Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shopping District in Nanping, Zhuhai

After arriving in Nanping on a random bus and exploring areas with many older buildings, I noticed this street close to the bus stop:

North Street in Nanping, Zhuhai, China
North Street (北大街)

For a variety of reasons, I am interested in shopping districts so I was especially curious to see what I would find. I will share a video of what followed. Please disregard the shakiness and occasional lack of focus. The video will not win me any awards for its quality, but nonetheless it captures a side of everyday ordinary life that is reminiscent of many other scenes I have encountered in China.

Note: I recommend changing the default video quality to one of the HD settings. You can also watch the HD video here:
"North Road in Nanping, Zhuhai".

The following are a few photos of what I saw after taking the video. Some of them provide a contrast to the scenes in the video and also to the nearby buildings I shared in the earlier post. Several of the areas developed larger crowds later that Friday evening.

shopping district in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

row of games to play along a street in Nanping, Zhuhai, China
Games and prizes

Peng Tai Fashion City in Nanping, Zhuhai, China
Peng Tai Fashion City

three young female shoppers posing for a photo in Nanping, Zhuhai, China
Three shoppers in Peng Tai Fashion City who were eager to say hello

shopping street in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

shopping street in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

numerous small tables for eating alongside a shopping street in Nanping, Zhuhai
Dining alfresco

Monday, March 19, 2012

"O Santos": A Taste of Portugal in China

I plan to share more of what I found after taking a random bus that brought me to Nanping. However, it appears that a video I would like to use for the next post needs much more time to finish uploading. So, in the meantime I will share one of my recent experiences in nearby Macau.

Although Portugal no longer administers Macau, the Portuguese influence can still be found. A benefit of this is that I could have a "local" meal of Portuguese food today even though I was still in China. Since I was in Macau's Taipa Village, I stopped by this well-known restaurant for lunch:

outside of O Santos Comida Portuguesa restaurant in Macau
"O Santos" Comida Portuguesa restaurant

After taking a seat I opened the menu with great delight. The first dish was an easy choice for me:

Portuguese octopus salad
Octopus Salad

And for the main dish I stuck with the seafood theme:

Portuguese grilled fish and beans
Grilled fish and beans

Everyone else seemed to be finishing their meal with an expresso, so I decided to do the same with a little improvisation:

espresso and chocolate mousse in Macau
Espresso and chocolate mousse

One of the more remarkable moments of the meal occurred with a very simple item -- the free bread. As soon as I bit into it I realized it had been a long time since I had last enjoyed this style of bread -- the crust! I will not belabor my impressions of the food and will just say that I enjoyed every bite. The food, the house wine, the espresso, and the friendly people were just what I needed to make the more than 90 minutes needed to pass through immigration at the Macau border with mainland China seem like a distant memory and well worthwhile.

The owner heartily thanked me as I left the restaurant, and I tried my best to express that I should be the one doing the thanking.

So, again, "Muito obrigado!"

people eating at O Santos in Macau
Inside of "O Santos" -- The owner is sitting in the center at the farthest table.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Random Bus Trip to Zhuhai's Nanping

I have shared before how I enjoy using a variety of methods, sometimes even following helpful kids or dogs, to more fully explore the world. Yesterday afternoon in Zhuhai, I decided it was time for another semi-random exploration and applied one of my favorite methods. So, I went to this busy city bus stop:

bus stop in Zhuhai, China
A bus stop on Yingbin South Road

And boarded the next bus that arrived:

inside of city bus in Zhuhai, China
The bus filled up at the next stop.

I had no clue where it was going and quite happy about that. After I was seated, a woman approached asking me to pay the appropriate fare. I did not know the amount so she asked me where I was going. I told her I did not know and asked her where the bus was headed.

She paused for a moment and then told me we were on the way to Doumen. I had never heard of Doumen so I told her it sounded fine. She then asked for 4 yuan, or about US 60 cents. That was more than a typical bus fare and I then found out that Doumen was about 1 hour away. Given it was already late in the afternoon I did not want to go so far. So I asked her to recommend a closer stop. She suggested Nanping. Nanping sounded great. And it only cost 2 yuan to go there.

