Tuesday, September 30, 2008

WWE Wresting is in CHINA! WHAT?!?!

As I'm writing in my blog right now, I have the Guangzhou sports channel on (Channel 67 on Shenzhen's local cable). To my surprise, the programming being broadcasted right now isnt a European Champion's League soccer game nor is it a replay of an 2008 Beijing Olympic event - that has been often on TV recently. It's not even a boring strategy guide of Chinese chess.

No. It's WWE's Monday night RAW with John Cena wrestling in a 2 on 1 event.


Yes. You heard it here. The World Wrestling Entertainment is here in China. As I've noticed in the brief time I've been checking the show out, it seems like unedited segments of the live events broadcasted in its natural form. The viewer can hear the English broadcast, plot lines and music but the entire production is voiced over by a Chinese commentator. This guy explains each wrestler's history, their technique and special moves, the plot lines, situations and almost a play-by-play of the matches. I wonder how these commentators made up the Chinese vocab for a Stone Cold Stunner...

Best Quote: "[In Chinese] Don't do these submission moves at home, kids."

What is with WWE events being broadcasted in China of all places? What are they thinking? Although I dont know if fake wrestling is as popular here in China as it is in the midwest and south in the USA, I do know that the WWE is making a play at the China market just like the NBA, MLB, NFL (not to mention just about all other western companies).

In my opinion, it's incredibly funny that this is on TV here in Shenzhen, China. If Chinese people actually watch this programing, what would they think about how crazy US sports are. I wonder if the China version shows the girls wrestle in skimpy bikinis too??

Monday, September 29, 2008

Shenzhen Gov't Make Arrests After Deadly Fires

In the past few days, the Shenzhen government has taken action and arrested more than 2o people in association with recent unexpected fires in the SEZ.

The first action, 13 people were arrested for the fatal fire that killed party-goers at a Longgang night club a week ago. As China Daily reports, Investors, club workers and founders were all taken into custody for their involvment and neglegence in the event.
As of 12 am on Friday, family members of 31 victims of the fire had signed compensation agreements with the local government, according to the Longgang district authorities.

The Longgang district government is paying kin of those who died 250,000 yuan.

The property of Wu Wang Club has been frozen and the lawsuit over the fire is expected to take a while. Family members of the victims can file a suit and claim for compensation from the frozen club property. The club will pay back the government after the court ruling, said Huang Wei, spokesman for the Longgang district government.

Some 43 people injured in the fire are still in hospital. Four of them are on life support. Medical experts assigned by the Ministry of Health said the injury to their nervous system as a result of suffocation is most likely beyond recovery.

Despite a citywide drive to preempt such incidents following the nightclub fire, a fire broke out at an old factory of a Taiwan-funded company in Shajing of Shenzhen's Bao'an district around 4 am on Friday. It was put out in five hours. There were no casualties.

On the following day, Xinghua reported the arrest of officials allegedly involved a factory fire that happened back in February in Shenzhen.
Nine people including four government officials have been arrested in connection with a fatal factory fire that claimed 15 lives in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, in February.

The four officials, identified as Huang Hanguang, Zeng Hongbo, Lin Guozhong and Yi Rao, were from the city's fire fighting bureau and environment protection bureau. They were arrested on charges of neglecting their duties and misconduct, said the press office of the Shenzhen government on Sunday.
As I have seen personally in the past few days, hopefully this kind of attention will bring greater awareness for fire safety in the city.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Shenzhen Clubs Adjust to Fire Safety

Last night I spent a night out in Shenzhen. As I posted before, ever since the deadly fire and stampede a week ago in Longgang district, a lot of changes have been made to Shenzhen nightlife.

Here are some of the stuff I noticed:
  • Chocolate, Ubar, Yellow, InClub and Rox were all closed. No lights were on and no people were around.
  • Popular hang outs like Soho, Face and Richy were somehow open.
  • Since all of the other clubs were already full, Soho had a huge line outside trying to get in.
  • At Face, there was much less people than there are usually.
I spent the majority of my time at Richy, the typical high-scale hongkong and shenzhen elite hangout. While there were no lines, it was much more difficult to get in than usual. A lot of people were being turned away at the door due to the limits on the amount of people inside. More foreigners than usual were being turned away as well.

