or slogans, had an extremely high blood alcohol level. His assailant fled the scene, and is being sought for causing bodily harm.
It isn't clear whether these men were expressing support for any Nazi ideals. But in the U.S. this past weekend, white nationalists took things to another level, a clearly intended level, by protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia, while carrying a variety of flags, including the Nazi flag, and giving the Nazi salute. One man who had previously shown much interest in Nazis plowed his car into another vehicle near counterprotesters setting off a chain reaction causing multiple injuries and one death.

There have been many powerful and thoughts thing written about the protests, the violence, and the reactions. I will simply share one of the powerful images widely shared this past weekend which especially spoke to me:


The photo actually appears to be from a protest last month in Charlottesville. One of the earliest postings was on Instagram (source of the above image). There was also an early Facebook post that identifies the officer as Darius Ricco Nash, who responded.

Regardless of when the photo was taken, it speaks to the events of this past weekend and to many others. And it is a very American photo. There is both bad and good in that.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Bit of Bengbu on the Fourth of July

Two days ago in Bengbu, a city in China's Anhui province, I spent the evening trying to celebrate the Fourth of July. Like a big part of my reasoning for choosing to visit Bengbu — appreciating the sound of its name — I saw it as a way to mix things up and learn things I may not have otherwise learned about China. I don't have as much of a story to tell about the night as I did a few years ago for a Fourth of July in Hengyang, Hunan. And while I did find much of interest, it would make more sense to share most of it in other contexts. Still, I have a bit of story . . .

The night started more fittingly than I could have ever reasonably expected. Seconds after heading out, I saw a Stars & Stripes themed motor scooter driving off.

American flag themed motor scooter in Bengbu


While I have seen scooters with an American flag design in China on occasion before, including one other in Bengbu, the timing here was wonderful. This really happened.

Later in the evening, I saw a scooter with a design seemingly inspired by a country who played a large role in making the Fourth of July happen.

British flag themed motor scooter in Bengbu


I see these British-looking designs on motor scooter far more often, so this was less of surprise.

After several nighttime snacks including two local items and one Big Mac, I stopped by a small convenience store to buy a celebratory drink. A Bengbu brand of baijiu struck me as a grand idea, and I jokingly asked a young girl who was eager to help whether she liked it or not. With body language playfully suggesting she wasn't exactly telling the truth, she said she did. Her mother (I presume) and I laughed. Good enough.

girl holding bottle of 皖酒王


So for 15 yuan (about U.S. $2.20) I bought a bottle of Bengbu Baijiu — not its name based on the Chinese (皖酒王), which more emphasizes its Anhui roots, but I like how it rolls of the tongue.

During a discussion with the taxi driver as I headed back to my hotel, I wasn't surprised to learn she didn't know July 4 had any significance in the U.S. But I was a bit surprised when she said she liked drinking this brand of baijiu. And I gotta say, as far a cheap baijiu goes I found it to be pretty decent. I didn't finish it though. I had more explorations planned for the Fifth of July.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Thousands of Americans Remembered at a Memorial in South Korea

The War Memorial of Korea in Seoul covers thousands of years of Korean military history, with an emphasis on the Korean War. One particularly affecting section of the memorial displays the names of service members & police of the Republic of Korea who were killed in various wars & conflicts and the names of service members in the United Nations Forces who were killed in the Korean War.

For today's Memorial Day in the United States, below are some photos taken this past weekend that capture portions of the display with more than thirty-thousand names of Americans "whose noble service and ultimate sacrifice preserved the freedom of the Republic of Korea".

outdoor display of names at the War Memorial of Korea


wreath with the words "IN MEMORY OF THE FALLEN"


names of service persons from Arkansas who died in the Korean War


names of service persons from the Virgin Islands who died in the Korean War


flower on top of an engraving of the Earth


names of Americans who died in the Korean War on display at the War Memorial of Korea


names of Americans who died in the Korean War on display at the War Memorial of Korea


names of Americans who died in the Korean War on display at the War Memorial of Korea

