Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Future China/US Trade War?

There has been an abundant amount of coverage on the possible US sanctions towards Chinese goods if China doesn’t appreciate the yuan at a faster pace than it is doing currently. Paulson: China must implement reforms describes current US Treasury Secretary’s view of what’s going on.

Paulson said there is agreement in principle between the U.S. and China on the need for greater yuan flexibility. The discussion is about "the pace" of change.

"They're moving, but they're not moving, in my judgment, quickly enough," he said. "China is by far the largest" economy that doesn't have a market-determined currency, but enjoys the benefits of the global economy."

In a 4/21/07 article entitled Paulson Says China Must Yield `Tangible Results' on Yuan, Trade, Paulson described the possible consequences and repercussions if China doesn't act quickly.

"The American people are concerned, Congress is concerned and there's a lot of protectionist sentiment'' toward China, Paulson said in an interview on the ``Charlie Rose'' show on PBS television following his speech in New York." The more tangible reforms we see, the easier it is for me to deal with Congress.''

"There will be some, I believe, unattractive bills that are voted on in Congress,'' Paulson acknowledged. "I think the Chinese are very well aware of this -- I think they should be aware of it.''

Other parts of the Bush Administration have also taken action by imposing import duties on Chinese glossy paper and by filing 2 complaints to the WTO for copyright infringement and piracy.

The feeling of uncertainty in Chinese and US relations changed 2 days later in another Bloomberg piece by Matthew Benjamin. In his story, called Paulson May Be Unable to Get China, U.S. Off Collision Course, Benjamin painted a grim picture if reforms in the Chinese currency doesn't happen soon.

Without steps to allow a significant increase in the yuan, which most economists consider unlikely, Paulson may not be able to continue holding off moves in Congress to punish China.

"After years of talk and bluster, protectionism no longer seems like an empty threat,'' says Stephen Roach, chief global economist at Morgan Stanley in New York. "Trade sanctions against China are now all but inevitable.''

These increasingly real threats come with the backing of Congressional democrats who maintain that they would achieve “strong and effective legislation is likely to pass with a veto-proof margin.”

Although it might seem that the appreciation of the yuan is all but unavoidable, Benjamin also shows the hidden side of the currency struggle, relating both US and Chinese workers and businesses.

When China allowed a small rise in the value of its currency in 2005, Hangzhou food-company executive Wang Yuzhou saw his profits squeezed. Any further move threatens the livelihoods of his 1,000 workers and the 5,000 rural households that supply his plants, he says.

John Walker says China's currency policies have already cost 100 jobs at his Lewisburg, Tennessee, die-casting company. He wants the U.S. Congress to do "whatever it takes'' to force an increase in an undervalued yuan that he contends gives an unfair advantage to Chinese competitors.

Citizens on both side of the Pacific Ocean have money, family and livelihoods at stake. It is often easy for Americans (me included) to jump into the US perspective (of John Walker) while being ignorant of Wang Yuzhou’s plea.

But what can China do other than to appease the US on their currency appreciation wishes? The answer lies in a recent 4/18/07 NY Times article. China Leans Less on U.S. Trade describes the readjustment of China’s global trade strategy.

At booth after booth at China’s main trade fair (Canton Fair) this week, the refrain from Chinese business executives is the same: the American market is not as crucial as it used to be.

Instead, Chinese producers of everything from socket wrenches to sport utility vehicles say, their fastest growth these days lies in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South America and elsewhere in Asia — in other words, practically anywhere other than the United States.

So it is throughout China. With ample support from the Beijing government — including a flurry of trade missions to Africa and assistance with trade fairs in Germany, Australia or someplace in between — Chinese companies are poised to expand into the markets of many of the world’s rapidly growing economies.

By placing the focus on new markets for the abundant amount of Chinese goods (produced in cities like Shenzhen), Chinese businesses are beginning to hedge their profit margins and risk.

The government and companies across China increasingly see a danger in becoming too dependent on a single market (USA). So they are stepping up efforts to sell to other countries, particularly those outside the industrial world.

This change in direction is a small but important step for China. Maybe in the future, they will not need to be so dependent on American politics and their tariffs.

On the other side: what would happen to the US if cheap Chinese goods start decreasing?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Shenzhen Driver Licenses for Newbies

A lot has been made about the Auto Shanghai 2007. A Shanghai Daily article entitled China shows prowess in clean-fuel vehicles describes the situation:

China topped Japan as the world's second-largest car maker last year, with sales up 25 percent to more than 7.7 million units.

Homegrown brands increased their share of the passenger car market to 30 percent last year from 25 percent in 2005.

This year an unprecedented number of homegrown brands showed off their latest efforts to embrace the cutting edge of automotive technology.

Chinese car makers have been increasing efforts to develop new designs and build their brands into household names since last year, but the car show is the first major opportunity for them to showcase their research and development on the vehicles of the future.

Early last year, Shenzhen media announced that there were 1 million registered cars in Shenzhen. Although this may be a surprise for everyone driving on shenzhen’s streets (since it seems more like 10 million), it’s true and will soon get worse. Officials projected that by 2010, the number of cars will double to 2 million.

The potential growth in the market and the optimism for its future development is slowly being clouded by the situation on the ground. Traffic jams occur every day in every city. Cars are impossible to park and the streets are becoming more chaotic. It might even feel like the social fabric is slowly unraveling. (Check out my post, Blackout Shenzhen? Felt like it. for more.)

A recent Shenzhen Daily article, Driving license scam exposed, sheds new light on the increasingly worse situation.

Nearly half of all new drivers in Shenzhen obtained driving licenses from other cities without undergoing proper training…[where] local training schools arranged for one-day tests in other cities, including Shanwei in Guangdong and Ganzhou, Ji'an and Jingdezhen in Jiangxi.

Some schools simply "sold" driving licenses issued in other cities, the paper said. Such driving licenses are usually issued three months after 4,500 Yuan (US$582) is paid, and no test is needed, according to the report…

[Just] before the Spring Festival this year, up to 2,000 trainees of a Shenzhen driving school took dozens of buses to Jiangxi to take part in one-day tests. Most trainees passed the test in the first attempt. The few people who failed initially all passed in the second attempt, the paper said, implying that the school bribed the authorities to make it easier for its trainees to pass the tests.

It is almost expected that scams like this would occur for obtaining drivers licenses. With the increase in the Chinese middle class combined with the increasingly high costs just to go to a driving school and obtaining a license, “entrepreneurs” are taking advantage where they can. I even recently saw a post on one of the Shenzhen expat forums where one person was offering a similar service for foreigners. For 1000 Yuan, this person would walk you into the test and tell you all the answers for the driving test. Quite a deal.

Hopefully the Shenzhen government can do more to prevent untrained drivers from getting on the road ASAP. Otherwise, ill be sitting on bus 106 for another 90 minutes just to get to work.

