Archive for the 'China 2010' Category

Batshit Insane

I’m not sure if you can tell, but that is a picture of a bat. No I didn’t touch it. It did however almost touch me. In fact, it flew right over my head; so close that I could’ve sworn it touched my hair. It then proceeded to crash headfirst into the brick wall in this picture at which point it collapsed in a heap on the ground which is where I took its picture. Unsure of what to do, I just stared at it for a little while. Eventually it started moving and after a few minutes, regained its ability to fly. Back it launched into the fading twilight in the spastic manner that bats fly. I followed it with my eyes thinking that it was lucky to be alive until mere seconds later, it was t-boned at 40 miles per hour by the glowing pyramid of a taxicab.

Perfection Does Not Even Begin to Describe This

Rural Anhui (Xun Cun) in Pictures

The Price is Wrong

Taken in a designated "no smoking" area

The year is 2001 and the Czech Republic is considering levying an exorbitant tax on cigarettes to encourage smokers to quit. Facing the possibility of declining future profits, Phillip Morris commissions and sends a report to the Czech government detailing the benefits of smoking. Benefits? Yes, benefits. But not what you’re thinking about.

This report wasn’t about how cool you look when you smoke or how smooth and tasty Marlboros are. In fact, the report was mostly about how terrible tobacco is for one’s health and well being. It outright admitted that cigarettes are carcinogenic and are linked to early death. It then proceeded to argue that this was in fact, a good thing. The money saved in un-cashed pensions, healthcare, and housing for the elderly more than made up for the costs of premature death. Basically, Phillip Morris was saying that if people smoke, they’ll die sooner so the government won’t have to pay to take care of them and that these savings would add up to more revenue than the new tax would take in. Never mind that the report was based on highly selective data and has since been discredited by independent analyses–the very idea that it was commissioned in the first place is grounds for moral outrage. Thankfully, the Czech Republic was unswayed by this testimony and succeeded in raising its tobacco taxes. Phillip Morris later issued a public apology and admitted that it was immoral to commission the analysis in the first place. Even so, this information was out there and there was no turning back.

For now though, let’s leave PM alone and talk about something completely different: China’s One Child Policy. Introduced in 1978, it was China’s answer to its overpopulation problem. Aptly named, it limited the number of allowable children per couple to one. At the time, this seemed like a good idea and it has been prodigiously successful in achieving its goal of curbing population growth. It’s estimated that it prevented over 250 million births between its introduction and the year 2000. But now as the parents of these single children age, they are reaching the time for retirement which poses a whole new problem.

Traditionally, it has been up to the children to take care of their parents in their old age. This is not such a huge burden when split between two or three siblings but when one married couple must support for two parents from each bloodline, the weight can often become too much to bear. So what to do? The truth is, no one knows. Much like Social Security in the USA, the system is broken and seemingly unfixable. Or so it appears.

As previously mentioned, the findings of Phillip Morris’ “Death Benefit” analysis are out there for all to see and evidently, there are those who have seen and it. Having lived in China for almost two months, my biggest pet peeve (besides transportation) is definitely the omnipresent cigarette smoke. Coincidentally, cigarettes are dirt cheap and compared to other countries, leniently taxed (40% vs 60% world average). While the government claims to want to deter smoking, its actions speak louder than its words.  In a country where tobacco companies are allowed to sponsor elementary schools and tell kids that “Talent stems from hard work, tobacco helps you become accomplished,” it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a copy of the Death Benefit analysis on the minister of health’s bookshelf.

At this point I would not lend any more credit to my allegations than I would to Glenn Beck’s ramblings but to quote America’s favorite rodeo clown® it’s “right under your nose if you’re willing to open your eyes to see it.” In all seriousness though, it does seem to be the perfect solution to China’s old people problem.