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Donald Trump Needs to Line Up for Noodles in Hong Kong

A few months ago in Shanghai I suspected there was something China wouldn't let me forget. And this past weekend, I was reminded of it yet again by a mural on the side of the Cart Noodle Expert (車仔麵專家) restaurant in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong.

mural on the side of the Cart Noodle Expert (車仔麵專家) restaurant in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong


Here is a closer view of the section with yet another artistic interpretation of an iconic Donald Trump expression.

mural of a noodle cart line with a man offering assistance to Donald Trump


The sign next to Trump says "Please line up here". It looks like the man next to him is trying to help him.

If Trump does get in line, he might recognize somebody.

mural with a line of people including Barack Obama

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sugar Painting in D.C. and Zhongshan

Thanks to a friend in the U.S., on Saturday I saw a video from NPR of traditional Chinese sugar painting at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The video, at least in part, is worth watching if you haven't seen sugar painting before. And even if you are familiar with the practice you may find it soothing to watch, for example after having read a lot of political news and commentary.

I told my friend I have seen people sugar painting set up on the sidewalk or at street markets. I debated over the right word for describing how often I see it, but it seemed fitting that the very next day at a popular pedestrian street in Zhongshan I saw a booth selling a variety of sugar painted figures.

sugar painting booth in Zhongshan, China


butterfly sugar painting figure.


Typically I see less formal setups for the sugar painting. When I stopped by the sugar painter was off doing whatever sugar painters do when they aren't sugar painting — so no video from me. All of the figures, presumably with the exception of a large fish on display, were 10 yuan each (about US $1.46). I have seen more elaborate figures made by sugar painters elsewhere, and perhaps this sugar painter would do something in that spirit on request. Whatever the case, this is just one of the many examples of sugar painting I have come across while going from one city to another in China.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Faded Glory in Xiapu

American-flag design socks with Walmart's exclusive Faded Glory label for sale
Socks with Walmart's exclusive Faded Glory label for sale at a Walmart in Xiapu, Fujian Province

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tied to Trump in China

The woman sitting across from me looked out the window as the train crossed the unusual border between between Hong Kong and mainland China. We had 18 more hours before the train would reach its destination in Shanghai where we would pass through an immigration control point within a country we hadn't left. As the train later made its way through the city to Hong Kong's north, Shenzhen, the woman and I began a conversation. Upon learning she was from Shanghai I said, "Nong ho!" — "hello" in the Shanghai dialect.

Upon learning I was from the U.S. she said, "Trump."

The outcome of the U.S. presidential election had been decided more than a week earlier and the news was still fresh. Shortly after the one word statement, the woman expressed her disappointment in the election's result. At one point, she sharply outstretched her right arm, tilted her head slightly to the side, and contorted her face. I couldn't place the expression, but it was clearly made in a derogatory manner. The unmistakable Nazi salute left a much larger impression.

Her expression then became somber, and she quietly said, "I'm afraid of him."

During the next couple of weeks in Shanghai, almost every time a stranger asked me about my nationality, whether while waiting in a breakfast line for deep-fried dough-sticks, riding a metro train, or doing another everyday activity, I heard the same one word response. Sometimes people expressed a wish that Hillary Clinton had won. Sometimes they asked how Americans could make such a choice. Only one time did somebody express positive feelings about Donald Trump.

Then Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and raised questions about the One-China policy — surely not a way to win over the hearts and minds of most people in China. Presumably anti-Trump sentiment in China has only grown since then. After leaving Shanghai and traveling to several other cities in China, I have heard Trump-related comments less frequently, but they continue to be negative. For example, while I was at a street market in Xiapu, a county of small fishing villages in southeastern China, a woman angrily derided Trump over his Taiwan comments. All I had said before, in response to another person's question, was, "I'm from the U.S."

People who inquire about my home country and express their feelings about the President of the U.S. don't necessarily represent all Chinese people. But I haven't had regular experiences in China like these since the days of George W. Bush's presidency. Trump hadn't even been sworn into office yet, so I wonder what may be in store for the future.

I may have little control over my government, but it is far more than the Chinese people I meet have over their own. So I refrain from complaining that occasionally I have to answer for the decisions made by my country. Sometimes I will see a silver lining in a nonthreatening negative response and use it as an opportunity to share some of the diversity of views in a country far away. Particularly with people who rarely, if ever, meet foreigners, impressions are made when an American explains that they too believe invading Iraq was a huge mistake. That they too are deeply troubled about what their president-elect may do.

At Yuyuan Gardens, a popular destination in Shanghai for tourists, a few shops and stalls sell paper-cut portraits. You can have one custom-made or buy an already-finished portrait. Old standards and some more contemporary options are typically offered. Two years ago I saw a portrait of Edward Snowden grouped with the more common portraits of Mao Zedong, Che Guevara, and Michael Jackson.

When I recently returned to Yuyuan Gardens with a visiting relative, I wasn't surprised to see a portrait of Donald Trump displayed — a small sign of how much the world had changed since my last visit. But I was surprised by the familiar image of Trump used by the artist. The portrait's spirit significantly differed from the others.

And I suddenly had an answer to a question I had long given up trying to answer. That was the expression the woman imitated on the train to Shanghai.

That is what China won't let me forget.

portraits in style of traditional Chinese paper cutting including one of Donald Trump with an unusual expression

Monday, November 14, 2016

Birthday Fanfare for the Common Man

I haven't done a music-related post in a long time. I thought of this because it was recently brought to my attention today is American composer Aaron Copland's birthday. He lived from November 14, 1900, to December 2, 1990.

So below is a video of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man (1942). A portion of the piece was performed at the celebration for the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in 2009. The recording below is from farther in the past — 1958. Leonard Bernstein provides a brief introduction before Aaron Copland himself conducts the New York Philharmonic.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The U.S. Election, China, and Blogging

I have been asked about the reaction in China to the recent U.S. presidential election. I point people towards "What the Chinese State Thinks About President Trump" on China Digital Times, in part because it refers to a number of relevant pieces.

There is much value in understanding people's perspective on the U.S. election, and it is rather relevant to some of my interests. But I have not dedicated much time asking people in China about the election, mostly because after spending so much of my own time on it, I wanted to focus on other things when "out in the field" — yes, even including Halloween pizzas.

And I saw reasons to focus on other topics here. For example, I remembered readers back in 2012 telling me they appreciated having a place to get away from election news, commentary, and discussion. Elections are important, but so is relative sanity. Had China come up in the election in a way where I thought I could add something to what was already out there, I would have. Overall, I figured my 1 or 2 cents to the world would be better spent focused on things more closely related to my current explorations in China.

The election's effect on posts here was mostly in reducing their numbers or depth. Admittedly the election absorbed a significant portion of my mental energy and time, perhaps too much in respect to what I could or did contribute and how much it could influence that — interesting questions there in general. It mattered a lot though.

Anyway, back to things tomorrow . . .

Friday, September 30, 2016

Go With Me: Red (White, and Blue) Flags in Mudanjiang

Tomorrow is the National Day of the People's Republic of China. And like in much of China, Chinese flags are plentiful in Mudanjiang, including at Culture Square. One flag on an electric scooter parked outside of People's Park especially caught my attention today.

electric scooter with an American flag and "go with me" design with a Chinese flag flying on it in Mudanjiang, China


I have seen small Chinese flags flying on scooters. I have seen American flag designs on scooters elsewhere in China. But I don't recall having ever seen them together before.

I don't know if the flag was added for tomorrow's holiday or is a regular feature. Given the clear American theme, I wondered if the owner of the scooter added the Chinese flag to avoid questions about their patriotism.