CNN Revisiting Chinglish

Bad English.

Everyone’s seen it. It’s everywhere. No matter where you go in China, you’ll find signs like these.

As a Chinese American, who has been on many trips with other Americans to different tourist places in China, seeing a funny sign is…well, funny. In preparation for the Olympics, the Beijing Government instituted a program where Beijingers and foreigners in Beijing are encouraged to help find and correct such signs.

This initiative was first instituted in late 2005. Xinhua had an article on the problem entitied English signs in Beijing "lost in translation". The blog, Danwei had a detailed post; Beijing cleans up its own sign translations, on the subject. In my recollection, I remember this being reported in multiple Chinese media outlets and different western papers.

On April 19th 2007, posted an article on its website called Chinese officials crack down on bad English. This article basically reiterated what Danwei and Xinhua talked about more than a year and half ago.

How did CNN miss the boat on this for almost 2 years? Why are they writing about old news? Can anyone give me a good explanation that doesn't involve the China Olympics/Sudan issue that has recently came up?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Shenzhen Bar Exclusivity

Last Saturday night Jason and I went out to Richy bar. It is in the Lou Hu district beside the Lushan Hotel, next to Face (another well known bar. 深圳市庐山酒店Face Cafe). We had heard some good things about it from our friends, so we wanted to check it out.

Typically, Chinese night life starts around 9pm, while in NYC, it would start around 11pm or midnight. Instead of taking a break between dinner and going out, Chinese people merge the two into one activity. By midnight a lot of people are drunk and ready to go home. Also, a lot of clubs and bars completely close at 2am.

This early go-out time usually means that all of the cool bars and clubs are completely full by the time my friends and I get out
unless we go to Ubar, the typical western bar in Luohu.

Jason and I arrived at Richy bar at around 11:30pm. We assumed that we wouldn't get a place to sit, due to our tardiness, but we fully anticipated on mingling around the bar and hanging out.

After we got out of the cab, Jason led the way and walked towards the entrance. Next to the entrance were a group of 6 female hostesses as well as a security guard. As Jason was moving past the security guard, the guy grabbed him and asked him where he was going. When my friend pointed inside, the guard responded that there were no more tables available. I responded that we would sit at the bar or not even need a seat. Both suggestions came up empty. The guard refused us entry.

This was an extremely weird situation considering that this never happens in China. Of all the clubs Ive been to in China, in more than 15 different cities, I have never been turned away at the door. The Chinese bars do not have a line to get in or a small, exclusive capacity. They are designed excessively to maximize revenue. Anyone and everyone is allowed in.

As we walked away, we rationalized being turned away because this place was probably that cool. It was soooo incredibly trendy that it was already full. We gotta check this place out!

Before we walked 2 blocks, my friend Simon called me from inside Richy bar. He had just gotten in a couple of minutes before with my other cousin, Annie. . They stated that even though there were a lot of people, it was not at capacity.

With this revelation, Jason and I quickly ran back towards the club, assuming that a large group had just left. We also asked Simon and Annie to come out and get us. This time when the 4 of us attempted to get in, Jason was the last one in line. The 3 of us Chinese people didn't get hassled at all. Jason was stopped again.

Security Guard: You cant go in.
Me: Its cool, hes with us.
Security Guard: Does your friend know how to speak Chinese?
Me: Of course he does (talking slowly so that Jason could follow suit).
Jason: 我当然能说中文.

The guard looks him over again and finally lets him in.

We only stayed for a little bit inside. The music was good. The girls were hot and the ambiance was nice. It was, however, too crowed and difficult to get drinks.

When we walked outside and stood by the door, deciding where to go instead, Jason got a chance to talk to the security guard.

Jason: Why didn't you let me in before?
Secruity Guard: I didn't want any trouble.

I never knew that Jason was that big of a threat

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chinese Hiring @ the Factory

I’ve been working in China for 7 months now. It’s weird how fast the time has flew by.

When I arrived at Toy State, I worked with 2 other project engineers, working and maintaining all of our new/old projects. In December, one of those engineers was fired. Within one day of being told that this was going to happen, Thompson had already cleared off his desk and left our company. It was a pretty quick turnover.

After Thompson left, I took on more and more responsibilities. Instead of hiring a new person, I wanted to work with my partner, Rosson. I believed that we could handle the work load of our fired colleague. As I got into gear what exactly the job needed, I was able to create different processes and make our efforts more efficient. Within a couple of weeks, we were completely up and running…effectively doing a 3 person job with 2 people.

In the past month, something interesting has happened. After the Chinese New Year, the toy industry effectively starts preparing for the next selling cycle. We have begun a large marketing campaign to develop tons of new projects. This year we were projecting to do130 new projects compared to only 45 last year. This effectively means that the 2 of us have to not only manage a 3 person job, but are now doing 3x the amount of new projects as before. Quite a challenge, ill say.

Realizing the potential need for extra man-power, our higher up management told me in early February that we were going to add 2 project engineers into my department. More than 2 months later, we still don't have any extra people hired. In turn, I’ve been juggling more than 2x the amount of work I’ve had previously.

Human Capital

A week ago, we had a few people go through the interview process. A female graduate student and a male college graduate came in. I was mostly ignorant of the whole thing. For some reason, I had been no role in their interview process or decision of future project engineers (even though I was going to be their boss…???).

After being somewhat confused and having a feeling of disrespect, I approached our COO (a relatively Americanized Chinese with good English skills who used to did my job a year ago) who was spearheading this search: This interaction was spoken in Chinese

Me: Hey [COO], what’s going on with the search? We’re getting swamped over here with all of the increased work load.
COO: It’s going. We interviewed a couple of people last week and really liked a girl. She came in, did the interview thing and we liked her. Before we could sign all the paperwork, we got hung up with her salary requirements…so we didn't hire her.
Me: Oh really? Do you think it will be resolved?
COO: I don't really know…we’ll see.


Me: I was wondering, for future interviewees, can I have an opportunity to sit down and talk to them for a while. Since the members of this department are going to work extremely close with any future hire, I want to have a feel for the abilities and personality before they are hired.
COO: 不用了, 要不行就让他走. (Translation: No need, if he/she is not good, we’ll just ask them to leave [aka fire him/her])

Our factory boss’s response surprised me incredibly. I originally had the notion that there was a sense of disrespect towards me in not letting me have a say of who I was going to have work under me. Instead, by his statement, all feelings of disrespected disappeared. It was replaced with amazement.

When I went through the job search as a senior in college, I developed (what I think is) a pretty clear perception of the relationship between the employee and the company. I feel that companies look at their hires as investments, or human capital. These individuals, with their skills and potential have the capabilities to help the company with their knowledge, ideas, know-how, ect. with proper training from the company. Since a lot of time, energy and money is spent on training these people so they can succeed in the future, companies try their absolute hardest to make sure the candidate is as strong as possible. This is why there are multiple rounds of interviews and extensive review processes at most places.

I admit that our company isn’t the big corporation with tons of resources for hiring people. I do think, however, that there are a lot of small things that can be done to do a thorough job of whatever we can to make sure anyone new will be successful here. If it is so easy for the company COO, who is relatively westernized, to say…hey, if it doesn't work out, we’ll just let him/her go, then he definitely has a different understanding of what human capital is.

Colleges and its Graduates

A couple of weeks have gone by and still nothing. The previous candidates who were possibilities were not able to resolve their contract negotiations…meaning I’m stuck with an overflow of work in a relatively quiet time in product development.

Seeing a potential for “disaster” if we didn't get someone in here soon, I have recently made a revived push for locating new hires. I have talked to the HR department, their boss, my boss, the COO of the factory, just about everyone I can think of to help in this pursuit of someone new. If we don't get this person soon, we won’t have enough time to train him/her for the next round of high demands and tight deadlines.

After talking to the HR department, I realized that we could change our description of skills/requirements so that more people would apply. Currently, we’re requesting college graduates who have backgrounds in engineering and a high aptitude in English. As an Mechanical Engineering graduate, I can say that technical knowledge and background isn’t as essential to the job as English skills are. I think that if we found anyone with a good English background, they could successfully learn the more technical stuff on the job.

I approached the COO about this and he said he would consider it and see if we could find more people to come in for interviews. We then had an interesting conversation about the state of the Chinese job market. Again, this conversation was spoken in Chinese.

COO: Did you know that we have been trying to find good candidates for project engineering jobs consistently for the past 2 years? It is really difficult to find good prospects.
Me: Wow. Is that true? What about the millions of jobless college graduates I keep reading about in the media?
COO: That population isn’t reliable. Colleges and Universities are everywhere and more and more people are going to them. However, it is hard to judge what these students learned when they were there. While these graduates have questionable academic backgrounds, they are also demanding higher-paying jobs and more respect from possible employers because… they graduated from college and they spent a lot of money there. We’ve interviewed 50 people since December. As you can see, none of them have been hired.
Me: I guess we’ll see what happens with the change in job requirements then. Hopefully we’ll have more people coming in for interviews when we change it.
COO: I don't know if it will be successful. If someone is good in English, they have a higher likelihood to work for one of the big western corporations that are expanding into China.

Higher education in China has become a big business. New schools are popping up all over the country…many of them without any good faculty or educational standards. Some of these schools have formed alliances with more brand name schools. The new school requests to be a separate campus of the well known school. This means that the new school will have a good name (ie. Beijing University in Shenzhen) and their students (at some schools and not at others) get the same diploma as students at the regular campus.

Affluent students who don't score high enough on the national college entrance exam to get into the school on merit can then go to a good university. They are considered “private” students and pay higher tuition. Through all of this, it is still unclear if there is an academic standard of the separate schools or a governing body who monitors and accredits it. Of course, not all of these schools are bad, but the current practices are chaotic without conformity in standards.

I don't know who knows about this in the western media. I do know that there are countless and reoccurring stories about college students not finding jobs. This is probably one of the causes.

With this understanding in the questionable quality of the Chinese graduate, I think it’s even more important to push them through a detailed and involved interview process. I don't know if the other managers see it that way.

That being said… what matters is that I still don't have another project engineer working under me. Therefore, it is becoming more and more apparent that I will be overloaded at work for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Shenzhen Public Transportation Entertainment (updated)

LCD monitors are everywhere in China. They are in random mom&pop shoe shops in back alleyways... playing music videos and lobbies and elevators constantly showing advertisements of a guy wanting to help me better learn English.

I’ve written about the increased use of LCD monitors in Shenzhen’s public transportation before with my posts Cab Advertising and Shenzhen TV is also talking about Melissa Theuriau. In the past couple of days, I’ve noted a couple of things regarding these LCDs in taxis and buses.


  • LCDs only come on when a customer enters and the price meter is started. This means that now it doesn't annoy the hell out of the driver during the entire day, looped to the same stuff.
  • The LCD content for viewing is very eclectic. There are very few commercials, current events and information about the city (as I would have expected). Instead, a huge amount of its content are funny cartoons, British hidden-camera shows and music videos.
  • The mute button has been upgraded. Before, a passenger could mute the display so that he/she didn't need to listen to the programming. Now, the mute only works for one segment only. After the segment is over, the sound comes back on automatically. I’ve had to hit the mute switch 10 times on some of my taxi trips.


  • There are about 2 LCDs on each bus, one right behind the driver and one right behind the back door.
  • The LCD display and content is linked to the bus’s audio speaker system. This means that it can be projected throughout the bus so that all customers can hear. It also means that when announcements are made on the intercom regarding stops, safety, ect., it is projected instead of the music video.
  • The content is just as random and diverse as in the taxis. I’ve seen funny stuff, serious stuff and news.

The coolest part about the bus LCDs is that it can tune into live TV. Chinese news broadcast is the same everyday. The CCTV national news comes on at 7pm followed by the Shenzhen local news broadcast at 7:30. On a recent trip to my friend Jason’s house in Shekou, I was able to watch both shows live on the bus. How cool is that? I’ve seen it only a couple of times in different people’s cars. It’s supposedly done through satellite or wireless technology, but the quality is perfect. This is such a conveneient feature for the fast-paced Shenzhen life.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Chinese Radio: Loveline

Every time I go back to the US for a business trip, I’m lucky enough to go home and bring some stuff back to me to Shenzhen. Familiar DVDs, old family pictures and past books have made my Shenzhen apartment feel more like home.

One of the things I’ve recently brought over from the US that I thought I needed is my Alarm Clock/ Radio. I’ve had this thing since I was in middle school and I’ve used it on my bed stand ever since. I’ve definitely felt a void not having it here in Shenzhen with me. Currently I only have my cell phone to tell time and to wake me up in the morning. My clock would do a better job of those 2 functions while simultaneously giving me access to the radio airwaves. Yes.

So after I lugged this thing across the ocean, bought an extra power cord and power adaptor for it, I discover it didn't work. The clock would be progressively slow. For every hour of time that went by, the clock only showed 55 minutes went by. I tried a couple of other clocks and the same thing happened. For some reason, the US alarm clock just can tell time in China (I think it’s a current problem…anyone want to help me fix it?). I could only use the radio.

I’ve been to listening to the radio a couple of nights a week before bed. On top of that, i've had other opportunities to tune in while taking taxis (Shenzhen taxi drivers love talk radio) and on the bus, commuting to and from work. Although still limited in my exposure to radio in China, I have found many interesting things on the air waves.

This interest has made me decide to add a new category to my blog, “Chinese Radio”, in which everything will stem from radio content that I hear.

