Recapping the FBI Game of Pawns “Don’t Be a Spy, Kids” Movie

First post in a long time, courtesy of The China Girls, a pretty awesome blog similar to this one. This is pretty much a live-tweet of the FBI Paranoia movie that came out recently warning American students not to fall into the evil clutches of Chinese spies. Those of you who don’t want to watch 30 minutes of ridiculousness should definitely check this out.

The China Girls

So, yesterday we discovered that the FBI had made an “after school special” type of movie warning young Americans against becoming accidental spies recruited by the Chinese government, which we think is overall a good message. The movie is a “ripped from the headlines” story based on the unfortunate real-life case of Glenn Duffie Shriver, who first went to China as a study-abroad student and was eventually recruited by the Chinese Ministry of State Security.

Ying and I decided to watch and recap the 28-min movie, so you wouldn’t have to. Sure, there’s an official transcript. But we’re much more fun. Actually, as soon as we first clicked on the YouTube video and heard the wise old Chinese man voiceover, we knew this was going to be a keeper. Enjoy.

S: Ok, here we go. Game of Pawns.

Y: 2014: The year the government discovered pop culture and puns…

View original post 2,793 more words

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Westerners are so convinced China is a dystopian hellscape they’ll share anything that confirms it

Since I started China from Afar, I’ve been wanting to write an article to this effect. Luckily Gwynn Guilford from Quartz took the words right out of my mouth, polished it into a presentable piece of writing, and now I’m here to say I agree with this 100000000%. China isn’t perfect, in fact it’s farther away from perfect than most developed countries in North America and Europe. This, however, does not mean that China is a hellhole where crazy things happen to everybody all the time. It would be easy for me to just talk about the negatives of China, and share some crazy news about a three-headed baby run over by a Octogenarian motorcyclist with no eyes in Liaoning, then comment that crazy crap happens in China. Like all countries, China is defined by its wealth of culture and its people, most of whom are hardworking and struggling to get by. It is not defined solely by its authoritarian regime, or by the few freak accidents that get blown out of proportion by media outlets looking to fulfill their “China story of the day” quota. The world needs more thoughtful stories about the everyday events in China, not sensationalized pieces that perpetuate existing stereotype. It is my hope that I can provide such thoughtful stories.

Chinese Tech Industry in Action at CES 2014

The Consumer Electronics Show ended this Friday, and China’s major players in the consumer electronics market pulled out all the stops in their quest for global domination  greater brand recognition beyond domestic borders.  Of the 3200 exhibitors, more than 930 are from China. Chinese tech companies have never been shy about their aspirations to become global brands, but 2014 marks a turning point for companies that were previously domestic giants, as they look overseas for market share. Continue reading

China in 6 Articles – December 30th – January 5th

EDIT: This was a seriously overdue post, but a lot of stuff happened last week so I thought I’d put it up anyway.

Happy New Year everybody! While the days leading up to the New Year is usually an excuse for blogs and media people to do a bunch of end-of-year reviews and lists, I chose not to do that.  Part of the reason (come to think of it, all of the reason) is because I started this thing three months ago, so there isn’t really anything for me to review. However, this week we continue on with China in 6 Articles, and the things that happened this week proves that there is no such thing as a slow week in China, not even during the holidays.

1. Xi Jinping is a man of the people, and a lover of steamed buns

Okay so this story actually broke last Friday, but we’re going to put it here because I said so. Xi Jinping strolls into Qinfeng Restaurant and orders 6 pork buns, 1 fried pigs liver, and some vegetables. Weibo practically exploded with activity, with netizens completely thrown off by Xi’s show of normalcy. Intended or not, Xi’s lunch session will definitely be perceived as a PR stunt to try to build up some positive PR for the Party. Matt Schiavenza talks about Xi’s populist streak as a departure from previous CPC officials who were aloof and distant from the people.  As far as approval ratings go, Xi is definitely miles ahead of his predecessor Hu Jintao.  It actually surprises me how good Xi is in terms of handling public relations, and how committed he is to actually making anti-corruption a serious campaign during his term.

But serious stuff aside, 6 pork buns, fried pigs liver and vegetables is a substantial lunch. Chairman Xi, if I could be so bold, please hold back on the baozi and pigs liver. That stuff tastes great, but god is it unhealthy, and your country needs you to stay heart attack free. It would be great to see Xi be associated with the baozi as closely as Bill Clinton was associated with the cheeseburger, but having a leader that is saying all the right things be one bite away from a quadruple bypass seems risky.