Below are two more photos showing the fuller design on the scooter. For me, the mix of flags is a reminder that national symbols can be displayed for different reasons.

electric scooter with an American flag and "go with me" design with a Chinese flag flying on it in Mudanjiang, China


electric scooter with an American flag and "go with me" design with a Chinese flag flying on it in Mudanjiang, China

Monday, August 1, 2016

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.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Trump in Taiyuan, Trump on Tiananmen

This afternoon in Taiyuan I came across a newsstand.

newsstand in Taiyuan displaying covers of various magazines including one featuring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

One of the featured magazine covers included a mockup of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton having what appears to be a vociferous discussion. So I wondered if when I returned to my laptop I would be able to find a new quote regarding China from either of them to accompany the photo I took.

As it turns out, today The New York Times published the transcript of its recent interview with Donald Trump. In reference to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of Turkey, surviving a recent coup attempt, Trump had this to say:
I do give great credit to him for turning it around. You know, the first hour, it seemed like it was over. Then all of a sudden, and the amazing thing is the one that won that was the people. They came out on the streets, and the army types didn’t want to drive over them like they did in Tiananmen Square when they sort of drived them over, and that was the end of that. Right?
I will refrain from commenting on Trump's perspective. I will just say that it should be interesting when he and Clinton face off for real in a debate.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mickey Mouse or HIPANDA?: A Possible Example of Multiple Trademark Infringement in China

In a post about how Disney's new resort in Shanghai and what it says about both American and Chinese influence, I shared a photo of a shirt I saw two years ago in Hengyang, Hunan:

shirt with a mouse/panda-like head shape filled with an American-flag themed design


I chose the photo because the Mickey-Mouse-like shape on the shirt appears to incorporate the design of the national flag of the U.S. However the shape isn't a perfect match to the standard Disney's Mouse Ears Mark; for example, the ears aren't the same shape and proportion.

Disney's Mouse Ears Mark
Image source
Perhaps the designer failed to execute the design or deliberately made the difference in the hope to avoid violating trademark laws.

There was another possibility, though, which seemed at least as likely and caused me to hesitate before using the photo in a post about Disney. The shape on the shirt is also similar to a head shape used by HIPANDA — a Chinese fashion brand which has received international attention.

HIPANDA's online store at Tmall currently sells a shirt with a similar American spirit and sparkly design:

HIPANDA shirt with American flag design



Other HIPANDA shirts with a Stars and Stripes design are available as well, including this one:

HIPANDA shirt with flag of the U.S. design


The silhouette of the head on the Hengyang shirt doesn't perfectly match the standard HIPANDA head either, though I would argue it is a closer match than with Disney's Mouse Ears Mark. Presumably it isn't an official HIPANDA shirt.

So was the designer of the Hengyang shirt trying to imitate Mickey Mouse or HIPANDA? Or was the designer aiming for something which could be interpreted as either? I am not aware of any trademark disputes between Disney and HIPANDA, yet both might take issue with the shirt's design which fits into a space between Disney's Mouse Ears Mark and the HIPANDA head silhouette.

Whatever the designer's intent, the Hengyang shirt's design could be interpreted as "Disney". And other aspects of its design suggest American influence. It was the most compelling example I could find in my photos without great effort. So I went ahead and used it in the Disney post, although I wondered if I would receive any critical response (I did not).

Since then, I have seen shirts with more clearcut examples combining Disney and American influence themes. And shirts with designs reminiscent of the American flag, like the HIPANDA examples, have been a common sight in China. I have also recently seen many people wearing shirts with Mickey Mouse designs — a number of Donald Duck sightings as well. I am willing to bet at least some of the shirts don't have Disney's official blessing. More about all of these shirts later.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Disney a Channel for Both American and Chinese Influence, Cares About Another Type More

shirt with an American flag design in the shape of a panda/mouse/etc shape
Shirt worn by a woman in Hengyang, Hunan

In minutes Disney will open a new park to the public in Shanghai. Some see it as an opportunity with deeper implications than an increased number of authentic Mickey Mouses in China. Last month, Graham Webster, a senior fellow of The China Center at Yale Law School, briefly commented on a tweet about a meeting between Disney CEO Robert Iger and Chinese President Xi Jinping:

I replied to Webster's tweet with a similarly brief comment:

My aim wasn't to refute Webster's point but to highlight the other side of the coin. It isn't clear how this coin is balanced.

David Barboza and Brooks Barnes in The New York Times recently provided an example from the past showing how Disney accepted the influence couldn't go just one way:
[In 1997] Disney agreed to back the director Martin Scorsese, who wanted to make “Kundun,” about China’s oppression of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. The Chinese government, which considers the Dalai Lama a separatist, denounced the project and pressured Disney to abandon it.

In the end, Disney decided that it could not let an overseas government influence its decision to distribute a movie in the United States. “Kundun” was released, and China retaliated by banning Disney films . . .

In October 1998, Mr. Eisner met Zhu Rongji, who had just been named prime minister, at China’s leadership compound in Beijing. Mr. Eisner apologized for “Kundun,” calling it a “stupid mistake,” according to a transcript of the meeting.
Disney's change of heart raises the question of how much of the content in Disney's movies has since been influenced to some degree, directly or indirectly, by a desire to not hurt the feelings of the Chinese government.

And Disney is now aiding Chinese influence in other ways:
Disney is going to extraordinary lengths to prove its commitment to China and the Communist Party. During a 2010 meeting with China’s propaganda minister, Mr. Iger pledged to use the company’s global platform to “introduce more about China to the world.” And he has done just that.
Barboza and Barnes also provide examples of how Disney has made a park that is "authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese." Some of this is similar to how other American companies have localized their products or services in China, such as Pizza Hut's durian pizza or Walmart's larger selection of live seafood. Yet with its movies and its parks' immersive experiences, Disney has the power to influence in ways Pizza Hut or Walmart can't. The Chinese government clearly appreciates this and wishes to contain Disney in a variety of ways, though other factors are at play, such as wanting local companies to receive a large piece of the profitable opportunities Disney generates.

So not only is it uncertain what any success for Disney in China would mean for Western, or more specifically American, influence, Disney shows how an American company's ambitions can lead to China having more influence beyond its borders. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. China undoubtedly has much it can positively contribute to the world. But most Americans don't want the Chinese government to have any ability to restrict the content of movies which appear in the U.S.

As the full NYT piece details, Disney has made a number of unusual sacrifices in order to operate in the mainland China market. For them to pay off, Disney's ultimate concern won't be the balance of American and Chinese influence it facilitates. They are simply pieces of a puzzle in reaching another goal.

Disney cares about Disney influence most.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Stars and Stripes on a Building in New Taipei City

The earlier photo of Hello Kitty facial tissues with an American flag theme reminded me of a striking design on a building I stumbled upon two years ago while walking down Lane 185, Zhongzheng Road, Luzhou District, New Taipei City.*

Building with a large flag of the U.S. painted on its side along Lane 185, Zhongzheng Road, Luzhou District, New Taipei City


A closer look at the relevant building:

Building with a large flag of the U.S. painted on its side along Lane 185, Zhongzheng Road, Luzhou District, New Taipei City


And for good measure, a view from the other direction:

Building with a large flag of the U.S. painted on its side along Lane 185, Zhongzheng Road, Luzhou District, New Taipei City


As to why there was a large flag of the U.S. painted on the side of the building, the front of the building and the stores and Christian religious organization inside didn't offer a definitive explanation.

front of a building on Zhongzheng Road, Luzhou District, New Taipei City, with a large flag of the U.S. painted on its side


According to Google Street View, the flag was there at least as early as 2009 and still remained as of September, 2015.

That is all I know. If any readers know more, I would be happy to share. While I have seen many designs clearly inspired by the American flag in Taiwan and elsewhere in Asia, seeing a painting of one this large is quite unusual.



*New Taipei City surrounds Taipei City.