A few nights ago, I was restless and unable to sleep around midnight. Bored and annoyed with myself, I decide to turn on the radio and hopefully doze off with it acting as the background ambient noise. The radio didn't help. Instead, I grew incredibly interested in a show I just happened to stumble upon.

Imagine a women-specific version of Loveline, Chinese style (without the mentioning of drug use and without Adam Carolla’s antics

At the beginning I didn't know what was going on. I couldn't exactly understand all of the technical language that was spoken. But as it wore on, I got into the grove of it and could understand about 90% of what was being said. I just used context to guess at the last 10%. All in all, the hosts seemed to be enjoying themselves and the subject was entertaining. Here are the details:

  • There were 3 different female voices on the air. I’m assuming one was the host and the other two were experts/doctors.
  • The doctors answered questions on a wide range of topics, including sexual health, physical health, and mental health.
  • The doctors spoke in professional language, and from what I could understand, had a decent grasp of female health issues.
  • Questions were asked in many different forms, including direct calls, letters as well as text messages. There seemed to be a lot of text message questions.
  • The hosts all spoke in very good mandarin.

One of the more interesting calls that came on was from a 26 year old. In a nervous, slow and heavy-accented speech, she asked a question regarding having unprotected sex and the likelihood of pregnancy by using the “pull out” before climaxing method.

The experts calmly explained (correctly) that the “pull out” method was not a good way to prevent pregnancy because there would guys sometime ejaculate semen before actually climaxing (or pre-cum). Instead of doing this, she should either use some type of birth control, including male/female condoms and contraceptive pills. They were very comforting and accepting in their explanation and attitude to the caller.

When the inexperienced girl questioned how she could get the medication, the experts gave her a hospital location in proximity to where she was explained the procedure.

Success! The potential for one less Chinese baby!

Listening to this program got me thinking:

  • I’m actually not surprised that a show like this is on the air. While Chinese people, I would say, are sexually repressed, they feel decently comfortable about it when it’s done in professional and medical terms.
  • The text message questions are a good way to receive questions. Text messages are not only cheaper than traditional phone calls, but they negate the nervousness and awkwardness of the first-time caller. Chinese people might be ok with talking about health and sex, but they’re definitely always nervous.
  • This show is a really good idea for Shenzhen.
    • Population: As everyone already knows, Shenzhen is filled with tons of migrant workers, in which a majority of them are female. (My factory’s assembly line of more than 2000 is 95% female.)
    • Education: Most of the migrant workers are from the countryside and have relatively little education. Most have never been to high school. People often get word-of-mouth advice from just as ignorant friends.
    • Hospitals: Public health services are not keeping up with Shenzhen’s growing population. Also, health care costs are rising throughout the country.
    • Income: Migrant workers are paid relatively little and are saving up for their family. If something is wrong with their health, they often ignore it or try the least expensive treatment possible.
    • Combine all of these together and this show should be a great success.
  • The Chinese listener didn't seem that knowledgeable about the most basic bodily stuff…not just sex. Just about everything that was being asked seemed to be from high school biology/anatomy class.
  • One of the questions was about mental health and depression. I wasn't able to get a good read on it due to the technical language… but I do wonder what kind of training and experience the doctors on the show have on that.
  • I wonder if they have this in other cities. It has to be in the 1st tier cities. What about the 2nd and 3rd tier? It’s definitely a good resource.

Let’s only hope that these girls from the countryside have radios in their factory dorms to take advantage of programs like this. Maybe they should go buy a clock radio and see if it tells correct time.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Chinese Children Get Married at an Early Age

Work has been very busy lately. The toy industry never seems to stop pushing and I’ve been cought in the middle of it.

Because of the job, I’ve been neglecting to read all of the Google Alerts on China and Shenzhen that I receive daily. Today while reading articles from the last few days I came across an interesting story from the Shenzhen Daily (web edition) entitled Kids’ Virtual Marriages Causes Concern.

Interesting. That title itself just drew me in.

It turns out that elementary school kids in Shenzhen have found a new hobby. Instead of collecting Pogs, like I did, these kids are getting married…online.

A survey by the newspaper of 49 pupils at a primary school in Luohu District showed that 24 percent of them had virtual "marriages", and 14 percent of them had even "married" twice.

Not only did the children get married (kinda like Vegas, but better, and 24 hours)…but they also

…"giving birth" to virtual babies online…

While some people questioned the game and its possible influence on the kids’ future love life…

Parents and educators worry that the virtual marriages would lead the kids into misunderstanding the reality of marriage.

…for teenagers, it's much easier to blur the line between real and virtual marriages. A junior high student identified as Guo Guo said many of her classmates had acted as if they were really in love with their virtual spouses. "In the game, the virtual husbands and wives claim to love each other so much. How can you say the virtual love will not influence your real emotions?" argued Guo Guo.

…others asked why marriages are put into online games in the first place…

"I don't understand why game developers put marriages into the games. With children marrying and divorcing so easily online, they may become irresponsible when they do marry in reality," [a mother] said, adding that children may get upset if their future spouses are not as prefect virtual spouses.

There are many other interesting tidbits in the article. You have to read it for yourself!!

My biggest concern regarding this game is that some might get the notion that getting married or into serious relationships will increase your points in life…

About 37 percent of the kids polled by the Shenzhen Evening News said they had virtual marriages to "increase their credits in the game," and 28 percent of them said they did it for fun.

…and we all know that’s not true.

I wonder how long it will be that a similar game pops up in the US, becomes popular, gets embraced and chastised by the religious right, then reported on CNN. Any bets?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wal-Mart Bringing Sexy Back to Chinese Girls

I love Wal-Mart. If you are able to look past their contributions in the deterioration of small communities, aid in shutting down mom & pop stores, as well as not giving their employees livable wages, you find a place with “everyday low prices, always.”

Look, they even got the #1 Ranking on the CNN Fortune 500 List of American Companies with $351,139,000,000 of revenue in 2006.

While I have never gone to Wal-Mart as much as it’s shown on Paris Hilton’s show, The Simple Life, many people go there for everything. This trend has now spread to the Chinese market. Wal-Mart and its comparable hypermarket brethren, Carrefour, Trust-Mart and Tesco are dotting the Chinese urban landscape. Cheap and (usually) dependable products have made shopping at these hypermarkets are very popular.

Recently, at the factory, I have seen many of my colleagues wearing a different variety of English t-shirts. Since we are without a standardized dress code in the office, many people come to work in random and interesting attire…most usually from Wal-Mart.

Today, I held my weekly meeting regarding new projects with members of various factory departments. A good friend of mine, 阿花, who is usually decently well dressed, came into the meeting with a very interesting t-shirt on. The white girl t-shirt had “I (heart) backseats.”

