Tag Archives: China

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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Hamburger Helper

Reports from the frontline in Iraq, the classroom and Japan. And I need your advice about visiting New York (see bottom).

1. HAMBURGER HELPER. This is from the Conservative Lie blog by veteran Dave Jeffries. Whether you agree with his politics or not, this poignant memory from his time in Iraq is worth reading. It gets gruesome if you click on the link – which is also where you’ll find his thoughts on combatants’ motivations. Here are the opening lines:

Sometimes there are scenes from my time in Iraq that won’t quit looping through my mind. So, I thought that maybe writing about it might be cathartic and help me put paid to it for a while. I suppose, in a way, this is political, but I really don’t care.

While in Ar Ramadi, we had a network of computers that had limited internet access, but a great intranet system that allowed us to communicate with each other very well. One day, as I was perusing the list of messages, I came across one labeled “Hamburger Helper”. There were a few jokers in the Regiment, so I opened it up anticipating something that would make me laugh. Instead Continue reading

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Explaining the Japanese nuclear crisis using poo

Once you get away from the explosions and help! Help! Radiation! Head for the hills… All this nuclear meltdown China Syndrome in Japan business gets a bit complicated. Too many millisieverts, half lives, critical masses and atomic bomb memories. Should we all be panicking? Or not?

Without wanting to be too complacent – and sitting far from Japan – I think, on balance, not.

Here are two options for you to make sense of it all.

1. Read this book. Physics for Future Presidents by Richard Muller. (Or he’s here on wikipedia.)

Or check out his University of California at Berkeley lectures on YouTube.

2. Or – watch the children’s version of events, using farting and poo. Continue reading

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One more cup of coffee before I go…

Coffee? It’ll kill you. Or at least frighten the eyebrows off you.

Here’s the proof (from AP) 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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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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What I’ve learned

Its been tumultuous in Blackwatertown Towers lately. Normal service will soon be resumed. Once we establish just what the new normality will look like. But in the meantime, I’ll share with you some of what I’ve learned lately.

Yes, it looks like a roof slate because that's what it is. (You get a shiny medal for Sport Relief.) The glamorous person holding the slate/trophy is presenter Rachael Hodges, flanked by "the prestigious" Richard Bacon, and me. I didn't think the beer bottle would be in the picture. Missing from the line-up are top guru Louise Birt, indefatigable Garth Brameld, podcaster Harri Ritchie and inspirational listeners Jon Hillier and the Digger. The award was for the Special Half Hour - SHH.

  1. I haven’t completely lost it, thank God. I’ve just left the BBC after many years, but can proudly brandish two new awards. The first one is the highly prestigious Most Innovative Programme Award from the admittedly slightly obscure annual Audio and Music Awards. I shared it for a radio show I produced up until Christmas. The award-winning bit was the Special Half Hour – SHH – of which it was an honour and a privilege to be part. (Rule No. 1 You don’t talk about the Special Half Hour. But it’s been axed, so I dare to speak of it.)  The second is the also prestigious and much better known Sport Relief Mile. My running partner and I distinguished ourselves by completing the three mile (Count ’em! 3!) circuit before any of the six milers crossed the finish line. (Question: For which award did I contribute more to the sum of goodness in the world?)
  2. Whenever someone claims to be the first to ever do something, they’re wrong. 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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