Archive for the ‘China in the news’ Category

China – land of mishaps.

February 1, 2013

I read up on Chinese news on an almost daily basis, and I am continually stumped by the sheer ridiculousness of the stories that I see. This one today has to take the cake…at least, it’s up there.

In a nutshell: A truck loaded with fireworks on a very high bridge on an expressway in Henan province has promptly exploded, causing the bridge to collapse. WTF!!!!! They have reported the number of deaths to be in the 20’s (so more likely in the 50’s), with cars having been pushed off the bridge, with others having been crushed. I swear to god – this is almost as good as the newly opened, massively expensive CCTV building in Beijing burning to the ground due to fireworks going off next door…or the policemen dying from fireworks explosions as they tooled around with them, having created a massive fireworks bonfire instead of disposing of them properly.

The list goes on and on. The entire country is full of these incidents. They’re not sure with this one where to point the blame. Was it simply the size of the explosion that caused the collapse? Was it the way the fireworks were packed in the truck that set them off – likely just stuffed in there. Or was it a shoddy bridge design? It’s highly likely a little from column A and a little from column B.

Just the other day, a massive sinkhole swallowed several buildings in Guangzhou – caused by workers digging a subway tunnel out from beneath it.

China is widely criticized for skimping on proper safety standards in its mad rush forward – hell, just ask any Chinese miner how they feel about their job. These stories are as ridiculous as they are horrifying, and they are practically a constant feature in any news report focusing on the mainland.

Made in China

December 30, 2012

There was a hillarious news story during the week, where a huge aquarium in a Shanghai shopping centre promptly exploded. The few shoppers watching the tank had to leap into the clear as a torrent of water and glass burst into the shopping centre. Something like 16 people recieved minor injuries from the glass shards, while several small sharks and a bunch of turtles met their end. In true Chinese fashion, people were back in the scene mere seconds later, standing amongst the glass to take those all important mobile phone photos of the poor sharks as they flapped around and gasped for air.

The tank had been installed in the shopping centre for two years, and its failure was blamed on cold conditions and poor materials – key word being poor materials.

It is an unfortunately common trend in China, that things are simply not made very well. There are constantly stories reported in the news where bridges or similar large structures have collapsed as they are not only built as fast as possible, but with the cheapest materials possible. I was thinking of many of these stories as I stood in line to ride a chair lift to the top of a small mountain in Xi Hui park, Wuxi. I was specifically looking into the control room, where a giant, dusty old wheel powered the chairlift, and looked like it hadn’t’ been maintained since the Qing dynasty. Likewise, outside the park, as i stood on the wide bridge that leads over the Grand Canal – the bridge that bumps and moves every time a large truck (and there are considerable large trucks) crosses over it – I wondered if I might soon be getting a firsthand view of this famous old canal.

China is advancing alright, but they simply don’t have the same level of care that many other countries employ when building things. Face is often only a facade, and as long as it looks good, it passes the test. In Australia, the utterly stringent rules for rules policies that affects practically everything, tends to avoid problems like this. Of course, even the most prudent countries will still not be beyond the odd disaster occurring, but in China, you can practically lay somewhat safe bets on this happening.

As a point of interest, the main reason so many school students died in the Sichuan Earthquake disaster was due to the poor quality of the classrooms in which they were studying. The buildings, that are often five stories high with at least 5 classrooms across – each with 50+ kids inside, simply collapsed like a deck of cards on top of themselves. I was in China when the Sichuan earthquake occurred. I remember standing on the fifth and top level of a building that would have been very similar and just imagining what might happen should an earthquake of such magnitude hit Wuxi. Thankfully, it didn’t.


Home is where the high..oh, nevermind.

December 3, 2012

Well it looks like the proud nail house owner has given in to the government and accepted the new and improved cash offer. It’s a shame too, he had such lovely views….

Full story here.

Home is where the highway is

November 28, 2012

In China, the unstoppable progress juggernaut has claimed the homes of millions of people. From the relocations due to the flooding of the Three Gorges, to the entire Olympic facility and a bajillion miles of highway in between, nothing can seemingly stop it. Except for this man that is. Upon refusing to vacate his home, this stubborn individual now lives in the middle of a highway. The Government will normally pay out people for their homes, offering them the same amount of space but in apartment. Sometimes if you had a particularly large home, you would get several apartments out of the deal. This poor guy simply wants another home. In the Chinese future, unfortunately that particular luxury is becoming fewer and further between (well unless you’re a party member of course), with high rise living being the new norm.