What?!... I immediately burst out laughing...while everyone at the meeting looked at me strangely. Of course no one knew what it meant or the connotations behind it.

After the meeting, during lunch, I was able to ask阿花 about what she was wearing. It turns out that she bought the shirt because she liked the sparkly accessories and the red heart. She had bought the shirt at Wal-Mart with a few other friends. She knew the basic meaning of “backseat” but didn't know the connotation behind it. After I explained it to her, she promised to never again wear the shirt.

While thinking about it, I can’t imagine what Wal-Mart was thinking in selling these sexually-provocative t-shirts to a population who is 1. considered sexually repressed and 2. have no idea what they are wearing. In my 6 months in China, I have seen many other girl shirts that have “slut”, “bitch” or “hot stuff” on it. Maybe they were all bought from Wal-Mart, maybe not.

I would like to personally thank Wal-Mart for giving the Chinese population more subliminal sexual undertones while pursuing their profits. Maybe in the near future you can convince Chinese people to get random English words tattooed on them like current Americans are doing with Chinese characters.

That will be the day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

China's Initiation into the World (Cat) Economy

I call it the live-too-close syndrome.

Whenever I live at or near a interesting place, I never take advantage of it. This happened during my 4 years at Columbia University…in which I didn't go explore New York City close to enough…and it’s happening now in Shenzhen. I have such a great opportunity to explore China, Hong Kong, Macao, countries in S.E. Asia…but I’m just not doing it.

This past weekend, when asked to accompany my friend Simon’s wife into Hong Kong, I took a step for exploration. I was committed to go with her to the HKCLS 11th Championship Cat Show.

Yes, a cat show.

I personally don't like cats that much and I don't think they particularly like me. I’m a dog person through and through. I guess it’s just the pack mentality of the dog versus the independent cat. The other reason could be that my family just has an awesome dog, Niuniu.

During our day-long HK excursion, we ate 4 different times (Simon’s wife is pregnant), bought a ton of cat supplies to bring back to China (cat food, supplies, litter, ect.), walked around the streets of Hong Kong and most importantly, went to the cat show.

Held in the B Hall of the Hong Kong International Trade & Exhibition Centre, the show included hundreds of cats. Here are the highlights:

  • Simon’s wife loves Himalayans and has 4 championship caliber cats at home. She recently got first place in shows in Beijing and Shanghai (out of more than 600 cats). With her success, she has been able to build an extensive network in the cat community (how we got into the show as exhibitors). She was in Hong Kong to network with owners of the American Himalayan champion.
  • The show room had about 20 lines of tables set up for cat cages. All of the cages had different medallions and award ribbons on it showing off the caliber of the cat inside.
  • There were 6 “rings” in the middle of the hall where the cats were judged. The 3 American and 3 Japanese judges took great care in their handling of the cats and had their own rubric and evaluation standards.
  • When the cats “competed” in the rings against each other, groups of different exhibitors stood by to watch the judging. While seated by our friend’s cat cages, I would hear periodic applauses when awards were given out.
  • There were a few “world-famous” cats that everyone knew at the show. These cats (with a reputation) were definite locks on first place “best of breed”.
  • Cats were given points for finishing in different places. Cats with more points are ranked higher in the world stage.
  • There are entry fees to the competitions but no prize money. Owners spend thousands of dollars and countless hours on their pets without any ROI.

For the most part, the CAT show was a half-way interesting event. It was very much an insider sport where only seasoned veterans knew the intricacies of what was going on. However, in this mundane, small community of the rich-girl hobby, there were many interesting plots and subplots that developed.

  • There is no real rubric for judging the cats. Personal relationships with judges are a huge factor. Owners would proudly strut into the ring to place their cat into the competition, while simultaneously giving a head-nod to the judge.
  • Location is a big part of the judging too. If a judge graded a cat to be the best in breed at a show in Malaysia, they might change their mind and not place the previous winner in the top 5 when they got to the Hong Kong show. There is definitely home court advantage.
  • The “national champions” who had already won top prizes in the US, Canada and other competitions were locks for the best in breed. No judges wanted to go against a consistent winner that had been judged by numerous other judges previously. That would make them lose all credibility.
  • Newcomers to the community are usually ganged up on and ignored. However, if somehow this person slowly gets recognition and top 5 awards for their cats, they are immediately loved and included. Talk about 2-faced people.

From my point of view, the most interesting part of this cat show community is the sense of competition and how it relates to globalization and trade.

One of the underlying rules of cat shows is that anyone and everyone can enter. There is a popular notion that there should be fair and equal competition for all. This has recently been tested.

In the past few years, Chinese involvement in this hobby has risen greatly. The Chinese nouveau-riche has begun spending tens of thousands of dollars to buy famous genetically strong cats to compete (as registered on the CFA) with the established cats. Even though rules stipulate that anyone and everyone can register for competitions, Chinese cats can only realistically compete in events held in China or South East Asia.

Recent laws regarding the quarantine of pets in United States, Hong Kong and other countries (where the most famous competitions are located) have, in effect, stopped Chinese cats from competing. Stringent documentation of shots, vaccines and immunizations are needed for participation. On top of that, since China is a "3rd world country", all Chinese cats are placed in a 3 month quarantine upon entry. No owner has a realistic ability to wait it out. This means that foreign cats can come into China to compete but vice versa. Above that, if anyone is caught competing with illegally immigrated cats, he/she is immediately reported on by the local participants and effectively banned from the community.

I really believe that the current state of cat dynamics between Chinese and US/Hong Kong/Western Countries shows how the international economic system works.

  • Western society creates a rich-man’s game of notoriety and prestige. (Capitalism and Cat shows)
  • Everyone is encouraged to join in the game in which competition is embraced as part of the culture (free market economy and embracing competition)
  • When new communities begin actively participating in the game and finding success, indirect rules are made to prevent their involvement. (US and European farm subsidies as well as textile quotas and tariffs are a few examples of the “quarantine” in the cat world.)
  • Any violation of these rules comes with immediate consequences of punishment from the game. (WTO sanctions & devaluation of credit ratings and expulsion from the cat community)

In the end only time will tell how the system plays out. In this story, the Chinese cat owner in Shenzhen specifically bought a Hong Kong apartment to house her cats so that she could legally and effectively compete with local cats. She had enough money and desire to achieve that. In the HKCLS 11th Championship Cat Show, she was able to get the highest prize in multiple breeds, finishing immediately under the “national champion” cats. In one year she has gone from the very bottom to the top tier. This transformation has won her "respect" and "acceptance".

It ultimately seems that the system of rules, quarantines and community dynamics is just a fraternity-esque “initiation." Only after initiation can the fresh meat join the brotherhood. We'll just have to see how much hazing they have to endure before getting initiated.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Chinese Revenge on New US Trade Barriers?

Last summer was the first time I visited Shenzhen. I came here to visit my cousin, Annie, and her family. On the last few days of my week-long stay, Annie and I decided to go on a excursion through Hong Kong. We woke up early morning Friday and headed over through the Luo Hu customs. We got into HK without any problems and had an awesome day. This included a ferry ride across Victoria harbor, a tram ride onto the peak, drinks at Lan Kwai Fong and dim sum. All in all, it was an awesome, first visit of Hong Kong.

One thing I managed to (ignorantly) overlook was the Visa issue. I had always gotten double or multiple entry tourist visas when I came to China. However, for some reason, this time I had a single entry. In my ignorance, I didn't think twice about crossing the border because “hey, Hong Kong is now apart of China. Why would I need a visa to go from China to China?” Well, this ended up haunting me. When we arrived at the Luo Hu border, I was unable to get back into China. I ended up stuck in no-man’s land (kinda like Tom Hanks in the movie Terminal. With my US Passport, I could go back to Hong Kong but not into China. What made it even worse was that Annie had already crossed onto the China side, and couldn't come back to the HK side because she didn't have another HK entry with her Chinese identification.

Realizing my predicament, I went back to the HK side and located the border visa center. I was told my a lot of Chinese and HK customs officials that Americans were able to obtain temporary visas there. That was OK with me because I had a flight to Shanghai a day later, and a return flight to NYC 3 days after that. When I got to the visa company, however, I was told I couldn't obtain the visa I so desperately needed. They had just changed the rules a few months back for Americans: Only select travel agencies in Hong Kong could apply for the Chinese visa for Americans. They also took more than half a day to obtain (the quickest way). And since it was a Friday night, I would have to wait until Monday until I could get mine.

Fortunately, I was able to contact friends and family in HK to help me find a hotel for the weekend. However, I wasn't able to avoid paying penalties on my flights back to the US or the hassle to my extended family. It was definitely the longest weekend ever.

Finally on Monday, we were able to get my visa. While waiting for it at the China Travel Service, we asked the branch manager (who we knew) about the current laws for Chinese visas for Americans. The manager explained the laws had only changed in the past couple of years. Americans were treated like citizens of every other country for the longest time. They could obtain visas quickly and freely. They only changed after Americans changed their laws. It seems that the attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent acts of legislation (ie. Patriot Acts), including immigration ones made it incredibly hard for Chinese citizens to travel to the US. All visas were difficult to obtain, with drawn out processes and paperwork.

This was China’s way of responding. “We’re going to make it more difficult for your citizens to do what they want in our country as well.”

I recently applied for a 1 year business visa through my company. I only got a 6-month visa because the regulation for this only changed a few weeks ago. I guess China’s just trying to fuck with US citizens as much as possible…as retribution, or even revenge for American acts.

Last week, I read a NY Times entitled U.S. Toughens its Position on China Trade, regarding the recent US action of taking China to court in the WTO. It seems that the US Congress is not happy with the growing trade deficit with China. This means democrats in Congress are going to take action. However, no one will know what’s going to happen next…and the Chinese response:

What China will do next is an open question in the administration. The answer may not be clear until Mr. Paulson’s economic meeting with the Chinese in May.

But many Chinese experts warn that the latest steps by the administration will not help persuade China to change its reliance on a low-valued currency and other restrictions on imports and investment. The power and influence of Communist Party leaders tied to the export sector is too great, they say.

“If the U.S. takes more actions against China, it will harm Paulson’s dialogue with China and future trade meetings,” said Chen Jianan, a professor of economics at Fudan University in Shanghai. But he said the most recent actions could compel both sides to negotiate.

In my understanding of China, there is great possibility that China will retaliate in some stealth way just to screw with the Americans. I would argue that there will not be incredibly large action since there’s too much at risk, but there will be small ones. Just look at what China did to Wal-Mart and unions. Wal-Mart agreed to establish unions in China (that it doesn't have anywhere in the world) since the traditional Chinese union is powerless in collective bargaining. Then after this is established, China changes the law regarding the power of unions, totally screwing over Wal-Mart.

That’s the Chinese way.

Ultimately, we’ll see what happens. The NY Times already has a prediction:

All sides agree that the latest American actions portend a period of rough weather in United States-Chinese relations.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Shenzhen: Diversity in Languages

On my last foray into HK, my friend, Jason, and I were waiting in the Luo Hu customs line. The paperwork usually goes by pretty quick, but for some reason, it took really long this time. So we stood there and exhausted all the small talk we could think off. In the middle of our 35 minutes wait, Jason said something very interesting to me.

“Check this out, there are atleast 10 languages being spoken in these 3 lines.”

This was very true. Since we were in the “foreigners” line going into HK, we were next to people from all over the world (HK is the world’s city right?!). People were speaking French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Cantonese, ect. It was incredible. What was interesting was also being able to recognize all of the languages being spoken. Although I didn't recognize the content, I could most definitely differentiate the Hebrew from the German.

In general, I consider myself decently knowledgeable about different languages. Here are my stats:

  • I studied French and a bit of Spanish when I went to school. Although my vocabulary has waned, I can still understand it if people talk slow enough.
  • I am a native speaker of Chinese. I have traveled to many parts of China and can understand many of the variations on 普通话 (Mandarin). Although I still need to improve in my reading and writing abilities, I’m slowly getting there. My current gf is helping me with Cantonese, but that’s definitely a work in progress.
  • I am a native speaker of English.
  • I have traveled to many places and have met many different people all around the world. They have spoken languages from Portuguese to Arabic, and from Japanese to Swahili.

Although I consider myself a relatively “global” or worldly person, my language training didn't prepare me for a day on the 106 bus going to work.

It was a Saturday morning and I was going to work for my required half day. I was hung over from the previous night’s partying at UBar (the Shenzhen westerner’s bar). After getting on the bus, I was sitting near the back and trying to relax. There was basically no one on the bus.

After a couple of stops a group of 5 migrant workers got on and proceeded to sit directly behind me. The peace & quiet I was accustomed to quickly became loud rings of conversation. Maybe it was my sensitivity to sound (from my hang over), but the talking I heard came in a deep voice, saying “aiufbhalh gapia lsdkljgi uhrja, aiutaerla gjkd fgak;iu wregiuha.”

What the hell is going on? Why is this guy speaking gibberish?

I quickly turn back and see what’s going on. I see that the oldest guy in the group was preaching didactically to his friends. Everyone was attentive and nodding their head, processing what he was saying. Even after I focused in and concentrated on his voice, I still could not understand. Further yet, I didn't recognize it at all. It was just “wirue, owyqpkdh oiurh (point, headnod). Ihwe oeiu pjkhf woihns woeinf woieu kljsder!”

I seriously could not even recognize that these people were speaking a language, let alone what they were saying. With my extensive experience with languages, I found this “ignorance” fascinating and disturbing.

Here’s what I was thinking:

  • How good are these migrant workers’s 普通话?
  • How come I cant understand a dialect of Chinese? I’ve seen, heard and experienced soo many things in this country. How do I have no ability to even recognize what’s being said as a language?
  • Shenzhen definitely surprises me every single day. This is one reason it is incredibly fun to live in a diverse city. I’ve lived in NYC and I frequently commute to Hong Kong. I just never thought Shenzhen could be as eclectic as these 2 global cities.
  • This is the reason Mandarin is sooo important. Without it, Chinese people would never be able to communicate with each other. Thank god秦始皇 (the First Emperor of Qin) united the country and established the common language.
  • This is definitely the reason why Cantonese is way less important now in Shenzhen than ever before. People have stated that just 10 years ago, it would be impossible to function in Guangdong province without Cantonese. Now Cantonese is just an afterthought. Mandarin rules.

I guess I’m just glad that I can speak and understand two of the world’s most significant languages: Chinese and English. Otherwise I would be most lost everywhere.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Door to Door Male Cosmetics

Something interesting just happened.

At 4:45 pm Sunday, my apartment door bell rang. After opening the door, I found 2 guys, about 20-25 years old attempting to sell me cosmetic products. How weird.

Here's the low down:
  • Guy 1 wore a nice suit and seemed to have his stuff together. Guy 2 was a younger "intern" who looked lost and didn't know what he was doing... standing back in the hallway
  • Guy 1, who was making the pitch, first showed me his name card and introduced his company. I was then told that my line of apartments in the building (the H-line) had been targeted for a promotional cosmetic items for men and women. Lucky me.
  • He let me smell the different aromas as well as rubbed cream on the back of my hands.
  • He asked what my name was, if my girlfriend was in (because she would be really attractive), if I was from HK and what kind of products I use.
  • He showed me another set of French branded, female products that my hott girlfriend could use... but didnt want to explain too much about it because... hey, we're guys... and we dont talk about girl stuff.
  • For only 99.95 RMB, I could receive a unisex package of 5 products that retails for 600 RMB. On top of that, I would get the female package of 5 products for free! What an outstanding deal!!
Being that I only have 50RMB cash on me, I refused the offer. No biggie. I was also questioning the legitimacy of what they were saying. I could imagine 2 guys, who have nothing to do, buying a set of cosmetics for 40RMB wholesale, walking around trying to make a buck.

Nonetheless, I guess the sales industry is pushing forward... door to door. I just didnt expect 2 random guys. Cute girls would be a much better sell.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

McDonald's Goes Wireless Ordering in Shenzhen

Last Saturday I was in the 东门 shopping area to buy some bootleg DVDs. It was actually the first time I’ve bought DVDs since I’ve lived in Shenzhen. Not only was it cheaper than in other places (it was 5RMB compared to 7RMB or 8RMB in the north), but there was really good selection as well. They even had Spiderman 3! I didn't even know that they finished filming that yet!

There has been greater regulation recently on the sale of fake DVDs in China. Many of the old shops that sold them were disbanded by the government and now run mobile, makeshift stores in the middle of nowhere. Although the market is still there, it is much harder to sell it in the open.

After buying the DVDs, I went to McDonald’s to grab some food for my friend, Jason, who had thrown up in my bathroom the previous night. The 东门 McDonald’s that I went to was actually the 1st McDonald’s opened in China. There is a big plaque in the store. It’s kind of cool.

McDonald’s (and KFC) has been in the news lately regarding being cheap and not even following the Chinese minimum wage of 7.50RMB/hour for its workers. Capitalist pigs! Articles here, here and even CNN discussed this issue.

Well, I completely agree that McDonald’s and Yum Foods suck ass for not giving their workers even $1 per hour, especially for such a fast paced and demanding job their doing.

When I was standing in line, I saw something very interesting. There were tons of people in the restaurant that Sunday. All of the registers were overcapacity with more than 4 people in line. To deal with the huge demand, there were many McDonald’s employees walking around the back of the line to take people’s orders. What was beautiful was that this was done wirelessly through a handheld device!

Here’s how it went:

  • Employees walked in the back of the lines to take the orders of people waiting in line.
  • The used a wireless PDA-sized device and quickly entered their order into the touchpad buttons.
  • At the end of their order, the employee wrote down a number for the customer to tell the cashier so that he/she could access what the person had ordered and receive payment.
  • There were employees also walking around by the open seats to take orders as well. This is because since the restaurants are usually full, people often find seats before they order.

I looked it up online later and found the company called Infologix that provided this.

Infologix states that this wireless ordering system:

Increases sales by serving more drive-through customers (or waiting customers), improves McDonald's order accuracy, and makes everything more efficient."

I would agree. This is a innovative, thoughtful and much needed way for ordering in a lot of busy restaurants.

Has anyone else seen it?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Blogspot is back up! Is the Chinese gov't just Fucking with us.

Just a couple of days ago, I discovered that blogspot was not blocked anymore by the Chinese government (Xanga is still blocked). This means I can read more and write more without having to play around with the various proxies people have suggested.

This latest 2-week shutdown has been talked about everyone in the China blogging world. It has annoyed the hell out of not only people writing blogs in China (just ask the 1-year English teachers anywhere) but also the people reading blogs in China.

Why is this happening? Why did the Chinese government shut down blogspot for 2 weeks and then turn it back on? What the hell? As a good friend of mine said: The Chinese government is really pissing me off! I feel like that’s the sentiment of a lot of people.

Many people in the western media would answer these questions by talking about the crackdown of Chinese officials on blogging in general. Although China is seen to be a increasingly open society, the government still wants to keep control, and this is one way to do it. “Just look at how they are hampering the right to Freedom of Speech!!”

This argument would explain why some individual blogs or individual messages are filtered through the system. However, it wouldn't explain why they turn it off and on, back and forth.

Here are some of the other reasons I can think of (I’m assuming that there is a governmental office that is in charge of this):

  • There is a constant change of leadership in the office. Since its not too great of a job to head this department, leaders are filtered in and out. It’s almost like Easy Company in the 7th episode of Band of Brothers. After a few weeks to a few months, the new head of the department is done paying his due, and gets reassigned to somewhere else.
  • There is a constant change of policy. I’m sure that people in this department have seen the interesting and valuable facets of blogging and the internet. I’m sure that many of them read specific blogs all the time, just as I read the Shanghaiist, Danwei and China Law Blog. This means there could be constant discourse and disagreement on white sites to block and which sites not to block. “Are we going to restrict access to the entire blogspot or will we target the specific ones we don't like?”
  • This department realizes that their efforts are wasted due to proxies. Since there are ananomouse and scoobidoo out there, it is much more difficult for the department to have complete success blocking all of the sites. Although I have noticed that sometimes the proxies don't work, there are so many of them that any dedicated blogger will be able to access what he/she wants. The department knows that and doesn't want to bother anymore.
  • They are just fucking with us. They have the power to control a lot of people’s enjoyment, entertainment and emotions by flipping on and off a switch. How fun would it to be just to fuck with people every once in a while when they’re bored. I think this is the best explination.

As a kid growing up in China (I was born here and moved to the US when I was 6), one of my favorite activities during the spring through fall, was to try and capture dragon-flies. My friends and I would buy or construct a big net and sweep through the grassy park, trying to catch as many as possible. After the thrill of catching them was over, we would fuck with them until they were dead. In the past 20 years, I wouldn't be surprised if the dragonfly in China was extinct.

When my grandfather was a little kid, he did something that was similar to my chasing of dragonflies. When he lived with my family in Columbus, Ohio, he revealed that he loved to go out at night and try to catch as many of those backyard flies (that look like a bee, but lights up instead of having the stinger) as he could. He would then put them in a jar and have them serve as a light. Since there were a lot of them flying around at night in Ohio, my grandfather and I had a great time catching them. The only thing is, they would die within a day. I have honestly never seen one of those flies in China. They probably got killed by all of the kids.

Here's the USA equivalent:

Chinese people are sometimes very cruel. We like to fuck with insects, animals and other people without regard for anything. Just take the example of the bus driver who wouldn't let me off the bus in a traffic jam until I annoyed him to death, complaining. When Chinese people have authority, we like to use it…with disregard for others’ welfare. This nature is within the majority of the Chinese population, and I bet, within the department for internet censure as well.

Just wait for the next time blogspot is inaccessible. It will be caused by another bus-driver who doesn't want to open the door.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Shenzhen Development

I recently found a couple of YouTube videos showing Shenzhen development of the past and future.

This first one is an animation of the past 23 years (between 1980 and 2003) Google-earth style.

This one is a personal video shot at a display of what Shenzhen will look like in the future. The description of the video states that all of the buildings are currently under construction. I wouldn't be surprised.

Gotta love this city!!

Asian (Chinese) Discrimination

I met a girl. A cute girl.

I’ve been living in Shenzhen for a little more than 6 months now. I have a lot of extended family living here and I’ve made a bunch of friends. However, one part of my social life that has been lacking is girls…or atleast until recently.

2 weekends ago I met a girl named Mei Feng, or Scarlet, randomly at a club. We danced, chatted, hung out and played dice at her table. We had such a good time that I invited her to dinner a couple of days later.

Before arriving at the date, I was kind of nervous. I have the annoying habit of forgetting what people’s names when I’m drinking. Even worse, I usually have no recollection of what they look like either (bad times). When Scarlet finally arrived, however, I was relieved. She was cuter than I had remembered.

Not only did she have an tall, athletic and curvy body, but also tanned skin. She had nice big eyes, a gentle nose and really nice lips. Her smile filled up the room.

As we got to know each other better during our dinner conversation, I discovered a few interesting things about her (among others)

  • She didn't have too much experience with dating because guys would always talk to her friends and rarely talk to her.
  • She was made fun of as a child for being tall. Many of her cousins didn't like to walk with her down the street because of the disparity in height (she’s not that tall)
  • She was made fun of as a child for having darker skin tone. That continues this day.
  • When I complemented her on her smile and lips, she was surprised. No one had ever said anything nice about them. Everyone only said negative things.

I was very surprised by these things because, in my perspective, she was a very attractive girl. While I found all of her attributes sexy, the majority opinion in China sees her as average with unattractive features. The next weekend, I invited her to hang out with a few friends and me at a bar. All of my Chinese friends thought she was average. My boy, Jason, from the US agreed with my view.

In a recent post on China Law Blog, entitled China Has No Racial Discrimination, Dan Harris addressed a very interesting issue on racial discrimination in China that made me think about Scarlet.

The post this time is on an article I just read from Xinhua proclaiming that "all ethnic groups in China are equal and no racial discrimination exists.

As I learned in my Liberalism, Communitarianism and the Good class and my 1st Amendment class at Columbia, it is important to dissect a statement and examine the all of the phrases and words. In this statement, the most important parts are China and racial. This statement only addresses ethnic Chinese people in China, not expats and foreigners in China. It also only addresses discrimination on the issue of race.

By getting to know Scarlet in the past couple of weeks, she can be a good guide in this discussion. She is from a poor family in 广西 province.

  • Scarlet came from a poor family. She didn't go to college and dropped out of high school. She migrated to Shenzhen to find work, but had a difficult time finding it because of her educational background. After a lot of hard work and some luck, she’s a successful sales associate for Mary Kay cosmetics.
  • Scarlet is a tall girl (around 1.70m). While this is considered a good trait to have in China, Scarlet experienced discrimination as a kid. Since she was taller than her just about everyone in her family, only her father would walk with her. None of female family members would walk with her due to the height disparity. Also, men are intimidated of her since she was young based on her height. Being taller myself (I’m 6’2” or about 1.91m), I have only gotten compliments.
  • Scarlet has relatively big feet (size 37...i’m guessing a 6?). Everyone makes fun of her because of it and she can’t fit into the tiny high heels like everyone else can.
  • Scarlet has big round eyes and a soft nose (good things) - and big lips and a big mouth (bad things). She gets complimented and made fun of for the respective traits
  • Scarlet has dark skin. She feels it is a big drawback on her looks. As someone in the cosmetics industry, she understands how much “prettier” it is to have fair skin. However, she cant help it. I have really tan skin. I was actually just made fun of it 3x today from a couple of my colleagues and yesterday, from my aunt.
  • Scarlet is from 广西 and spoke Cantonese growing up. Her Mandarin is fine, but needs improvement. She definitely has a slight accent. Although her friends give her slack for it, it doesn't effect her professional career.
  • I have no clue what ethnic group Scarlet is in.

Scarlet's story can be redone for the entire Chinese population. My cousin is affluent and has fair skin, but isn’t as skinny and slim as the typical Chinese girl. I am tall and have an Ivy League education, but I have dark skin and can’t write Chinese characters that well (I’m still working on it). My friend is considered handsome and has a lot of street smarts but he’s shorter than average and didn't do well in school. It’s all the same: people are loved for their “accepted” attributes and discriminated against for their 缺点. That’s life in China.

From my experience living in China with Chinese friends and family, I have never known what ethnic group anyone was. My aunt on my father’s side is Manchu. I found that out last year when my mom told me. My grand-uncle on my father’s side is Mongul. A few of my colleagues are all minorities from small rural villages. No one has any clue until they are specifically told. That is the beauty of China: solely based on your skin color: You can be identified as maybe poorer, maybe a laborer, maybe a 花销 (Oversees Chinese). What you can’t see is your ethnic group.