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Showing posts from 2015

Bitter Rivalries - Behind The Facade Of The Harmonious Chinese Family

In the Chinese-speaking world, traditional values play a central role in public discourse and education. The governments in mainland China , Taiwan , Hong Kong and Singapore promote concepts of filial piety and social propriety, which they regard as natural, pragmatic and lofty principles. Many citizens, too, are proud of such values and define them, more or less consciously, as important elements of their own individual identity.  According to Zhang Lihua, a resident scholar at the prestigious Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy and a professor at the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University, “[t]he traditional cultural values that influence the psyche of the Chinese people are harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, and filial piety. Of these, the core value is harmony ,” which means “proper and balanced coordination between things”. Confucian ideals were belittled and denigrated in China under Mao Zedong (for ex

Rua Da Felicidade - Macau's "Street of Happiness"

Located in the historic centre of Macau , only a few minutes’ walk from Senado Square , there is a street whose traditional Chinese-style buildings and romantic name seem to take one back to a long-gone colonial era, in which the society of old China mingled with the cosmopolitan, busy lifestyle of the former European enclaves in the Far East. Lined with two-storey, grey brick Chinese houses with conspicuous red windows and doors, decorations and inscriptions that recount old legends, the street is a remarkable example of the mix of traditional Chinese architecture and Western patterns. Here the visitor feels as if time had stood still, and is finally able to imagine, far away from the modern casinos and shopping malls, how life might have looked like for ordinary people in old Macau.

Cai Yingwen Says Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands Belong To Taiwan

During a visit to Japan on July 23, former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui  stated that the Senkaku Islands belong to Japan. The Senkaku Islands are also claimed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC, Taiwan). Mr Lee had already made similar remarks in the past. In January 2014, he stated that the Senkaku Islands are " Japanese territory based on international law". Li's statements were criticised not only by Taiwan's ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang) , but also, surprisingly, by the leader of the opposition and incumbent presidential candidate Cai Yingwen. On July 29, while visiting a factory of a Taichung-based clothes manufacturer, Cai was asked by journalists to comment on Lee Teng-hui's remarks. The chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) replied that the Diaoyutai Islands are part of Taiwan's territory. "The position of the Democratic Progressive Party on this issue is clea

Why Macau Is Much More Than Just A City Of Gambling

Last Friday I travelled again to Macau , and I have to say that I am more and more intrigued by this city. Unfortunately, the former Portuguese colony is mainly known to the outside world for its casinos . But in fact, it is a place with a surprisingly rich history and culture. A few weeks ago I heard a German guy talking on the phone with his parents. They asked him how he liked Macau, and he said something like, "Macau is famous for its casinos. Someone told us that there are many old buildings, but we were tired of old buildings, we've already seen enough of them in China, so we just went gambling."  A Malaysian guy I talked to last week, said something similar: "There is nothing to see in Macau, only casinos."

Chinese Girl Cheated Out Of 6,500 Renminbi

No matter in which country you are, it is always best to be vigilant and protect yourself. In China , too, one cannot blindly trust strangers, however nice and kind they appear to be. The immense power of the Communist state makes violent street crime unlikely. Yet villains have another, less conspicuous way of committing unlawful activities: scams. Scams targeting both locals and tourists are particularly popular in China. Scammers rely on their ability to convince others to give them what they want, without violence, and often leaving no evidence. As Chinese media reported, on July 18 "Xiaoli" (fictitious name), a female university student from Hebei province, took a train from Shijiazhuang to Luoyang , in Henan province, where she was to take part in a volunteer programme during the summer vacation.  When she arrived at her destination, she waited at an exit of Luoyang train station for a friend who was coming to pick her up. While she was there, a middle-age

Once Again, China Proves Neoliberals Wrong

A few days ago everyone talked about China 's stock market collapse. " Xi Jinping has run into the one thing in China he can't control ", wrote news website Quartz , implying that the all-powerful Communist Party finally had to acknowledge that it couldn't rein in the "free market". No sooner had the Chinese government stepped in to save the stock market than Western media dismissed Beijing's policies, predicting they would not work. " China markets plunge as government measures fail ", wrote Yahoo News . These are only two examples of what the South China Morning Post called "Western media's callous delight at China's stock market crash ". According to The Telegraph , China's stock market crash would cause a "more worrying financial crisis " than the one happening in Greece. But, as has often been the case over the past four decades, the West's neoliberal-minded analysts have failed to understand

Saving The Souls Of The Ancestors - 'Qianshuichezang': Taiwan's Unique Religious Festival

Every year between the 1st and the 9th day of the 6th month of the Lunar Calendar (July 16 - July 24) a traditional folk festival  takes place in Kouhu Township, in Taiwan 's Yunlin County, to commemorate the souls of people who died over a century and a half ago. The festival is called ' Qianshuichezang ' (牽水車藏), which literally means 'leading along water containers'. The name refers to traditional lantern-like, three-level cylinders made of bamboo sticks and paper. The ceremony is held at Wanshan Shrine  (萬善祠), near Jinhu harbour, and Wanshanye Temple (萬善爺廟) in Jinhu. The three levels represent the division between water, sky and underworld. Each side of the cylinder is painted with images of humans and benign spirits. In the temples, people offer foodstuffs and paper money to the deities. The offerings are carried from the villages to the temples by women on traditional bamboo poles. The food and money are placed on round tables in front of the statues

Sleeping At Taiwan's Eslite Bookstore

Before I went to Taiwan for the first time, a friend of mine told me that if I ever wanted to date a classy, clever and pretty girl I should visit Eslite Bookstore in Taipei. It was not until I arrived on the island that I realised what he was talking about.  Eslite stands out for its stylish design, wide range of English and Chinese books, and its customer-oriented service. Many people spend hours there reading books, sitting on chairs and armchairs, and even on the floor. The staff will leave you alone, no matter whether you buy something or not. Basically, Eslite is half public library half bookstore.  Some Eslite branches are open 24-hours and have their own cafes and tea houses. They have turned into actual entertainment centres for people who like to read, need to read, or pretend to like to read. There are all kinds of customers: you see families, couples, groups of friends, people who are absorbed in a book and those who stroll around leisurely and, most importantly

How a Single Sentence Caused a Gang War in New Taipei City

On June 30 the residents of New Taipei City witnessed scenes of chaos as street fights broke out between rival gangs in the districts of Luzhou, Sanchong, Zhonghe and Yonghe. The feuds, which involved members of two Taiwanese triads, the Bamboo Gang and the Heavenly Way Alliance , were  triggered by a single sentence: "The girls of Luzhou and Sanchong are shameful."

Why Taiwanese Media Are Talking About McDonald's Doll-like Waitress

On June 27 Taiwanese blogger RainDog posted pictures of a cute waitress  who works at a McDonald's in Taipei. The images soon went viral and were shared on  Taiwan's media .    【吸睛!麥當勞店員酷似洋娃娃 超夢幻】 http://t.co/PSE9pSKwVb pic.twitter.com/pPlSzptCo1 — 中時電子報 (@tw_chinatimes) July 9, 2015 The girl's name is Xu Weihan and her Facebook page has over 60,000 likes.  Xu's media notoriety is another manifestation of some phenomena I already described in previous posts.  First of all, her 'cute' looks correspond to a popular beauty ideal: girls have to be child-like, feminine, gentle and innocent; on the other hand, they have to be pretty and sexually attractive.  Read: 'Pretty, Innocent Asian Girls': The Cult of Cuteness in East Asian Societies Secondly, this 'Lolita-like' appearance is used in the context of a competitive market economy, in which beauty attracts customers and publicity. Therefore, the right behaviour and looks

Hong Kong - Water Floods Tanner Road After Water Pipe Bursts

On July 8 between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., a pipe burst on Tanner Road , near North Point MTR Station , causing severe flooding. Traffic was disrupted and shops were flooded.

What Greece Wants

As a European, I am just a detached observer of Asian affairs. But when it comes to the destiny of the European Union, I feel I am personally involved. Although this is a blog about Asia, I cannot ignore what is happening in Europe, and I want to write a few words about it.  On the statement he published this morning on his own blog , Greece's former Minister of Finance, Jiannis Varoufakis , explained that what the Greek government wants is simply: an agreement that involves debt restructuring, less austerity, redistribution in favour of the needy, and real reforms They are not asking for their debt to be written off, as some media has argued; they just want their debt to be sustainable. As Varoufakis said in one interview (as I can speak Greek, I am following the actual debates in Greece), he thinks that the austerity policies of the troika are not viable for Greece , because they hinder growth and create a situation of instability that makes the recovery of Greece imp

Treason, Secession, Armed Rebellion, Subversion And State Secrets – China’s Paranoia Takes Hold Of Hong Kong

On its 18th birthday, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) received an unwelcome gift from the Beijing authorities: a new sweeping national security law which, despite not applying directly to Hong Kong , is likely to raise pressure on the government of the former British colony to enact its own national security legislation. According to the controversial Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law , the HKSAR "shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets". When the first Chief Executive of the HKSAR, the pro-Beijing magnate Tung Chee-hwa , tried to enact such laws, about half a million Hongkongers took to the streets . Popular anger ultimately led to his resignation in 2005. On July 1st, 1997, the British colony of Hong Kong was handed over to the People's Republic of China. The televised ceremony was watched by millions of people all ov

While Europe Destroys Itself, China Hopes That Greece Will Stay In The Eurozone

In a speech delivered at the University of Zurich on September 19, 1946, Winston Churchill called for the rebirth of the pan-European idea. This "noble continent”, he said, was “the home of all the great parent races of the Western world, the foundation of Christian faith and ethics, the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy and science both of ancient and modern times”; and yet, it was from this great continent that a series of nationalistic movements had originated, which had plunged the whole world into the most catastrophic wars.  Europe, however glorious its past, lay now in ruins. Its economy had been devastated. Millions of displaced men and women marched homewards from battlefields, concentration and labour camps. Prisoners of war languished in captivity. Fallen soldiers left widows and orphans behind. Divided by hatred, impoverished by war, shocked by the unprecedented cruelty it had unleashed upon itself, Europe's prospects were bleak. Was it ever goi

The Blue Express Incident - How 30 Foreigners Were Kidnapped in Republican China

On the evening of May 5, 1923, everything seemed quiet on the Blue Express , China's luxury railway line connecting Tianjin and Pukou . The train, recently purchased by the Chinese Railway Administration from an American company, boasted Asia's first all-steel coaches. Its first class carriages consisted of compartments which, on that day, were filled not only by Chinese, but also by foreign passengers of various nationalities, some of them businessmen or long-term residents of China , others, using a modern word, 'tourists'. Among the passengers were Miss Lucy Aldrich , the sister-in-law of John D. Rockefeller, Jr . and daughter of Senator Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island; two officers of the US Army, Major Allen and Major Pinger; Angelo Musso , a wealthy Italian lawyer based in Shanghai and an early supporter of Benito Mussolini's Fascists; he was accompanied by his private secretary, the young Alba Coralli. There was a Mexican industrialist with his wife, on

Why Hong Kong Should Accept Beijing's Universal Suffrage - And Wait

On Sunday 14, thousands of Hong Kong citizens marched from Causeway Bay to the Legislative Council to protest against the electoral reform package proposed by the government. Demonstrators held yellow umbrellas and wore yellow ribbons, powerful symbols of the Umbrella Revolution that rocked the former British colony last year. They protesters denounced Beijing's version of universal suffrage , demanding 'genuine' democratic elections for Hong Kong. If the electoral reform is passed by the legislature, Hong Kong citizens will for the first time vote directly for their Chief Executive. But critics argue that the democratic reforms are 'fake', as the candidates for the post of Chief Executive will be selected by an electoral committee.  On August 31, 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress  (NPC) passed a decision on the implementation of universal suffrage, a concept enshrined in Paragraph 2 of Article 45 of the Hong Kong Basic

Sun Hongzhi, Former Deputy Director of China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce, Investigated for Corruption

Following a decision of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party , the former deputy chief of China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC) , Sun Hongzhi (孙鸿志), has been detained by the authorities and stripped of his party membership on corruption charges.  Yesterday the Central Committee of the CCP passed a resolution authorizing the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to investigate Sun Hongzhi. He has been accused of violating party discipline regulations and 'socialist ethics', embezzling public money, taking advantage of his post to solicit bribes, of adultery and other charges.   The Central Committee of the CCP decided to expel Sun Hongzhi from the party in accordance with the " Disciplinary Regulations  of the Communist Party of China" and other regulations. He has been detained by the police and handed over to the judicial authorities for further investigation. 

Are the Himalayas Taiwan's Highest Mountains?

“What is  Taiwan ’s highest mountain?” This seemingly harmless question has caused a public controversy in Taiwan, a country where geography and politics are deeply  entwined.   On June 11, Chen Qineng ( 陳啟能 ), a lawmaker of the  Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) , asked  Eric Chu  ( 朱立倫 ), the incumbent mayor of New Taipei City and Chairman of the  Guomindang , an apparently simple question: “What is  Taiwan ’s highest mountain?” “Taiwan’s highest mountain is  Yushan ,” answered Eric Chu. “But according to the Constitution," he added, "the country’s highest mountains are the  Himalayas .”   Chen Qineng’s question was not trivial. Its purpose was to make Eric Chu reveal his view on the controversial issue of  Taiwan’s sovereignty . Taiwan is officially known as the  Republic of China (ROC) , a state that in theory still claims to be the legitimate government of China.     Chen insisted. “We are talking about the Republic of China on Taiwan.”  Eric Chu reaff

Chemistry, or A Brief Encounter in Macau

On Sunday, exhausted from my first day in Macau , I went to sleep at around 2 am (relatively early by my standards). I planned to wake up at 10 am. Eight hours sleep would be sufficient, I thought. I felt weak, dehydrated, and had a headache, probably the result of too much walking and too little drinking. As I put my head on the pillow, I immediately drifted off. At 10 am the alarm clock rang. It went on for half an hour until it stopped. I felt as if I couldn’t move, I had neither the energy to get up, nor to perform the simple task of grabbing the bottle of water inside my bag to quench the thirst that made my throat burn. I was aware that I was sleeping too long, but my limbs simply would not obey my brain's commands. All of a sudden, I heard a noise, so loud and persistent that I could not ignore it. I slowly came round and realised someone was trying to open the apartment door. Repeated sighs and the nervous tinkling of the key resounded from the staircase, tokens of

Nice Flats, High Prices - Airbnb in Macau

Since I could find no hostels in Macau , I decided to use Airbnb, which is a more expensive, but interesting alternative, as you can live with locals (or long-term residents), explore the neighbourhood and see how flats look like. But once again Macau proved to be less convenient than Hong Kong. The cheapest accommodation I found in Macau was HKD 279 (around 30 euros). This wasn't the price for a room, but for a sofa bed in the living room. In Hong Kong, you can find a single room with private bathroom for HKD 264, or a single room for HKD 202. However, the location was good: Rua da Ribeira do Patane, just about 10 to 15 minutes on foot from Senado Square . The HKD 279 bed was available only for three nights, so I decided to book this bed for two nights and then move to a nearby flat. I rented a single room for about HKD 383 (around 40 euros) per night. The price for these two flats for four nights, including Airbnb fees, was about HKD 1,600 (circa 180 euros). With HKD 1,7

Cheap Accommodation in Macau – Mission Impossible?

Once I met a Dutch guy who had flown to Macau on a visa run, planning to stay there for a few days or weeks. He believed that Macau was much cheaper than neighbouring Hong Kong , the latter being known as one of the world’s most densely populated cities as well as a major global financial hub. It didn’t take him long to realise that he had made a mistake. The first thing he did upon arriving in Macau was, of course, to look for a cheap hostel. Little did he know that Macau has no hostels!  To his surprise he could find no cheap accommodation and had no choice but to spent around HKD400 for one night at a hotel. Macau turned out to be so expensive that on his second day he moved to Hong Kong. Despite having heard his story, I did not learn the lesson. I still believed I would find a hostel. After all, I had been to hostels in small cities like Triest, Krakow, Salzburg. How could Macau, whose GDP depends entirely on tourism , have no hostels? Probably, the guy should have

Four Days in Macau

In 2013 I visited Macau with two friends of mine. We stayed there for two days and engaged in intense ‘touristy’ activities, as we went to the major sights, ate local food and strolled around the busy streets of the picturesque, European-style historic centre. After so much walking we were exhausted, but we accomplished our goal: to see as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Those two days were nice and I had a lot of fun. But I left Macau with that kind of feeling that always accompanies me whenever I visit a place for a short time. I thought we had merely caught a glimpse of the surface, but had not got deeper into the soul of the city. We had seen churches, Portuguese-style houses, temples and nice squares; casinos, alleys and skyscrapers. But it was all too quick, too much. All I could remember of Macau was an incoherent patchwork of images, like pieces of a puzzle scattered around a table.

Is China's MINISO Copying Japan's MUJI, UNIQLO and Daiso?

Over the past few years Japanese retailers such as UNIQLO and MUJI have conquered foreign markets, opening shops in cities such as Paris, Berlin or New York and becoming household names in several countries. But the success of their business model seems to have inspired people with dubious intentions. As the website Daliulian recently showed, a new chain called MINISO, which claims to be a Japanese company selling ‘100% Japanese products’, seems to be nothing more than a knock-off of UNIQLO, MUJI and Daiso, copying their logos, names and even the layout of their stores. The company’s webpage proudly announces – in terrible English – that “ MINISO is a fast fashion designer brand of Japan. Headquartered in Tokyo Japan, Japanese young designer Miyake Jyunya is founder as well as the chief designer of MINISO, a pioneer in global 'Fashion & Casual Superior Products' field. ” According to the company’s homepage, MINISO advocates the philosophy of a simple,

China's Anti-Dog Campaigns

In September 2014 Xinhua News Agency , the official press agency of the People's Republic of China (PRC) , reported that in the city of Baoshan, in south-western Yunnan , 4,900 dogs were killed and 100,000 were vaccinated during an anti-rabies campaign . The authorities blamed dogs for the spread of the disease, which had caused five human deaths. Despite the protests of animal activists and dog owners, an order was issued to regulate dog ownership and kill stray dogs.  In 2009, as many as 37,000 dogs had been culled in Hanzhong, a city in Shaanxi Province, after a rabies outbreak. Over 5,000 people had been bitten by rabid dogs, causing 8 human deaths. The local authorities announced that they would hunt and kill both stray and household dogs. This measure was criticised by netizens, who called it an attempt to create mainland China's first ' dog-free county ' (无狗县). Anti-dog campaigns are not a new phenomenon in Communist China. In fact, the party’s mistrust