This particular house was labeled a ‘nail house’, which is a Chinese term to refer to people who simply wont move when ordered to- ie ‘stubborn nails’.

A famous Chongqing nail house

The Apple Islands

September 24, 2012

I cracked up this morning when I came across this news article concerning Apple’s iOS6’s brand new inhouse maps software and the Senkaku Diaoyu fisticuffs going on between China and Japan.

Apple has been coming under fire for their new maps software being extremely inaccurate. Apple removed the old Google maps version (which worked a treat incidentally), as Google are becoming an increasingly large competitor in the phone market. Apple’s new map software actually performs quite well – utilising new high-speed vector graphics which allow panning without that annoying catch-up effect.

Anyhow, one of the inaccuracies relates specifically to these most hotly contested islands. Yes the islands are there…but in duplicate! I have absolutely no idea how the software could possibly do this, but it has mapped two identical sets of islands – one for for Japan 🙂

Who’d a thunk something so tense could be so easily solved? All that needs to happy now is to get someone from Dubai in to make this happen.

Twin Senkaku’s..or is that Twin Daioyu’s…

My island! Mine!!

September 17, 2012

Two things occurred today: I finally pulled my finger out and re-enrolled in Mandarin lessons, and I actually bothered to try and find the Senkaku (also known as Diaoyu) Islands on Google Maps.

Why did I try and find those islands I hear you ask? Well I was curious to see just how substantial these little islands were that are currently causing so much friction between China and Japan. But regardless of the importance of these islands specifically, it’s not like Japan and China need much provocation before they’re at each other’s throats. There’s a long history of bad blood between these two neighbours, thanks largely to Japanese brutality. Though it’s not just Japan that has thoroughly stamped on Chinese pride, England and many others have done more than enough damage there over the years.

However, getting back to the Senkaku Island’s issues – in a nutshell, both China and Japan are claiming ownership of this tiny (and I mean TINY) cluster of unoccupied islands just slightly North of Taiwan. In a move that has China seeing all kinds of red, Japan has cooly announced that they will be finalising the purchase of said islands from the current Japanese private owner. So what’s the deal with these islands? Apparently there are large reserves of oil to be found close by, effectively giving whoever owns the islands dibs on all the black goodies.

Now these islands are mere specks on the map. If I was in the business of handing out islands, I would probably give them to Taiwan as they’re effectively off-shoots of the Taiwanese island itself. Then again, they are also very close in proximity to the island chains that lead all the way up to the Japanese mainland.

What gets me though is the passion expressed as part of these protests. One can’t help but wonder if the words Diaoyu and Senkaku aren’t merely becoming public excuses for one race to hate the other. How many of these protesters actually know anything about these islands, let alone the reasons they’re in dispute? I would suspect very little. Living in a country that has no natural rivals or real enemy histories (no I’m not really counting the Japanese bombing of Darwin – I’m sure we did much worse to them), I can’t imagine specifically what it feels like, but I can imagine it wouldn’t take much to incite a bit of patriotism. Unfortunately in this country, patriotism is just a bit too scary close to boganism.


In other news I re-enrolled into Mandarin. Don’t let anyone tell you that learning a foreign language is easy – it’s hard, really, really hard. In fact I don’t think it’s the language itself that’s difficult, rather the vast reserves of motivation required to get you to continue with it. I find that I retain most things that I learn (particularly if I spend time studying it), but new stuff? That’s where the pain comes in. There’s a weird feeling of helplessness when presented with a new grammatical concept or vocabulary. In particular, I find myself putting up weird road blocks around certain subjects. For example the word school, study and students – I can simply never remember them! The amount of times in China we had to ask to be taken to our school….I just never knew the word – and still don’t! Well I do – but I just can never recall it.

I kid myself that I would like to learn some basic Korean and Japanese also…right after I’m done with Mandarin. When will that be? Never I expect.

The law of averages

August 6, 2012

It comes as no surprise that the Chinese are absolutely blitzing the competition again in the 2012 London Olympics. Like a good game of football, there’s constant lead changes on the medal tally as the USA and China vie for the number one spot. It will come as no surprise if they do finish on top as they did at the conclusion of the Beijing Olympics. If anything, it’s a trend that’s only going to increase and it wouldn’t surprise me if a few Olympics down the track, they’re just plain not invited! Stay away China, you am take all our medalz!

It’s funny the amount of resentment that seems to hang above the Chinese Olympic success. The immediate explanation seems to be that they’re all drug cheats – none moreso than 16 year old swimmer Ye Shiwen whose time on one leg even beat the world record one of the big bad muscleheaded men. Now whether this young girl is drug enhanced, or just an amazing swimmer is really anybody’s guess – but I don’t know, call me sceptic, but they would have to be some pretty damned miracle drugs to pull off what she’s done. I mean, has she clinically grown propellers in the soles of her feet?

I lived in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and had to endure the Chinese broadcasts. I was craving some Australian action, but had to choose between women’s gymnastics, badminton, more women’s gymnastics, diving, women’s gymnastics or table tennis. One evening as I was channel surfing, I came across an Olympic tennis match with Federer playing. Woohoo we said and watched a set..which was promptly then interrupted by an edition of CCTV9’s stupidass news show…which happened to be a repeat episode no less!

When it comes to Chinese cheating, I have no doubt those female gymnasts are underage. To me they looked around the 13 year old mark – and this comes from having taught students anywhere from 11ish to 17ish. I say ‘ish’ because even I am not sure how old they were. In China, when you emerge from your mother, you’re instantly one. If you’re born a week before Chinese New Year, you’re suddenly two – and so on. I got the impression from many of my former students that they literally weren’t sure how old they were. They roughly knew within a year or so.

Getting back to cheating, I feel that it comes down to two things. Firstly, the ‘rest of the world’ seems currently envious (or more realistically jealous) of the rise of China. China is successful – incredibly successful. It’s also completely riddled with problems, both economically, socially and culturally – though there’s no denying it’s on the rise. It’s also likely steamrolling into a future where there are considerable problems, as history has shown, becoming a superpower also tends to label you as a considerable threat.

Anyhow on the other hand, it comes down to the law of averages. Under a communist government – for all its positives or negatives, there is no arguing that they can get things done. With none of the beaurocratic hurdles and barriers being thrown up left right and centre, you have a government that makes decisions and actions them. Success is particularly important to the Chinese as it directly feeds back into the whole national pride effort. Call them what you will but you can’t say the Chinese aren’t patriotic, and whether that is through propaganda or just the result of a country with a turbulent past, most Chinese love China.

So what happens when they smell success? They run with it. With the emergent of stars such as Li Na in the tennis world, suddenly thousands of tennis schools would have appeared all over China. The same applies to every other single discipline – and no longer just the cliché’d Chinese favourites such as table tennis, diving, gymnastics etc. If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you’ll see dominant Chinese appearing in more and more styles of events as they realise they really can clean house.

So what happens when you have literally thousands upon thousands of training centres, with millions of sports people working tirelessly day upon day for those coveted and limited spots? You have an excessive number of over-achievers. In China, you’re either amazing, or you’re one of the crowd. If you then select the very best of those achievers, you’re selecting an elite team – an actual elite team.

I know for a fact that most Australian’s are completely jaded by our medal results in 2012 so far. Many people scoff (well mostly media) – almost offended by the lack of performance. We’re typically strong in the pool and usually haul in the medals, but this year, it’s been all about the silver. For a country with such a small population (20million ish) – we do well proportionately, that’s not in question, but Australian’s are arrogant when it comes to their view on themselves and sports performance against the rest of the world. I would be surprised if most Australian athletes had the same work ethic as the higher level Chinese. Why? Not because Australian’s are inheritantly lazy (ok yes they actually are), but moreso, we’re not competing with a population of over a billion.

Beijing’s awesome ‘Two Fly’ rule.

June 4, 2012

It always sucks returning to reality after a lengthy stint overseas. Last weekend I returned from one month overseas and have been playing catch-up ever since. I had planned to blog more while away, but writing them out on iPhone proved simply too infuriating. The amount of times the damned phone would change words around had me almost tossing it against the wall.

Since returning I’ve forced myself to re-enrol into the next level of Mandarin Chinese which will kick off again on a weekly basis. I enjoy the classes. The teacher is great, there’s an interesting mix of people who don’t make you feel silly when talking with them in Chinese, but man – it’s such a struggle to force myself to turn up. I think it’s just language learning as a whole as opposed to Chinese. It required considerable motivation, and after a long busy day work…that’s something that’s often in short supply.

Anyhow, enough of that – as I was doing my regular reading about the net, I came across this story concerning the cleanliness of Beijing’s public toilets. A series of criteria has been put together to improve the overall sanitation of Beijing’s public bathrooms – one of them being a ‘two fly’ rule. Someone somewhere has decided that any more than two flies in a bathroom is simply unacceptable!
I love this rule! What I want to know is, who has come up with this brilliant idea? What tests have been carried out to determine that three flies or above is filth? What happens if a third fly enters the bathroom? What systems are in place to monitor the number of flies in the bathrooms at any given time? Will someone be employed specifically to remove excess flies?

Only in China could a guideline like this exist, and this is precisely why I miss being there.

Racism downunder

April 27, 2012

 If there’s one thing that pisses me off from time to time, it’s how some Australian’s treat foreigners. While of course it doesn’t apply to everyone, there are definitely underlying currents of racism running beneath many ‘white’ Australian’s. Typically these people are our own form of ‘trailer trash’, that we affectionately (and I say affectionately with tongue firmly in cheek) refer to as ‘Bogans.’ Bogans are utter trash, and unfortunately everywhere.

You know that tattooed guy on the train who’s drunk as hell and absolutely stinks of alcohol, abusing people around him? Yep – bogan. Those two young feral girls swearing their heads off in public and talking about playing ‘spot the aussie’ while in the middle of a town with a large Asian population? Yeah – bogans. Those guys parading up and down the shopping centre with no top on and using an Australian flag as a cape while intimidating the Asians as they walk by them on the Australia Day public holiday? Correct! Bogans. 

These people are my least favourite part of living in Australia. It was actually refreshing living in China as there

was absolutely none of this element. While walking the super populated streets of Wuxi at night, the people were completely normal. Minding their own business, wandering around shopping and dining. There were no in your face abusive drunk idiots – and man was that refreshing.

Of course that element is also not so prevalent in Australia that it’s a day to day problem – I have definitely over-emphasised it – but it is there none the less.

I was reading this article this morning about some Chinese students who were bashed by a gang of teenagers in Sydney. These poor guys were not only beaten, but robbed while their attackers said things like, “They’re Asians, they have money,” and other fairly hideous acts such as burning them with cigarettes. I would bet any money that these people who attacked them were aforementioned bogan scum. It is seriously not cool as most Chinese students I know or see around the place, are about the most non-threatening, harmless people anywhere. I can only imagine the terror they felt at the hands of these ferals. Thankfully it appears they were arrested.

There were problems last year with similar happening to Indian students, where they were attacked and robbed for no reason, all the while being racially abused. In the case of the Indian students, there was uproar back in India, and the same is happening now in China. Even old Kevin Rudd has dusted off his Foreign Minister hat and has been posting sympathetic comments in Chinese on various Chinese social media sites.

Old KRudd all across the Chinese social media

Australia most definitely is a secure country. You do not need to walk around looking over your shoulder or worrying that something like the above might happen. However, like in ANY country anywhere (including India and China), you also have to be aware of your surroundings and not take unnecessary risks. It is possible that these Chinese students were simply unlucky, but it did occur after midnight – and well, if you want to exponentially reduce your chances of this kind of thing happening, avoid travelling too late at night.

Anyhow, there is my 2 cents.

A crack in progress

March 15, 2012

And hot off the back of yesterday’s discussion of rapid upgrading of infrastructure leading to collapse and failure, a 108 million yuan bridge (or $17.5 million) bridge across the Lianshui river in Hunan province has ‘snapped’. While the cause is being investigated (translation: those responsible are being sent to re-education camps), it’s believed that the cause of the breakage was due to premature removal of scaffolding.

All I know is, better now while it’s half constructed than when busloads of people are streaming across it.

I can understand why China is rushing to play catch-up, but ultimately, what is the cost? While travelling around, particularly over bridges or things that could ‘fall’, (aka chairlifts), shoddy construction was always at the back of my mind, as incidents such as this bridge cracking are a somewhat frequent occurrence.

I remember setting off up the side of the mountain in Xihui park, Wuxi and distinctly looking at the massive gear which drove the chairlift. Around the gear were boxes and boxes of drinks to restock the tiny drink counter, and other empty boxes and rubbish. Most things were caked in layers of dust. I couldn’t help but think – when was this last maintained? But as the chairlift took off – I pushed it from my mind, it was probably better not to know.

Ideally what should be this... unfortunately this.

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