So, I hopped off the bus here in Nanping Village (南屏村) in Zhuhai's Xiangzhou district:

bus on road in Zhuhai, China
Bus heading onward to Doumen without me

I turned around and saw this:

some buildings in Nanping, Zhuhai

After taking a peak inside the internet cafe on the 2nd floor of the nearby building, I headed down a small street that looked interesting to me:

man on tricycle cart in Nanping, Zhuhai

In upcoming posts I will share some of the unexpected discoveries I made during just a few hours in Nanping. It felt like another world from where I had spent most of my previous time in Zhuhai.

For now, I will share just a few photos including older buildings. Such buildings are quickly disappearing in China, and many are full of history. As I will share in a later post, I discovered that some of the buildings even have a story to tell that connects to the 1800s in America's east coast. However, to me the photos are not special just because of the buildings but also because of some of the local life they capture.

older building in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

woman riding bicycle by older buildings in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

older buildings along an alley in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

many sitting behind a sign near some older buildings in Nanping, Zhuhai
The red sign says "New Homes for Rent"

older buildings in Nanping, Zhuhai

older buildings turned into stores in Nanping, Zhuhai, China
Some small stores and a restaurant

older buildings in alley in Nanping, Zhuhai, China

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.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where to Find Vertical Innovations

Creativity and innovation are often seen as invaluable in a variety of fields, including architecture. So, where can you expect to find people producing award-winning architectural designs? Well, eVolo recently announced the winners of its 2012 Skyscraper Competition. eVolo is:
an architecture and design journal focused on technological advances, sustainability, and innovative design for the 21st Century. Our objective is to promote and discuss the most avant-garde ideas generated in schools and professional studios around the world.
According to eVolo the judges for the competition are leaders in the architecture and design fields and the competition:
... recognizes outstanding ideas that redefine skyscraper design through the use of new technologies, materials, programs, aesthetics, and spatial organizations, along with studies on globalization, flexibility, adaptability, and the digital revolution. This is also an investigation on the public and private space and the role of the individual and the collective in the creation of a dynamic and adaptive vertical community. The award seeks to discover young talent, whose ideas will change the way we understand architecture and its relationship with the natural and built environments.
Here is the 3rd place design:

"Monument to Civilization" (photo from eVolo)

Here is the 2nd place design:

"Mountain Band-Aid" (photo from eVolo)

And here is the winning design:

"Himalaya Water Tower" (photo from eVolo)

The designs have already received media attention (you can also see examples of some of the honorable mentions at TPM here). In addition to the visuals, the skyscrapers are interesting in the rationale for their design. Instead of describing them myself, I recommend reading more at eVolo about the designs "Vertical Landfill", "Mountain Band-Aid", and "Himalaya Water Tower".

That both the first and second place teams are from mainland China may come as a surprise (the third place team is from Taiwan, maybe a topic for another day). It is not uncommon for people, both Chinese and non-Chinese, to describe a relative lack of creativity and innovation in China. For a variety of reasons the results of this single competition may not strongly indicate otherwise (for example, I would be curious to learn more about the number and type of teams involved). Regardless, I believe these designs from young teams in China along with other evidence I have seen suggest that some further thinking may be required to best appreciate the issue of creativity in China.

More on this topic later.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rubik's Cube and Cat Painting in Tianjin

One day over a year ago I was walking down a street with several art galleries in Tianjin, China. Most of them did not catch my attention but one had a painting that caused me to stop dead in my tracks. This painting seemed particularly... unique. Especially since it was so prominently displayed, I wondered if the painting was a sign of local "creativity" or something else. In some parts of China it can be relatively easy to find copies of famous and even less-than-famous paintings.

I was in a hurry so I just took a quick photograph before rushing off. I have yet to see anything similar to the painting in other art galleries or anywhere online. Several friends who have seen it have been equally stumped. So, I will share my photograph of the painting here. Maybe someone can recognize it or be more successful in finding a match.

painting in Tianjin, China, of a Rubiks Cube and a cat with differently colored eyes in front of a pathway to a rural house

Also, bonus points if you can explain its symbolism.

More on creativity in China in future posts. I assure you, though, that none of them will involve cats and Rubik's Cubes.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Apple's Trademark Challenges in China: EPADs and ifads

In case you are not already aware, Apple is in the midst of a legal battle over whether or not they own the "iPad" trademark in mainland China. A mainland Chinese court has ruled that it is now owned by the Chinese manufacturer Proview but a higher court has still not announced its ruling. For more details about a fascinating case I recommend some posts written by lawyers knowledgeable about China. Dan Harris on China Law Blog clearly described the overall issue here: "The Proview v. Apple China Trademark Dispute. Wanna Buy The Brooklyn Bridge?". And Stan Abrams on China Hearsay has been very regularly explaining and commenting on various aspects of the case as it evolves. His most recent post (at the time of publishing this post) is here: "The Natives Are Restless: Proview’s Latest iPad Threatdown".

Abrams also mentioned another Apple trademark legal case. Apple has filed a complaint over the Chinese luggage vendor EBox using the name "EPAD" on its products. Michael Kan on PCWorld shared a response by EBox that indicates it is fully aware of Apple's current trademark problem in China:
EBox opposes Apple's complaint and is preparing a formal response. "The iPad trademark is not Apple's, so now they want to take ours," said EBox's spokeswoman. "Apple has been a bully."
Abrams does not comment on the case specifically but does mention that:
...there are tons of “bad guys” out there using marks similar to “iPad” to flog their stuff.
Based on what I have seen, I am not surprised by the use of the word "tons". In fact, I have seen some items that may strike some as slightly more egregious than EPAD-labeled luggage. For example, in the city of Guangzhou, where I earlier observed the iPhone 4S grey market and a number of "fake" Apple stores, here is what I found in a large shopping mall several weeks ago:

an ifad in Guangzhou that looks like a human-sized version of Apple's iPod
Want one for your home?

Just like many similar-looking products offered by Apple, the rather large ifad had a touch screen and provided an interactive experience. I did not have much time to fully explore its functionality so I will refrain from providing a review. I will just say that it did allow one to find a variety of products listed for sale, such as these shoes:

zoomed in view of an ifad screen showing a selection of shows for sale
If only it could automatically detect my shoe size and let me know if they are in stock.

I am not sure whether ifads are widespread, but this is my first and only time to notice one. And I assume that this is not an Apple product despite its name and remarkably familiar design.

So, it looks like Apple's lawyers still have plenty of work to keep them busy even if Apple successfully acquires ownership of the iPad and EPAD trademarks.

And no, I do not know if ifads are available in other colors.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Donuts China Style

I have commented before on how Western companies, such as McDonald's, KFC, and Dairy Queen, have localized their products for China's market. Writing for Reuters Eveline Danubrata reports about a another food localization:
Pork donuts may not be palatable to Americans or Europeans, but the parent company of Dunkin' Donuts and the Baskin-Robbins ice cream chains is catering to local tastes in China, where it aims to open another 100 stores in the next two to three years...

"Donuts are a very flexible product. You can do savory donuts, you can do donuts with shredded pork -- that's in China," Chief Executive Officer Nigel Travis told Reuters in an interview.

"We also have a range of other savory products that we have been testing and introducing country by country."
Danubrata also notes that pork donuts probably would not work well is Muslim countries due to religious rules forbidding the eating of pork. In that light, I suspect Dunkin' Donuts is not planning to introduce them in Israel as well.

In The Washington Post Keith B. Richburg also commented on donut localizations in his article about the "doughnut wars" in Shanghai:
...Chinese customers seem more interested in the drinks than the sugary doughnuts. And following the lessons of other American retailers, the doughnut shops are finding that some of their best-sellers would be barely recognizable back home, like Dunkin’s dried pork and seaweed doughnut, or the doughnut made with dried Bonito fish...

Dunkin’, like some of the other chains, is discovering that coffee and other drink offerings, including jasmine green tea and lichi green tea, are more popular than doughnuts.

Krispy Kreme, meanwhile, is offering its quarters, with easy chairs and quiet surroundings, as a place to relax, surf the Web and enjoy a huge variety of cream-filled doughnuts at a more leisurely pace.

“People stay a long time,” Lim said. Here in Shanghai, he said, “we position ourselves differently than in the West.”
However, he also questions whether donuts are a good fit for China:
But what isn’t at all clear is whether Chinese consumers particularly like doughnuts.

The average Chinese breakfast might consist of congee, or rice porridge, maybe some soybean milk, sometimes fried noodle, or perhaps a dry roll or bun. The idea of something as sweet as a glazed or cream-filled doughnut in the morning would seem an anathema to many local palates.
Based on my own food explorations I am not as skeptical about the future of donuts in China. Here is one reason why:

Chinese doughnuts / xian jianbing / 咸煎饼 in Guangzhou, China
A pile of deliciousness

These tasty objects are called xián jiānbing (咸煎饼) and roughly equivalent to a large bagel in size. I am not aware of a English translation (and a literal character by character translation does not seem to do the trick) so I will call them Chinese donuts. They go especially well with a tasty bowl of congee (a Chinese rice porridge) but can be happily enjoyed on their own. The Chinese donuts cost less than US 50 cents each, are much denser than typical Western donuts, and are very filling. The ones above are from a simple but wonderful local restaurant -- Wuzhanji (伍湛记). I would list the restaurant as a must visit for foodies (they also have excellent steamed rice-flour rolls) and is perfect for a morning meal. Based on the crowds I regularly saw at Wuzhanji, they certainly have no problem selling plenty of Chinese donuts.

Of particular relevance is that these Chinese donuts are not very sweet and instead fit more in the "savory" category. Based on it and many other similar foods I have had in China, when I read about the localized products at Dunkin' Donuts I was not at all surprised (I have yet to try any of them though). I think the Chinese donuts provides a useful example of how understanding what is available in China can provide some hints to foreign companies about how they can best localize their offerings in China or how some offerings may not require any changes (see here for a similar discussion about mobile phones).

I should point out that you cannot find Wuzhanji and its special Chinese donuts in just any city in China. As far as I know it only exists around Guangzhou -- a city where the density of Western donut shops currently appears to be far less than Shanghai. But I suspect Wuzhanji and its Chinese donuts could fare well in Shanghai. If Wuzhanji opens branches in Shanghai there could be yet another twist in China's donut wars.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

From Nail Shop to Factory Life in China

When I was last in Shenyang, Liaoning province, I visited a large underground shopping mall popular with many youth. While there I had the opportunity to speak with this young woman working at a nail shop:

young woman in Shenyang sitting behind a table of numerous fake nails with a variety of designs
Selling fake nails with a variety of designs

As we talked I got to learn about some of her life. And I tried to understand some of the decisions she had recently made, including the choice of her mobile phone:

Hitel mobile phone on top of a display case of fake nails in China

However, it was another decision that I found most striking. When I asked about her hopes for the future she said without hesitation that she planned to the leave the nail shop and work at a factory in Yantai, Shandong province -- over 12 hours from Shenyang by road and ferry or longer without the ferry. She had already moved from her home in a village several hours away to work in Shenyang and was prepared to move even further to an unfamiliar city just based on the encouraging words of a friend who had done the same. In the young woman's eyes working in a factory would be an important step up in her life.

Her story in part resembled others I have heard when interviewing youth in China. It also seemed straight out of a book I had recently read - Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang. If you enjoyed reading my earlier posts about Xiaoxin's first payday or first vegetarian lunch in Shanghai, you may also enjoy Chang's book. The stories she shares help capture the realities for many in China as they strive to improve their own and their family's lives.

Recently, I came across a video excerpt capturing some similar issues regarding factory life in China (H/T to Tricia Wang) . In the excerpt workers' express their hopes and their impressions of life at Foxconn -- the company which is the focus of much Western media attention due to its important role manufacturing goods for Apple, Sony, and many other well-known companies. The video also includes scenes reminiscent of many others I have seen that are more a part of everyday life for many in China than modern architectural marvels or high speed trains. While what is shown in the video is just the surface of some very deep issues and I do not believe all is as clear as it may seem, it helps show a side of China that is often missed or glossed over in typical news reports.

One young man in the video mentions that he chose Foxconn because its conditions are much better than other factories in China. I would not be surprised to discover that Foxconn's conditions are also much better than the factory where the young woman above may now be working.

You can watch the video here:

        Dreamwork China from Cineresie.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bailian Dong Park in Zhuhai, Guangdong

Today, I visited Bailian Dong Park in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. It can also go by the names Bailian Cave Park or White Lotus Cave Park. I see them all being used on English web sites. But in Chinese there is no confusion. It is simply 白莲洞公园 (in pinyin with tones: báilián dòng gōngyuán).

The park and the several temples on its grounds provided me a much needed change of pace. For the same purpose I will share a few photos here.

lake at Bailian Dong park in Zhuhai China
Park lake

young woman taking a photo of another at Bailian Dong park in Zhuhai China
Photo opportunity

group watching man with nunchaku at Bailian Dong park in Zhuhai China
Man displaying his nunchaku skills to the rest of his group

young people roller skating at Bailian Dong park in Zhuhai China
Roller skating

Young women standing above the character 福 (fu) at Bailian Dong park in Zhuhai China
Stairway to the temples: the character 福 (fu) can be translated as "blessing"

Young woman placing incense sticks at a temple in Bailian Dong park in Zhuhai China
Placing incense sticks

Mother and daughter looking at lotus flower shaped candles at Bailian Dong park in Zhuhai China
Looking at lotus flower shaped candles

incense sticks burning at Bailian Dong park in Zhuhai China
Incense sticks burning

Friday, March 2, 2012

More Than 3 Standard Deviations Above the Mean: Lactivism In Memory of Susan Eitelman Dean

Several days ago I found out that a friend of mine, Susan, had suffered a "major embolic stroke that occluded 2 major arteries in her brain". Much of my graduate work and some additional later research was in the area of cognitive neuropsychology -- I studied what brain damage could tell us about how the undamaged brain works. I knew, as a friend had written, that this was likely "bad, bad, bad".

A wonderful web site tracking her progress was quickly set up and her close friends provided regular updates. I first read that doctors were using medication to reduce the pressure in her brain. Then they decided surgery was neccessary. Then there were reports that the swelling continued and was potentially causing more damage. Her friends expressed that any recovery could take from months to years. I knew in cases like this, though, that "recovery" can truly mean "as recovered as possible".

But there will be no recovery of any length. Earlier today I read Susan had died.

Susan was married and in her early 30's. She had a 2 year old boy. She was very health conscious.

My heart goes out to her child, her husband, her parents, and everyone else who was close to her.

Reading the stories and comments others left on the web site and her Facebook page was both uplifting and sad. I think one of the comments on her Facebook page says so much:
I love you more than 3 standard deviations above the mean!!
Her friend wrote that just days before Susan's stroke. It highlights both the feelings many genuinly had for Susan and the dorkiness Susan proudly displayed.

I could go on and on about how years ago a work colleague and I recruited Susan fresh after she graduated from Carnegie Mellon and how she proved to be such a great work colleague and friend. Or how she was so helpful when I needed to make a long distance move. Or how she semi-randomly thanked me last month for the used knife set I gave her over 10 years ago -- it solved a minor but long unsolved mystery for me since I had forgotten giving it to her.

Instead, I will share one of the issues dear to Susan: breast feeding. She considered herself a lactivist -- someone who promotes breast feeding. This is not limited to simply encouraging women to nurse their children. In American society, some women are made to feel as if they are doing something wrong by simply feeding their child in public -- as if it is something that needs to be hidden away. That something so incredibly natural, healthy, wondrous, and loving as breastfeeding even needs advocates boggles my mind.

Just days before her stroke I shared with Susan a recent news report that caught my attention:
Nirvana Jennette, a mom of four from Camden County, Georgia says she was forced out of church for breastfeeding her baby. Church leaders asked her to breastfeed in the bathroom and implied they could have arrested her for “lewd behavior.” The most egregious statement? She told news station WSAV that her pastor compared her breastfeeding to a stripper performing.
How breast feeding is "lewd" or like a "stripper performing" is beyond me. Sometimes, the same people who can be charmed by watching puppies suckle can without hesitation criticize a woman for nursing her own child in public. Whatever the cause for such feelings, I have yet to hear a good reason for banning public breastfeeding. If you do not like to look at it, tough. I do not like to listen to people in the supposedly free U.S. whine about public breastfeeding. But I will be the first to protect your right do so.

Fortunately, in Georgia the law allows women to nurse anywhere they and their child have permission to be. Now, there is a movement to add an enforcement provision to the law. The article also mentions nurse-in protests in reaction to several other incidents.

In response to the article Susan commented:
Thanks for sharing this Brian! I love how some of my guy friends are becoming lactivists too!! Even from as far as China! I'd love to hear your thoughts on how breastfeeding is viewed over there... :)
I was hoping to more carefully consider the issue of breastfeeding in China when I had the chance and get back to Susan later. Sometimes, later does not work.

In the spirit of Susan's lactivism I want to pass on some relevant links Susan recently shared:

I must admit I had no plans to do a post on breastfeeding, but I share Susan's feelings on this topic. I am happy on this very sad day to help spread Susan's concerns about an issue that was particularly important to her.

Finally, just a few weeks ago Susan shared a post of this photo:

It is a collage of photos telling the story of a couple who married despite the bride being in the midst of a very difficult fight against cancer. She died 5 days after the wedding. Like me, Susan is careful about checking out such stories and included a link to Snopes indicating the story about the photos was indeed true.

And she left a brief comment on her post that seems so apt now:
Life is short, and delicate. Handle carefully.
Sometimes, it is much too short.

Susan and her son Andrew at a Kindermusik class last week (thanks to Holly Lesnick)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Conan Copies the Chinese Copier

I have previously commented on various examples of potential copyright or trademark problems in China -- whether mobile phones, Apple Stores, computers, or ice cream. However, these are certainly not the only cases. One question many foreign companies ask is "What can we do about it?"

American talk show host Conan O'Brien has taken his own path to answering that question after he discovered a show produced by Sohu in China had copied his own show's opening sequence. I do not know whether any legal action has been taken or is even possible, but O'Brien may have done something even more effective: he publicly mocked Sohu's show. And just as important, the key excerpt has been posted and is currently available on Sohu's video sharing service in China:

[Update: If video is not appearing you can find it on Sohu here]

While I and several of my Chinese friends find the excerpt humorous, I think there is a deeper point to be made. Fan Huang on the Shanghaiist commented on the potential impact:
The internet now makes former boundaries porous to an incredible extent yadda yadda, and we feel like the current moment is when a previously solid cultural bubble separating China and the rest of the world has been pierced...

We hope incidents like the Conan smackdown contribute to a new notion in China that wantonly appropriating other people's names/designs/tv show opening sequences is no longer okay, because the specter of losing face is now possible on a global scale.
Face is indeed an important concept in China and understanding it can help companies better address a variety of issues. Conan's aim may have been more about producing fresh humor than causing Sina's show to change its opening sequence, but I believe this illustrates how best responding to copying in China can be aided by a better understanding of Chinese culture and some more creativity.