Tag Archives: Beijing

China: Is it the future of world politics – or not?

Colonel Sanders is looking young - and Chinese - at the opening of a new KFC outlet in Beijing.

It’s well past time that people woke up to China’s role in the world and I don’t just mean noticing “Made in China” on the base of that thing you’ve just bought. (It’s probably from Vietnam or the Philippines these days anyway – or perhaps Madagascar if it’s clothing.) And eating Chinese doesn’t count either.

It’s crazy how tightly schools cling to European languages to the exclusion of Chinese. Sure, Spanish can be number one – it’s on the doorstep, good weather, world language, beautiful songs. But why should Chinese be relegated below French, German, Russian (!), Italian, Latin, Greek, etc?

Then again, there are some people who are in a constant tizzy about the spread of Chinese influence – soft power, economic investment, military infiltration. The panic has reached such intensity in parts of the blogosphere that it reminds me of that old cartoon (anyone know it?) that had Americans imagining that it was Vietnam bordering Texas instead of Mexico. (Though with the low intensity warfare going on in Mexico these days…)

So is China really the future? Is western democracy tired and doomed to go down with the listing economic ship? Have the Chinese actually got it right in terms of development and never mind the niceties of freedom?

Two Continue reading

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The pram in the hallway

This is something you should never do. But hey, we’re all adults here. And we can shoulder responsibilities and still be experimental and creative at the same time, can’t we. More after the washing machine destruction. It gets particularly destructive at 55″ in. (Thanks ColtMonday.)

Getting back to the pram. Cyril Connolly said this:

“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hallway.”

A bloke would say it I suppose. A woman would just Continue reading

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It’s all gone soft…

I think this means she loves me, rather than she loves biscuits. Or maybe both. (My daughter is quite partial to a biscuit.)

Yes, it’s time for a love-in. It’s gonna be a bit Chinese, a bit Scottish, a bit Australian – a bit gooey. Especially the very cute seagoing baby kangaroo. So, here goes…

CHINA: Continue reading

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13 gifts from Basel to the world

  1. Barca or Basel?

    Basel or Barca?

    BARCA. FC Barcelona comes from Basel. Barca was co-founded by a Swiss guy, Johann (who became Joan) Gamper who was allegedly inspired by FC Basel. Both teams play in red and blue. Both are FCB. Both have the same football.

  2. BABIES. All babies come from Basel. You just need to look at all the storks pootling around the fields.
  3. LSD. LSD comes from Basel. It was made by local chemist Albert Hoffman in 1938, though he didn’t realise until 1943 when he accidentally absorbed some through his fingertips. He described the sensation:  “I sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”
  4. ISRAEL. Israel comes from Basel. Continue reading

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Congratulations – Marriage in China

Marriage Book - China

This is how you get married in China. Thanks to our newly married (Congratulations!) guest contributor who’s currently expat in Beijing. I’ll let M take up the story:

Last week I caught a sleeper train to Changchun on Monday night. I was in a room with 5 big fat Chinese men, one of whom snored like crazy. He was in the bunk above me, and I really thought it would collapse, he was so fat.

I got to Changchun, and remembered how cold it was. Warmer than January, but still around minus 12. Met LN and we went to the registry office, expecting to complete everything that day. China is drowning in official paperwork and red stamps. Turns out the red stamp on LN’s “Hukou” (family book that lists your parents, siblings, and crucially what province you ‘belong’ to) was not clear enough. Continue reading

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Climate change, crispy silkworms & outside toilets in Beijing

Our man in Beijing.

Our Beijing correspondent M reports on UFOs, outside toilets, climate change and why China is not the global warming villain it’s made out to be:

“Beijing is a strange old place. There are some immensely rich people here, alongside the mostly closeted expats. There are many smells and sights on the streets, and several Unidentified Frying Objects.

I’ve recently come back from Jilin, meeting fiance’s family (yes fiance now, got that sorted pretty quick). Jilin is in the far north, and was bloody freezing, minus 20. Dinner was served the day we left, and it included a massive plate of crispy silkworm, which I just had to pass on. They were big fat things and had been sliced in half.
I saw some some really basic living conditions up there too, mostly pig farmers or shopkeepers plus their families living in tiny one room houses with smoky fires that burn all day long under concrete beds. No fridges, no hot water, no showers, toilet out the back… so to speak (a hole in the ground at minus 20 IS an experience, let me tell you).
Healthcare is not what it should be, and some of the children are a sad sight.

I could fill a programme talking to them all about the changes they are undergoing. A couple of brand new blocks have gone up in this small town, with all mod cons, and they are buying them up fast at less than £10,000 a piece. The western lifestyle is coming, and you can see exactly how much more energy the new places use than the old simple existence, with their showers and central heating and water down the plug hole.

I am not a brainwashed citizen (yet), but the West’s criticism of China after the Copenhagen summit was unfair. Nearly everybody here, bar the city dwellers, lives in conditions that most of us can’t even imagine spending one night in. They are happy, but when it’s offered, they all want what we take for granted. They are incredibly thrifty and energy concious on a personal level. It’s the horrible gigantic coal power stations that they’ve got to find a solution to.

China as a country is now the largest emitter. But per head of population, they emit a fraction of what a person in the USA emits. It’s the West that needs to reduce its energy use, or at least change its habits.

Anyhow, enough of the polemics, I am having a great time.

Snow here too. Volunteer neighbourhood street clearing gangs roam the estates. Our door has been knocking at 8am the last two mornings, and we’ve politely ignored it and stayed under the covers….

What about me, eh? I got settled pretty quickly. We are in a nice suburb, and it’s mega cheap for everything if you avoid all the western bars, clubs and restaurants in the centre. Something I’ve mostly managed to do, barring the odd messy night. Been to a few music gigs, found my bearings, done a few touristy things. Mostly living the quiet life and unsuccessfully trying to learn Chinese.

Though I’m trying to live a more normal ‘Chinese’ existence than most foreigners do, I have to say BBC Redux and the iPlayer are godsends. I listen to (BBC Radio) 5live, 6 music, download Match of the Day, Attenborough’s Life programme, movies, and all sorts of other stuff. Keeps me sane!”

There’s more from Beijing on the difficulties and laughs around getting married here and about his own new blog here.

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