Friday, July 29, 2016

Considering the Options

Signs for shop selling pig's feet and pig's brain in Taiyuan, Shanxi
Signs for shop selling pig's feet and pig's brain in Taiyuan, Shanxi

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Changing Slogans

man on ladder and men in boat covering the slogan "加快科学发展 率先转型跨越" with another sign
Slogan promoting scientific development about to be covered underneath the Yingze Bridge in Taiyuan, Shanxi

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Six Bowls of Noodles in Taiyuan

The knife-shaved noodles (刀削面) I saw cut off of dough on top of somebody's head while they balanced on a unicycle at Shanxi Huiguan are a famous style of noodles in Shanxi province. The knife, cutting style, and dough are critical components. Placing the dough on your head or having a unicycle handy is not.

Many other styles of noodles can be found in Shanxi, and trying all of them is a bit of a challenge. The Taiyuan Noodle Shop, another well-known restaurant, makes things a little easier with its set meal of six noodle styles accompanied by various sauces and meats.

set menu dish including six styles of noodles (六中面套餐) at Taiyuan Noodle Shop (太原面食店)

You can mix and match as you would like. Admittedly, the combo made by a server to help get me started was better than any of my own creations. In terms of the noodles, the cat's ear noodles (猫耳朵), named for their distinctive shape, were my favorite.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Unicycle Head Noodles in Taiyuan

Does cutting Shanxi-style noodles off of dough on top your head sound impressive? How about cutting noodles while on a unicycle?

Cutting noodles off of dough on top your head while on a unicycle? Now that's really something.

young woman slicing noodles from dough on the top of her head while she balances on a unicycle

The noodles I had just finished before watching this performance last night at a well-known restaurant in Taiyuan were another type. On one hand, I doubt they were cut by somebody on a unicycle. On the other hand, I can't completely rule out they were cut by somebody on a tricycle.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

Barbecue and Baijiu in Taiyuan

It was late, and I hadn't yet had dinner. So I went out and headed to a late-night barbecue place in Taiyuan. Due to the recent rains they didn't have any vegetable options. I am unclear about the connection, but "tomorrow" they said.

As I waited for my meat kebabs, the cook took a drink of a clear liquid from a thin plastic cup. When I see people drinking water I sometimes joke that I think they are drinking baijiu, a rather strong Chinese alcohol. But as I made the usual joke, I realized that the cook was probably really drinking baijiu.

He smiled and spoke to his assistant. A jug of baijiu appeared, and soon I held a plastic cup with a healthy amount of baijiu.

And so, we drank.

barbecue cook drinking baijiu in Taiyuan

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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A Few Modern Tweets and an Old Newsreel on Flooding in Beijing and Tianjin

Today flooding is affecting Chinese cities such as Beijing and neighboring Tianjin. A tweet by Bill Bishop reminded me of some points raised in yesterday's post about flooding in Taiyuan.

Sam Crane remarked on a sliver of positive news:

Rain doesn't always mean much better air, but I similarly noticed the air during yesterday's flooding in Taiyuan was unusually good. That didn't last very long though.

Matthew Stinson remarked on some misleading posts regarding the flooding in Tianjin.

I doubt Stinson was referring to 77-year-old newsreels. But I will share below a brief account of the 1939 Tianjin flood which left thousands dead. The video includes some striking scenes from another time. It also includes a striking concluding statement: "So once more the swelling flood adds another burden to the tragedy of modern China".

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

More Flooding in China: Twenty Scenes from Taiyuan, Shanxi

In a piece about widespread flooding in China this year, Te-Ping Chen explored the possible causes, such as:
“China’s urban construction was carried out at too fast a pace,” says Jia Haifeng, associate professor with Tsinghua University’s environmental science and engineering department. Officials have tended to focus on visible projects such as roads, bridges and housing, he said. “They emphasized infrastructure above ground, but not so much infrastructure below ground.”

Many roads are built without being properly leveled, said Andrew Buck, an urban planner at Beijing landscape-architecture firm Turenscape, meaning that water easily accumulates. Older drainage systems often can’t accommodate current demands.
During my recent time in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi in northern China, I noticed it too apparently lacked appropriate infrastructure to deal with wet weather. Almost any time it rained, some streets became challenging to cross by foot or walk on (sometimes there isn't a useable sidewalk) due to water quickly accumulating in places.

Today the rain was especially heavy. When I went out for lunch I was soon faced with an unusual decision: try looking for food in another direction or step into water nearly knee-deep with a slight smell of sewage. I had deliberately put on sandals, was wearing shorts, and didn't have any open sores, so I figured I would take the submerged route to get a better sense of the extent of the flooding.

Below is a series of photos presented in the order they were taken during a brief outing this afternoon in a popular central shopping district. They include scenes of people crossing roads, vehicles trying to make it through high water, not-so-lucky vehicles, people dumping out water from an underground garage, a person clearing debris from a grating where water drained, and water flowing out of a sewer hole. Based on the pattern of garbage on the sidewalks, the flooding had already subsided from its high point by the time I made it outside. None of what I saw was as dramatic as what I experienced in Hengyang, Hunan, two years ago — in other words, no chengguan offered me a ride on a raft. It also wasn't as dramatic as many other recent examples of flooding in China. But the photos capture a side of life in a city, and in a country, in need of a water drainage infrastructure upgrade.

Car driving on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

car driving on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

Scooter and people on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

stalled car, person riding a bicycle, and people walking on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

young man and woman with umbrella on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

woman and girl with an umbrella walking on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

two young woman pulling up their skirts to avoid getting them wet on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

people crossing a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

men dumping out water from a flooded garage

men dumping out water from a flooded underground garage

SUV driving on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

woman pushing scooter on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

people crossing a flooded street next to a Starbucks in Taiyuan, China

man riding a motorbike on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

car driving on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

man standing in a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

open sewer hole cover in a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

young man clearing debris from a grating for drainage on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

motor-rickshaw on a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

water coming out of a sewer hole on a sidewalk next to a flooded street in Taiyuan, China

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Monday "Hello" in Taiyuan

While I waited for a crossing signal to change at a street intersection in Taiyuan, Shanxi, today, a little girl noticed my presence and immediately shouted, "Hello!"

Her adult appeared surprised by the excited outburst. I have had many similar experiences in the past, though this girl was especially enthusiastic. I replied with an upbeat "hello", admittedly toned down compared to the girl's. The girl then had a suggestion: I should take of photo of her and her friend. After I expressed willingness, the two adults with them, who still appeared a bit surprised by everything, helped position the girls while making sure they weren't in the photo themselves.

Then this happened:

two little girls posing for a photo in Taiyuan, Shanxi
"Hello" from Taiyuan

Once the photoshoot was complete, in Chinese I asked the more outgoing girl (the one holding the flowers) whether she wanted to go to America. She said "yes", so I said "OK, let's go" and started walking away. Without hesitation she happily joined me. Not wanting to spark an international incident, I quickly turned toward the two adults to make it absolutely clear I was only joking.

As we parted, it was evident the interaction had launched the two girls into an extra-high level of activity. And it left me in higher spirits as well.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

An Unexpected Fix for a Possessed Laptop in Shanxi

Large Turned-Off Screen at a riverside park in Gujiao, Shanxi
This large screen wasn't displaying anything when I recently visited a riverside park in Gujiao, Shanxi.

Things have been quiet on this blog the past several days. This was not intended.

The long story . . . ah, I won't bother with the long story.

The relatively short story . . . not long after the previous post, my laptop became possessed by a demon — or something like that — which wasn't so intelligent but was determined to cause chaos and heartburn. Sometimes all I could do was watch as my screen flipped through multiple modes as I was unable to stop it. One especially worrisome moment was when the cursor moved to a a file and then deleted it. Strange stuff.

The troubleshooting was a slow, frustrating process. At one point, I assumed I would need to make a long journey with significant expenses at the end to address the problem. Yesterday, the problematic symptom subsided enough for a period of time that I could try some other fixes. One involved changing a setting. So I did that, although it only required reverting something I had changed since I had initially discovered the problem. And then I considered another piece of advice I had just discovered which seemed potentially relevant.

But slapping the trackpad hard with the palm of your hand? It didn't seem entirely wise.

Of course, I did it.

I'm not 100% sure what did the trick, but my computer is no longer possessed. Since achieving that state, I have taken the time to address other potential issues just to be safe. Fortunately, I didn't blow things up in the process. In fact, I might have fixed an unrelated nagging issue. The verdict is still out on that though.

So, hopefully things are back on.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Cleaning Crayfish in Taiyuan

Tonight at a famous food street in Taiyuan, Shanxi, I saw a man cleaning live crayfish one at a time with soap, water, and a toothbrush.

Man cleaning a live crayfish with soap, water, and a toothbrush.

Because who wants to eat a dirty barbecued crayfish?

I share this because there are so many perspectives from which to view it. Choose one. Choose them all. I lean towards the latter.

Mickey Mouse Spirit at a Wholesale Clothing Market in Beijing

Over half a year ago "a Chinese government agency singled out the Walt Disney Company as the focus of a new nationwide 'special action' aimed at stamping out imitation goods that infringe on Disney’s trademarks."

About a month ago at the large Shiji Tianle wholesale clothing market in Beijing, I noticed a lot of clothing with Western brands, including Disney. I don't know the story for all of the clothing sold at Tianle. But there were plenty of examples which made it easy to question how much of it was genuine, including a Donald Duck shirt with a creative spelling.

Shirt with face of Donal Duck and "LOVE DONPLD!"
Does "LOVE DONPLD!" have Disney's approval?

Below are some examples of Mickey Mouse shirts I saw for sale at the market. The last photo includes a shirt that would have been a more clearcut example to use in an earlier post about Disney and American influence. Based on what I have seen elsewhere, they are representative of the popularity of Disney-themed clothing in China. And like a "Mockey" mouse shirt I saw in Xiamen, they may represent the challenges Disney still faces with regard to imitation products in China.

Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

American flag lips shirt and Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse shirts for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

"Mickey and Friends" shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse "FRANCE" shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey-Mouse-like shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Mickey Mouse with American flag shirt for sale at Shiji Tianle in Beijing

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Dash of News for Today

I am not an expert on the South China Sea territorial disputes, but I feel safe saying this is big:
An international tribunal in The Hague delivered a sweeping rebuke on Tuesday of China’s behavior in the South China Sea, from the construction of artificial islands to interference with fishing, and ruled that its expansive claim to sovereignty over the waters had no legal basis.

The tribunal also said that Beijing had violated international law by “causing severe harm to the coral reef environment” and by failing to prevent Chinese fishermen from harvesting endangered sea turtles and other species “on a substantial scale.”
The website for the Permanent Court of Arbitration is down at the moment. Andrew S. Erikson has helpfully posted links to download the full award and the more compact 11-page press release.

There are now many questions about what happens next. Given some of the rhetoric currently coming out of China, I wonder if I will soon be sharing more experiences like the one four years ago of a Japanese mother living in Shanghai during a time when another territorial dispute stirred up China.

I am going to digest this all more before possibly saying anything further. For now, here are some relevant tweets (possibly not fully viewable in an RSS reader and better to view on the blog) made after the announcement:

Monday, July 11, 2016

From Beijing to Taiyuan

One early and dreary morning not long ago in Beijing I raced out of my hotel, in part due to an unexpected delay. I considered taking a taxi but given rush hour traffic I suspected the subway was a better option. So I headed to the nearest station.

After my bags went through a X-ray machine at the subway station, I heard security request a check. The security worker near me said there was no need since I was a foreigner. This was met with a less-than-approving expression. I figured the issue would be best discussed without me, so I gathered my belongings and headed off while recalling a similar experience I had four years ago in Shenzhen.

I raced down to the platform level where a packed metro train waited, though not for long. I headed toward a semi-random door and fortunately there was enough space to barely squeeze in. A number of stops later, I changed lines and caught another train just as it arrived. A number of more stops later, I was at the Beijing West Railway Station. I boarded my train minutes before departure sweaty but successful.

Hours later the train slowly passed through Taiyuan Railway Station without stopping. It would have been a far more convenient place for me to disembark, but high-speed trains from Beijing don't stop there. Instead, I disembarked at the less-conveniently located Taiyuan South Railway Station. None of the lines for Taiyuan's under-construction metro system are finished. And a bus adventure would include multiple buses and a lot of walking. So I headed to the taxi pickup area where there were two different lines which functioned almost completely like lines.

When I opened the door to my taxi, the driver shouted to a man assisting people boarding the taxis. The assistant asked me in English where I was going. I told him the address in Chinese. He shouted back to the taxi driver "He speaks Chinese!". This brought amusement to many people still waiting in line.

As we left the station the driver used his mobile phone to send a voice message in Chinese — "I have a foreigner with me!" Soon there was as apparent reply. After I heard "Foreigners have a lot of money!" I made a sound somewhat between a sigh and grunt.

The taxi driver soon sent another message, this one rather brief — "He's speaks Chinese." He didn't listen to later voice messages.

After passing the main railway station, it wasn't long before the quiet ride was over. The route and price were all within expectations, so all was good.

As the photo in the previous post hinted, I am now in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province. More from Beijing is still on the way though. And of course Taiyuan . . .

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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

More Questions Related to Disney's New Park in Shanghai

Advertisement for the Shanghai Disney Resort near an entrance to Guomao Station in Beijing
Advertisement for the Shanghai Disney Resort near an entrance to Guomao Station in Beijing

A few weeks ago I posted about how Disney's new resort in Shanghai isn't only a sign of American influence but of Chinese influence as well.

Since then I have been thinking about questions such as:
  • How much of the resort's "distinctly Chinese" aspects are a result of appeasing government officials' worries about American cultural imperialism versus tailoring the park to best meet visitors' needs and desires versus creating a unique park?
  • To what degree were Chinese officials more or less concerned about American cultural imperialism compared to having a park distinct from Disney's parks elsewhere in the world?
  • Do the localizations conflict with visitors' desires to have a Western / American experience?
  • Exactly how much of an effort has China made to reduce piracy specifically affecting Disney and how effective has it been?
  • Will Disney open a Beijing roast duck restaurant with Character Dining including Donald Duck?
In future posts, possibly scattered among others, I will touch on some of these questions and related issues. I will also say more about the shirt in the earlier post's photo. I nearly didn't use it and was careful with how I described it (or didn't describe it). Notice why?

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Game of Xiangqi in Beijing

Along Gongmenkou West Fork off of Fuchengmen Inner Street in Beijing, yet another game of xiangqi:

Men discussing a xiangqi game in Beijing

Men looking at a xiangqi game in Beijing

Man making a move in a xiangqi game in Beijing