Update: I just came back from the bathroom where 3 people were smoking oblivious to the “Smoking Prohibited” sign right at eye level behind them. Sigh

2010 World Effno

Okay so there’s this giant TV, right? And it’s hooked up to a camera, right? And when you stand still in front of it, Hello Kitties and hearts appear next to you! Cool, right? No? Well if you don’t find yourself entertained by such attractions, the World Expo is not your gig. The sad thing is, this was perhaps one of the more innovative exhibits at the Expo.

For months I had been hearing about all the awesome architecture and infrastructure that was to be incorporated into the event. Things like rainwater catchers that supplied coolant to outdoor air conditioning systems that doubled as giant street lamps capable of turning night into day. If that doesn’t blow your mind then I am truly sorry for you.

It was hearing about things like this that got me excited about attending the expo; I thought I was going to have a chance to test just how sharp the cutting edge of modern technology has to offer. After all, isn’t the expo supposed to show off the best your country has to offer? Evidently not.

In reality, the Expo is just a collection of larger-than-life travel brochures housed inside pretty buildings. A typical pavilion consists of a four hour wait to get in followed by a few movies that advertise how cool the sponsor is (either a country or a company). That’s it. Some went the extra mile going as far as to include 4D special effects and light shows but really, there was nothing you couldn’t learn just by typing in “Thailand” into Wikipedia. Needless to say, it was overall a massive disappointment.

What made it that much worse was the fact that it was all a giant contradiction. The theme was supposed to be “better city, better life” which means improving infrastructure and promoting sustainability (according to an Expo worker). Not only did this thing occupy impossible amounts of prime real estate that could have been much better allocated, most of the pavilions are scheduled to be destroyed once the Expo ends. So much for sustainability.

By this time, most people who want to go to the Expo have gone so I suppose it’s more or less pointless to advise my readers not to go but I thought I’d share this little tidbit. The last Expo took place in Japan in 1976. As many of you may know, Japan and China don’t have the coziest of histories. According to an expo worker, the Chinese government has set attendance quotas in order to beat Japan’s record for attendance and has thus far failed to meet them. They have resorted to subsidizing travel costs for government workers throughout the country to bring them to Shanghai in order to boost attendance. I’m sorry Beijing, I wanted to like the Expo. I wanted to be able to write a glowing review and say I had a great time and learned so much. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

A Little Update

I should probably explain why I haven’t been posting for the past week so here goes. First of all, my family got in on the 27th so I’ve been spending time with them which means less free time and less blogging. Furthermore, it turns out that the Chinese government has been tracking my blog and is none to pleased with the rhetoric. Don’t worry, I’m not changing anything, I’ll just have to hide my tracks a bit better. Finally, I am no longer in Beijing and have been travelling around with irregular internet access and being the jackass that I am, I’ve misplaced my charger along the way and won’t be able to get a new one until I return to Beijing (Thursday). I am typing this from a netbook, i.e. the worst typing interface in the world. When I get my computer back up and running, you can expect a long slough of posts about Shanghai, the expo, Huangshan, and other places I’ve been this past week. For now all I have to say is that Shanghai is exponentially more pleasant than Beijing (I promise I will elaborate) and that the World Expo is a terrible place to be and you should not go. Basically, it’s a collection of jumbo-sized, travel brochures that you have to pay 160 Yuan and 4 hours of line-waiting time to read. What’s more, all these elaborate structures are going to be demolished come the end of the expo. But I’m getting ahead of myself of course because these are stories for another time. And so on.

A pat on the back if you caught the literary reference in the post and an apology for the lack of a picture.

Zhongguancun: Seeing Shouldn’t Be Believing

For those not in the know, Zhongguancun (pronounced jone-gwan-tsun) is where Beijingers go to get their electronics. There is a subway station that leads straight into the biggest of the myriad of gadget malls, each of which houses countless merchants. I have been needing a new laptop battery for a while anyway and I figured it would be much cheaper here than in the US. After all, if eating local food is so much fresher and “greener”, buying electronics from the source must be better too.

Continue reading ‘Zhongguancun: Seeing Shouldn’t Be Believing’


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