Showing posts with label Soft Power. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soft Power. Show all posts

Friday, May 31, 2019

Uncle Sam Wants You in Yulin, China

Uncle Sam wants you . . .

job advertisement for a beauty care store with a depiction of Uncle Sam

. . . to work at a Color Lady (出彩丽人) beauty care store in Yulin, Guangxi.

This is far from the first time in China I have seen Uncle Sam in job advertisements. But it is the latest I unexpectedly found myself face to face with this popular symbol of the United States and pondered its usage here.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Posting the Values Again in Wuzhou

China's 12 core socialist values are displayed at many (many, many) locations in the country. Now there is at least one more new sign in Wuzhou to remind people of them.

men placing Chinese characters on a sign that will display China's 12 core socialist values
Monday alongside Da'nan Road

man completing a sign of China's 12 core socialist values

Monday, January 29, 2018

A Language School Wants to "Make Taiwan Great Again": Cheers for Donald Trump in Taipei

During my travels the past couple of years I have seen images of Donald Trump in a variety of settings, such as at a newsstand in Taiyuan, on the wall of a noodle restaurant in Hong Kong, and at a stall selling paper cut portraits in Shanghai. The past few weeks it was an advertisement on a building in Taipei that most caught my attention.

Cheers language school advertisement with "Make Taiwan Great Again" and image of Donald Trump

The "Make Taiwan Great Again" slogan which accompanies the image of Trump on the advertisement for Cheers International Education Group is a clear play on Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan. While the use of English in advertisements isn't uncommon in Taipei, it is especially fitting given the focus of Cheers: foreign language training.

The Cheers page on Facebook features the same slogan and image of Trump:

top section of the Cheers International Education Group's Facebook page

Trump is depicted making a sign with his right hand, as best as I can tell not one which has been captured in an unaltered photo of him. Since the thumb is extended it isn't a standard horns sign, though perhaps a horns sign was intended. The hand sign does match the American Sign Language sign for the acronym "ILY" — standing for "I love you". But there's a twist here. The palm should face towards the object of the love. So the hand sign in this case could be interpreted as "I love myself".

Whatever the advertisement's designer had in mind, that a language school in Taipei would use Trump's message and image in this way raises questions about how he is perceived here. I am not aware of any scientific polling results on the matter, but both positive and negative opinions about Trump could be found in Taiwan when he was elected. Anecdotally and more recently, I have come across a mix of opinions as well. For example, when Trump came up in a conversation with a Taiwanese friend who strongly dislikes him, she commented that a surprising-to-her number of people in Taiwan view him positively as President of the U.S. due to his business background. And a local political activist I met mentioned that some Taiwanese hope Taiwan's next president will be like Trump for the same reason.

So while The Trump Organization could see the advertisement as impinging on their brand, Donald Trump may first see it as indicating some of his appeal abroad. A bigger test, however, may be whether a Taiwanese politician ever prominently features Trump in a positive fashion as part of a political advertising campaign. Barack Obama can already claim that achievement.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

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.

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.

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, 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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

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

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.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Stars and Stripes Hello Kitty Tissues in Taipei

Signs of Japanese and American culture are easy to spot in Taiwan. Why not combine them?

Hello Kitty facial tissues with a U.S. flag design
Tissues for sale at a Taipei convenience store

Friday, February 19, 2016

Chinese State Media Tweet About Xi Jinping's Special Visits

The Chinese Communist Party's People's Daily received an important visitor today. They were inspired to report it on Twitter, which is blocked in China.

People's Daily wasn't the only state-media organization in China to receive a visit from Xi today and tweet about it. Xinhua made appropriate use of quotation marks in one of its tweets.

They also shared a heart-touching moment.

In its excitement, CCTV didn't feel inhibited to declare "exclusive" on something which happened within their own studio.

CCTV really loves inspections after all.

Unsurprisingly, there was a bit of commentary on Twitter.

Of course, none of this is a joke.

If these tweets aren't enough to satisfy, one can head to Medium where David Bandurski translated a portion of a poem about Xi's visit written by a deputy editor at Xinhua. Bandurski described it as a "steaming heap of sycophancy". That is also not a joke.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year's Lightsabers in Hong Kong

During the recent New Year's celebrations in Hong Kong I didn't notice any pro-democracy yellow umbrellas, but I did see people carrying lightsabers.

people carrying lightsabers and a Captain America shield across an intersection in Hong Kong

Since several rather different possibilities come to mind, readers are free to find any symbolism in the scene on their own. Clearly, though, Captain America was enjoying the "sweet taste of interfering in other countries’ internal affairs" that night.

Friday, September 11, 2015

One Wheel May Be All You Need in Zhuhai

A piece which I had initially planned to post yesterday and then said I would post today won't make its appearance until Monday. The delay is entirely fitting given the topic of the piece — a rather long bridge currently under construction that has been delayed to a far greater degree. So instead I will unashamedly share something else today connecting to the transportation theme.

While walking past a shopping market today in Gongbei, Zhuhai, a man on an electric unicycle fortunately zipped by me.

man riding an electric unicycle in Zhuhai, China

I say "fortunately" mostly because he wobbled during his approach, and I wasn't sure whether a collision was imminent. He achieved more stability just before he passed.

After taking the photo, I remembered the girl I saw riding an electric unicycle in Changsha and considered the frequency with which I have also seen them in Zhuhai — not an everyday sight but not rare either.

So I was not entirely surprised when just 5 minutes later I saw a store selling electric unicycles and similar powered vehicles.

store selling electric unicycles in Zhuhai

What most caught my eye was the example on the sign of a British-themed electric unicycle. Scooters are banned in Zhuhai, yet the unicycle offers people something similar in spirit to British-themed scooters common in cities such as Shanghai and Changsha.

And yes, they had one in stock. No, I did not buy it. Perhaps I will see one in use soon though.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Beer and Patriotic Shorts on the 2nd Day of the Victory Over Japan Holiday in China

Yesterday after the “Commemoration of 70th Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War” military parade had finished, I saw people eating Japanese food during the Victory Over Japan holiday. Today is also a day off for many due to the holiday. But again I didn't see anything which specifically mentioned the holiday. But also again, I saw something which may be a sign of people celebrating.

Tonight in the new Walmart in Zhuhai's Gongbei subdristrict, two young women discussed which beer to purchase. One of them even wore shorts with a patriotic design. I am not sure if they were looking for a Japanese brand, but I didn't see any. Interestingly, their final choice was a beer from Germany, another country which came out on the losing end of World War II.

two young women, one wearing shirts with a U.S. flag design, selecting a German beer from a selection in Walmart

Or maybe, like with the Japanese food, it had nothing to do with the holiday. Hard to say.

Chinese Traveling to Japan During the Victory Over Japan Holiday

Chinese are spending their time during the Victory Over Japan holiday in a variety of ways, including watching the "Commemoration of 70th Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War" military parade or eating Japanese food in China. Takuya Karube reported for Kyodo on another way which presumably involves Japanese food:
Japan was one of the most popular overseas destinations for Chinese tourists during a three-day national holiday through Saturday, travel agencies said. . . .

“I chose this time to visit, because the government suddenly announced (in May) this special holiday,” Yu Yong, a 40-year-old employee of an information-technology company, said. “I heard that Japan is a very good place and recently it’s a hot tourist destination.” . . .

Yu said he made a good decision to leave Beijing around the time of the parade and it has been worth seeing the many differences between the two countries with his own eyes, although he thinks the 70th anniversary should be observed at a state level and by the rest of the world.
As Liz Flora noted in Jing Daily, the increase of Chinese travelers to Japan, not only during the current holiday, is remarkable:
After seeing a dramatic downturn in the number of Chinese tourists in the wake of China’s fall 2012 anti-Japanese riots, Japan’s rebound has been swift. Buoyed by price-conscious Chinese shoppers chasing a weaker yen and no sales tax for foreigners, the country is expected to see 4 million Chinese tourists by the end of 2015, a two-thirds increase from last year. . . .

Despite an onslaught of anti-Japanese propaganda TV shows and films in the lead-up to the parade, this summer saw especially high Chinese traveler growth numbers in Japan as many Chinese tourists opted to skip South Korea due to the MERS outbreak and Hong Kong due to increased travel restrictions and anti-mainland sentiment.
So while Beijing has been loudly displaying its growing military power, Japan may be more quietly building its soft power.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Variations on British and American Themes: More Motorbikes in Shanghai

I previously noted that the Union Jack designs common on motorbikes in Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Changsha show varying degrees of faithfulness to the flag of the U.K. For example, the front of one motorbike I saw in Shanghai was missing about half of the blue coloring normally found on the flag.

motorbike with a design similar to the U.K. flag

Sometimes the design takes an even greater leap.

motorbike with a design appearing to be a creative variant of the U.K. flag

The prevalence of the Union Jack design on motorbikes likely increases the chance someone would appreciate the resemblance. And the Union Jack sticker on the front of the motorbike especially suggests it isn't a coincidence.

Another motorbike I saw displayed a design which was more subtly reminiscent of the flag of the U.S. than other designs.

motorbike with a red, white, and blue design with white stars and the word "FOREVER"

Whatever the degree of similarity, questions can be asked about the designers' and owners' intents and how the designs are perceived. I will later touch on these questions in regards to a similar trend in clothing, where I have seen an even greater range of designs possibly inspired by the flags of the U.K. and the U.S.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Shanghai Follow-Ups: G+, Patriotic Motorbikes, Best Buy, and a Cat

During my recent time in Shanghai, I have seen several things which aren't especially related to one another except that they all continue themes from earlier posts and don't require extended commentary. So I will share them together in a single post.

1. Last year I wrote about a restaurant chain with a logo remarkably similar to one used for Google+. The location in Shanghai featured in the post was still under construction at the time. It is now open.

G+ The Urban Harvest restaurant in Xujiahui, Shanghai

Since I have yet to eat at the restaurant, I am unable to say whether I would give it a +1.

2. Motorbikes in Shanghai with a Stars & Stripes theme covering much their surface have caught my attention. I also saw a motorbike with a less flamboyant design but which features a fearless bald eagle.

motorbike in Shanghai with a plate feature the U.S. flag and a bald eagle

This gives me hope it is just a matter of time until I see a U.S. flag decorated motorbike with a large bald eagle sculpture affixed to its front.

3. At the end of last year, I shared thoughts about Best Buy's experience in China and asked why the lights remained on at Best Buy's location in Xujiahui despite its last stores in China closing in 2011. Not much has changed. The storefront sign still turns on as evening approaches.

Long-closed Best Buy store in Shanghai with its sign turned on

And I still am not sure why.

4. Finally, yesterday I shared photos of cats in Changsha, Hunan. I often see cats in a small independently-owned stores, though it depends on which city I am in. Today in Shanghai, I also happened to see a cat. More remarkable, the cat resided at the store of a popular mid-sized grocery chain.

cat meowing inside a supermarket in Shanghai

Although it may appear to be signaling its intent to bring about my demise in the photo, my impression was that the talkative cat merely hoped for a head scratch. The results of a test supported my hypothesis. And a later conversation with store workers supported another hypothesis. The friendly cat is valued as a rodent catcher.