2. Tong Mingqian sacked in connection to Hunan Electoral Fraud

Last week it was revealed that over 500 lawmakers in Hunan resigned last week when *gasp* it was revealed that they took bribes to elect people into government.  The latest head to roll: the party chief of Hengyang City, who was also deputy head of Hunan’s parliamentary advisory body. From what I can gather, the lawmakers in question were part of a group that could elect members into the Hunan People’s Congress (think NPC, but on a provincial level).  The People’s Congress is pretty useless, and is basically there to put up appearances and “legitimize” the province’s decisions.

So far, Xi’s anti-corruption campaign is working well on two fronts. One, it is exposing corruption at faster rate than most people anticipated. Two, Xi has somehow managed to purge these corrupt officials while improving his own image as somebody who is not paying lip service to anti-corruption initiatives. Undoubtedly he is the best PR guy the CPC has had in a long time.

3. Graduate School Examinations Torment Millions of Undergrads (Link in Chinese)

We have all heard of the Gaokao, that dreaded college entrance exam Chinese high school seniors are subjected to at the end of their senior year.  It is a culmination of years of knowledge, and to this day it is still a make or break moment for many students and families.

But the Gaokao is not the only exam spreading torment and dread.  Saturday marks the first day of Graduate School Examinations (Kaoyan or 考研), but based on figures from the Ministry of Education, 2014 marks the first time in five years that the number of test-takers have dropped.  According to Xinhua, numbers are down almost forty thousand from last year, and marks only the second time in twenty years that applicants have decreased from the previous year.

A number of theories have circulated as to why there has been a decrease. The most obvious one is that for the third straight year, job prospects for postgraduates have fallen below that of undergraduates.  Many people are simply not prepared to spend two to six more years working towards a degree that will get them no closer to a job. A less convincing reason is that for the first time this year, there will be no fee waivers for taking the test. Come on, I know Chinese people are known to be penny pinchers, but I cannot possibly get behind this idea as being a main cause of the drop in applicants.

With more and more graduate schools trying to attract students, the value of a graduate degree will drop.  In addition, there still exists a gap between the skills that are needed and the skills possessed by the work force. Schools need to devote more resources to developing their career centres if they want to reverse this trend (yes I’m calling it a trend because I think this will happen next year).

4. Chen Guangbiao wants to buy the New York Times, and He Really Means it

Chen Guangbiao, the sometimes lovable but mostly annoying Donald Trump of China, has decided that selling canned air isn’t enough to raise his profile. No, he needs to buy the New York Times.

Of course, with Chen there is always a righteous spin to cover up the real reason for all of his stunts: to promote himself as a rich person you could actually rally around. He states the following:

I find Americans know little about a civilized and open China that has been enjoying unprecedented development. The tradition and style of The New York Times make it very difficult to have objective coverage of China. If we could purchase it, its tone might turn around.

 

Initially, I found myself nodding to this statement. Yeah, that’s right, most Americans just like to bash China without actually understanding the country. YEAH, YOU GO CHEN, DO IT FOR THE MOTHERLAND.

But then this got me thinking: Chen Guangbiao, and really any rich Chinese person, would be the worst possible candidate to acquire the New York Times. Not only would a change of tone in their commentary of China look forced, but the credibility of the paper would be completely undermined.  I’m not saying that this is because they’re Chinese…but I kinda am, because the perception will do more than enough to ruin any well-meaning intention behind the purchase.

But that is not the scariest quote, this is:

 I have said as long as the price is reasonable, there is nothing that cannot be bought

Okay that was scary, but I lied, THIS is the scariest quote:

If the deal fails, I will try to buy another influential media, eventually achieving my objective of acquisition.

 

No no no Brother Biao, don’t do this to yourself and to American media. Why don’t you just go buy a sports team like every other deluded person with too much money to burn. You can even promote your canned air on the front of the shirts! Please, just go buy a Premiership club or something and get the hell out of the front pages.

Update: Oh wait, he doesn’t want to buy the NYT anymore, but he’s not done yet!

Evidently Chen actually had a meeting lined up with the NYT to discuss acquiring the paper.  However, because Chen couldn’t keep his big mouth shut decided to spread the news before it actually happened, the meeting fell through, so now he can’t buy the Times anymore.

But fans of Brother Biao need not worry, because he is eyeing another project: the demolition of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge, a project worth $240 million USD.  Seeing as this is a lot more up his alley (Chen built his empire on recycling construction materials and waste), it seems like an achievable goal. It honestly doesn’t matter, can this guy just pleeaaaase get out of the spotlight for a few months?

5. Chinese Consulate in San Francisco set Ablaze

Update: Arsonist is caught, suspected to have mental issues

This wasn’t a particularly interesting story, but it was pretty big news, so I decided to tack on the two links here. I’ll give you a few minutes to read them.

*Waits*

*whistles*

*grabs some tea*

*twiddles thumbs while looking up at the ceiling*

Okay are we good? Let’s move on.

6. Chinese women expose unfair hiring practices of major companies

As we have previously discussed on this blog, China’s women’s movement is starting to emerge, and one of the biggest areas of concern is in the workplace, where women still face discrimination and abuse.

Eight women have decided to put an end to this (well maybe not an end, but start the conversation), but mailing complaints to human resource departments in major cities all over China. The nature of the complaint? A list of companies in China that explicitly specify that they only consider men for certain positions. Job postings in China often include height, weight and gender requirements, and while the requirements go both ways (some only consider female applicants), jobs that only consider females are typically not as well-paid. While it is perfectly reasonable to think that jobs that require physical labor may be better filled by men, the women found that “80 percent of jobs that specified male applicants did not require physical labor.”, which seems to be indicative of discrimination.

The All-China Women’s Federation found that women’s earning power relative to men’s have fallen since market reforms in the late 1970s. Combine this with an increasingly competitive job market, and you start to see more emphasis being put towards marrying well as opposed to studying well.

I certainly hope that this begins a conversation about workplace discrimination (of all kinds) in China. For a country that is trying hard to find any advantage to maintain its rapid growth, overlooking women in this quest would be beyond stupid.

Hangzhou Bicycle Part 4 – The Case for Expansion and Problems to Overcome

Read Part 3 Here

Read Part 2 Here

Read Part 1 Here

Read Introduction Here

There are two major areas in which Bike-Sharing can provide a positive contribution to Chinese society: health and the environment.  A study by Hu, Liu, and Willett (2011) showed that as China has grown economically, its collective waistline has increased as well.  Less than a quarter of adults “aged 35-74 years reported participation in 30 minutes or more of daily moderate or vigorous exercise” (Hu et. al 2011).  Furthermore, the drastic increase of TV and computer ownership in the past decade has led to more sedentary behaviour.  These factors have led to some alarming health worries: 92 million Chinese had diabetes as of 2008, and there has been “a dramatic increase in childhood obesity”, affecting 32.5% of boys and 17.6% of girls aged 7-18 years old (Hu et. al 2011).  All of these have serious consequences both economically and socially, and will place a strain on China’s healthcare system, on top of an already aging population.  The study also cites that the greater prevalence of automobiles in China is also a key contributor to China’s health problems.  The way to tackle this is to provide greater availability and “financial incentives for use of public transportation and bicycles”, as well as an emphasis on infrastructure that would promote the safe use of bicycles, such as independent bicycle lanes. Continue reading

Hangzhou Bicycle Part 3 – The Case of Hangzhou

Read Part 2 Here

Read Part 1 Here

Read Introduction Here

In 2008, the government of Hangzhou, through a state-owned company called the Hangzhou Public Transport Corporation, launched the first bike-sharing scheme in the city.  The initial investment was substantial; the Hangzhou government invested 180 million RMB (26.25 million USD) while adding a further 270 million RMB (39.53 million USD) in discounted governmental loans to the HPTC (Shaheen et. al 2011).  Hangzhou’s public bike-sharing scheme has continued to expand since its inception, now running 68,000 bicycles over 2962 stations across all of the urban districts.

The success of the program in Hangzhou cannot, however, be considered simply as a triumph of bike-sharing.  Specific factors such as climate and geography, provision model, integration with public transit, and infrastructure have all attributed to the conditions necessary for a bike-share program to succeed in China.  Certain characteristics, such as the climate and the geographical nature of the city, make the Hangzhou model a special case.  That being said, it is still possible to postulate that the Hangzhou model can be translated to other cities with success. Continue reading

Hangzhou Bicycle Part 2 – A Brief History of Bike-Sharing

Read Part 1 Here

Read the Introduction Here

Bike-sharing throughout the world can be divided into three generations (DeMaio 2009), based on the improvements to the tracking technology and the bicycles themselves.  The first ever bike-sharing program goes back to 1965, in Amsterdam.  This program was rudimentary; bikes were painted white and left out in the public for others to use once the rider was done.  The lack of tracking and charging for the services meant that most of the bikes ended up being stolen.  As a result, the program, called Witte Fietsen (White Bikes) “collapsed within days” (DeMaio 2009).  Similar free bike systems were set up in La Rochelle, France in 1974, and Cambridge, UK in 1993.  While the Cambridge program was marred by the theft of most of its fleet of bicycles, La Rochelle’s “Yellow Bikes” program continues to this day (Shaheen et. al 2012). Continue reading