After going inside Richy club, it only looked like it was 70% capacity as it used to look before the incident. The dance floor was gone while at least 8 tables next to high traffic areas were taken away. This left huge spaces for people to walk around. Some of the VIP sofas were also removed in favor of wider paths for club-goers. All of these measures definitely walking around earlier but a lot of the ambiance was destroyed. Now instead of a packed, really intimate feel, it felt like it was 9pm and people were just kind of hanging out.

Things were definitely different than before.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Shenzhen Gov't Takes Action After Deadly Fire & Stampede at Club

Almost a week ago now a fire at a nightclub in Longgang district in Shenzhen left at least 43 people dead and another 45 people injured. During a show, fireworks ignited the ceiling tiles overhead causing a fire. While the fire was relatively small, it ignited panic that caused a stampede out of the club. News outlets from China and all over the world covered the event.

I personally have never been to the Longgang area. It is as far and different from my Luohu and Nanshan clubs as the Bronx would be for Meatpacking district Manhattan. (So thank you to all of my friends who messaged me asking if I was ok).

Fire safety awareness in China is very lax. Whether lack of awareness is from ignorance or intentional I dont know. It is, however a big reason why a lot of fatal fires have occurred in China's public places (To be fair, fires in NYC clubs have been frequent as well). While there are proper stairwells and emergency exits, most are not maintained well. Poor lighting and using it as storage are the major problems. While there are solid and concrete laws on the books, the implementation and enforcement of these laws are lax until an event like this takes place (again, just as i've seen in NYC). Also, Chinese clubs really try to pack people into a small amount of space. Even for really big bars and clubs, there are soo many tables and chairs that walking around is incredibly difficult, not to mention any kind of reaction to a fire.

Since the fire, local government have taken action. My friends have mentioned that popular bars like Ubar, Yellow, Face, and others all over Shenzhen have shut down temporarily due inspections for safety. While some opened back up immediately, others that don’t conform to standards are still closed.

Bars and clubs are not the only issue either. These fire safety problems are present in office buildings, hospitals and other facilities as well. My hope is that the Shenzhen gov't will actively address all of these issues in light of the recent event.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shenzhou 7 is on Final Countdown

We are on final countdown till the next group of Chinese taikonauts go into space. Tomorrow night, 9/25/2008 at around 9:50pm, Shenzhou 7 will lift off for a mission in space. This will mark the first space walk ever by an Chinese astronaut, or 太空人.

I've been reading about the imminent launch recently on CNN and Google News, however, I haven't looked that much into it. Talking to a friend a few days ago, the most important and interesting aspect of China going into space is that the technology was basically all developed in China. Although some of basic designs were originally taken from the Souez of Russia, it has been extensively re engineered and redesigned. All of the technology necessary for the life support, power, communications, operations, everything has been made in China. This is because Europe and the US will not give China any help in anything space related.

After getting back to my apartment from the gym today, while surfing the channels, I saw a CCTV News channel special feature on the mission called 中华看神舟. Hosted by news anchors from the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. This feature included the dedication ceremony held by officials in the space agency as well as personal profiles of the astronauts.

One of the features of the Shenzhou 7 mission is that all 3 astronauts are from northern China - 2 from Heilongjiang province (where I was born). Both came from humble beginnings in relatively poor families. The leader of the mission and one of the alternates for the 1st manned mission into space, his grandmother sold sunflower seeds as snacks to help put him through high school. Only though dedication, luck and hard work did the astronauts get to where they are now.

Interesting other parts of the program includes: 中华看神州
  • The 3 astronauts still do not know who will make the first Chinese space walk yet.
  • All 3 were born in 1966.
  • The main training compound for astronauts is located ini the suburbs of Beijing. The astronauts stay on campus from Monday through Friday and have all activities, meals and facilities on campus. