Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Red, White, and Blue on Motorbikes in Shanghai and Changsha

In the previous post about the motorbikes I saw yesterday in Shanghai with designs resembling the flags of the U.S. and the U.K., I mentioned I now often seen motorbikes in China with the latter design. Today in Shanghai, as usual, I was not searching for motorbikes. Yet less then two minutes after stepping outside the door, I saw another motorbike with a Union Jack design.


Again, I was not particularly surprised. But a couple of hours later, I was surprised to see yet another motorbike with the Stars & Stripes design, something I have seen far less often in China.


A couple of hours later though, another motorbike helped create a more usual balance for the day.


Today I also looked through photos from my stay in Changsha a couple of months ago. I don't have photos of any American-themed motorbikes from there and don't think I saw any. But I do have photos of three British-themed motorbikes. They definitely weren't the only ones I saw. I took a photo of one because of its setting.

motorbike with a Union Jack design parked in an alley in Changsha
Changsha, Hunan

And I took a photo of two others because they were parked near each other.

two motorbikes with Union Jack designs at a parking lot in Changsha
Changsha, Hunan

The motorbikes in the photos above and in the previous post appear to be similar models but the Union Jack designs are not exactly alike and often don't match the flag as much as would be possible. My main point for now is simply that the general design is not uncommon in Shanghai and a number of other cities in China — a change of pace from four years ago when a man felt safe claiming his Union Jack motorbike was "one of a kind" in Shanghai.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Oh Say Can You See the Motorbike in Shanghai

While walking across Xizang South Road in Shanghai today, I didn't see anyone wearing clothing reminding me of the flag of the U.S. as I did yesterday. But a motorbike with the familiar theme did zip by.

young man and woman riding a motorbike with a U.S. flag design in Shanghai

Although I don't often see similar motorbikes, in a number of Chinese cities I do regularly see motorbikes with a British-themed design. And I was not the least surprised when I noticed one a few hours later elsewhere in Shanghai.

motorbike with British flag design in Shanghai

More about the popularity of Stars & Stripes and Union Jack designs in China, whether on motorbikes or clothing, another day.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Signs of Socialist Core Values in Shanghai

sign in China for "socialist core values"

Today in Shanghai I saw the above sign. Along a wall, related signs promoting the various "socialist core values" — a focus of President Xi Jinping — accompanied it. Similar signs aren't uncommon to see in Shanghai or elsewhere in China, not surprising since Xi wants the values to be "all-pervasive, just like the air". On that note, Xi has stressed he doesn't want them polluted by undesired Western values or institutions. I will touch more deeply on this topic later. For now, I just want to say as a man wearing a shirt with a clothing design I have seen many times in China passed by, I wondered about the signs' impact. It's hard to know.

man wearing tank-top with U.S. flag design walking a signs promoting socialist core values

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Non-International View of Zhuhai from Macau

To balance things out with the previous post, here is a view of Zhuhai from Coloane Village in Macau:

view of Zhuhai from Coloane Village in Macau

Once again, I would recommend against swimming from one side to the other.

Air pollution obscures some of the details, but if you look closely at the mountains, you can see wind turbines, which struck me as both hopeful and ironic.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Non-International View of Macau from Zhuhai

View of Macau from Zhuhai at night
View of Macau, China, from Zhuhai, China (February 2015)

You could try swimming from the location in Zhuhai where I took the above photo to Macau. I stress "try". Even if you reached Macau, the relevant authorities would likely prevent you from getting much farther, and what follows would likely not be a pleasant experience. Reaching Macau would be far easier if you simply walk to the nearby immigration and control point and cross the border on land, assuming you have the relevant documents. Many Chinese people I have met in the same area did not though. But if you do make it to Macau from Zhuhai, regardless of the method you use I wouldn't call it "overseas travel".

Monday, August 3, 2015

Many of China's 109 Million "Overseas" Travelers Never Left China

People in Zhuhai walking away from the border gate with Macau
People in Zhuhai, China, walking away from the border gate to Macau, China (February 2015)

The China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) claims mainland Chinese citizens traveled "overseas" more than 100 million times last year, the most ever. This statistic is often mentioned in media reports and commentary regarding growing opportunities for countries to attract international travelers from China and their money (examples from The New York Times, Bloomberg Business, Xinhua, and Quartz). But numbers from China often come with big caveats which significantly impact their meaning. This one is no exception.

To be clear, the statistic does not cover citizens of Hong Kong or Macau, both Special Administrative Regions where a number of rules and regulations differ from the rest of China. One possible reason for omitting the two cities is if CNTA included them it would be at a loss to explain why it wasn't also including Taiwan. The People's Republic of China claims Taiwan but doesn't currently control it. Presumably CNTA doesn't have the same access to Taiwan's travel data. So clumping Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau together, a common thing to do in China, helps CNTA avoid highlighting a delicate issue. And there can be meaningful reasons for not including data about Hong Kong's and Macau's citizens, including many countries making it easier for them to visit by having more generous entry rules for them than for citizens of mainland China.

Less mentioned and more significant than the statistic excluding people traveling from Hong Kong and Macau is it including people traveling from mainland China to Hong Kong and Macau, where mainland Chinese need a special permit to visit. This means when a Chinese citizen living in Shenzhen travels to Hong Kong it could count as "overseas" travel despite the cities sharing a border easily crossed by foot and both undisputedly being part of the People's Republic of China. The same holds true for Macau, which borders Zhuhai.

I can't find a breakdown of the statistic for all of 2014, which was 109 million, on CNTA's website. However, in December last year CNTA provided additional details for the year's first 11 months when the number had already surpassed 100 million. According to CNTA, of those more than 100 million "outbound tours" from January through November last year:
Overseas tourist destinations of Mainland Chinese citizens are: Asia (89.5%, in which Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan account for 70.4%), Europe (3.5%), Africa (3.0%), Americas (2.7%), Oceania (1.1%), and other regions (0.2%).
Reported elsewhere, Taiwan had 2.8 million mainland Chinese tourist arrivals for all of last year. Hong Kong and Macau clearly account for a large majority of the trips. Even in the most extreme case, the final numbers for the year could not change this point.

So indicating Chinese citizens made 100 million "overseas" or "international" trips is highly misleading at best. This doesn't mean there aren't growing opportunities for countries such as the U.S. to attract international travelers from China or influence them to spend more money. I think there are. But citing the 100 million statistic isn't usually going to be a great way to make that case.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mao Basketball, Not Baseball, in China

In response to a post with a quote of the MLB vice president saying Confucious would have liked baseball, reader "Pete" commented:
Baseball is certainly popular in other Asian countries, including Taiwan. Assuming this Wikipedia article is correct, there have been 11 players born in Taiwan that have played Major League Baseball.

The advantage that basketball has over baseball is that you can play basketball with two people, one ball and one hoop. Or you can go shoot by yourself. To play a reasonable game of baseball, you need more equipment, more people, and a bigger patch of ground. And it's pretty much impossible to practice by yourself.

If baseball is going to grow in China (or Australia, or the Netherlands, or Italy, or inner-city Chicago), it's going to need organizational and facilities support from the government and MLB's (or NPB's) outreach organization.
Although mentioning Confucius may be a good for marketing purposes, I believe more contemporary issues, such as those raised by Pete, are more likely to have a impact on whether baseball significntly grows in China. For example, Helen Gao's article in The Atlantic suggests basketball's current dominance in China has far less to do with whether an influential philosopher would have liked it 2500 years ago than the preferences of a 20th century leader who also has a book filled with his quotations:
During the Cultural Revolution, Mao [Zedong] declared war against almost all Western bourgeois affections, from classical music to novels [to baseball], but he never wavered in support of basketball. Deprived of all forms of cultural enrichment and lacking the most basic athletic equipment, children and young adults roamed around their neighborhoods, setting up boards and hoops in alleys and courtyards and pouring their energy into the simple game of shooting the hoops. "At that time, China had basically only two sports: basketball and ping pong," my father, a teenager during the height of the Cultural Revolution and a devout basketball fan told me. "If you were young and loved sports, you only got these two to choose from."
See Gao's piece for more about basketball's history in China and the roles political support and other factors have played in its growth. Of course, Confucius may have liked it too.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

"No Clock, the Sacrifice, the Journey Around the Bases": MLB Hopes For China

The ethical man comprehends according to righteousness, the small man comprehends according to profit.

Analects of Confucius, Book 4, Verse 16

Xu Guiyuan, nicknamed Itchy thanks to one of his baseball coaches, recently made a bit of history by becoming the first player from MLB's three professional baseball development centers in China to sign with a Major League club, in this case the Baltimore Orioles. In an article about Xu that also provides examples of how MLB's centers in China have been adapted to better fit the local culture is a fascinating claim about how the game of baseball, which was banned during the Cultural Revolution, is especially well suited for China:
"All the ethereal things about baseball -- no clock, the sacrifice, the journey around the bases that starts and finishes at home -- it all resonates in Chinese culture," said MLB vice president Jim Small, who oversees all of Asia. "I'm convinced that if baseball was around during Confucius' time, he would have been a huge fan."
What would Confucius say? What would the NBA, far more popular than MLB in China, say?

Please discuss.

*Added note: Removed my first two lines because they could imply things I didn't intend to imply and had nothing to do with this post anyway.