Thursday, March 15, 2012

Truckers, Romney, Breastfeeding, and "Chinese" Tattoos

Time for a semi-random assortment of links to material I think is interesting, but may not have time to discuss more deeply.

1. In her "Long Haul China Project" Rachel Katz hitchhiked over 8000 miles on long haul trucks. Katz explains why she chose this method to better understand China:
A personal lens. Long haul truckers in China are generally individuals from the countryside who have entered the highly volatile and increasingly competitive profession of long distance driving. Once in, most are stuck; they have virtually no opportunities to move up or away from their position. The instability and stuckness that characterize drivers’ lives represent similar conditions of a larger group of workers in China who run the country’s factories, construction crews, and restaurants. Getting to know truckers is a personal way to look at the lives of this large segment of China’s population.

A larger economic picture. Central China is in the midst of a development boom, partially as a result of new government policies aimed at curbing migration and the availability of cheap land and labor in the interior. As manufacturing and consumption in central China increase, the majority of the shipping burden falls on trucks, currently a chaotic and dirty transport alternative. China’s economic development and environmental wellbeing depend on the improvement of this industry.

A challenge in cross-cultural relationship building. As an American female, I am different from the trucking community in almost every way. Asking the favor of a ride and getting to know individuals in this group is a test of personal diplomacy.
You can find a slide show capturing some of what she observed here.

2. Previously, I shared a Taiwanese woman's perspective on an American political figure -- Michele Bachmann. In his blog, Evan Osnos of The New Yorker shares some of the perspectives from mainland China on the Republican Party presidential primaries in the U.S.:
Romney’s recurring silver-foot-in-the-mouth problem is perhaps the easiest for Chinese citizens to appreciate—their politicians make ours look like paupers—but they find the American love-hate relationship with Romney’s wealth to be confusing. “At least he got his fortune through proper means. Not much to explain. Can we say as much about Chinese leaders?” a commentator asked. As Roaring Shout put it, “Seems the way they do it is: get rich first, then become president. For us, the order is become a leader first, then….” Officialdom is less amused. With Romney using every campaign stop to reiterate his intention to declare China a currency manipulator, the Global Times pointed to an ostensible consensus that his “arrogant comments lack basic common sense.”
See the article for some brief viewpoints on Rick Santorum and Ron Paul as well.

3. In "Breast Feeding Rebels in China" on Danwei Sascha Mutuszak describes the amount of disinformation about breastfeeding in China on and the new advocacy groups forming there. Even with the increased efforts, many challenges remain in educating the public:
On December 4 2011, a new regulation was put forth by the Ministry of Health for public review. The regulation would prohibit formula companies from marketing in hospitals to parents of children less than six months of age. This regulation is one of the draft laws that could be approved during the current “Two Meetings” of China’s National People’s Congress. But whether the bill passes or not, enforcement, especially in smaller cities and rural areas, will be difficult to track.

“We love the ban, we support the ban,” said Dr. Robert Scherpbier, Chief of Health, Nutrition & WES UNICEF China, in an email interview. “But we would like to see the ban extended to children of two years of age, not just six months.”

However, resources for breastfeeding mothers are still scarce in a society dominated by infant formula and caesarean births. Even with the scandals that rocked the infant formula industry in 2005 and 2008, most Chinese mothers still regard formula as the best option — especially foreign formula.
4. Finally, examples of "Chinglish" can be very popular, particularly for native English speakers. However, there are also plenty of examples of non-Chinese using the Chinese language in "creative" forms as well. Victor Mair on the Language Log makes an earnest attempt to interpret what appears to be a Chinese tattoo gone awry:
I instantly recognized the first and last as two quite well-formed Chinese characters. After two or three seconds of puzzling, I realized that the third symbol is another Chinese character written upside down and backwards (how the tattoo artist achieved that is a bit of a mystery, especially since he / she got the first and fourth one in their correct orientation). The second character was more refractory.

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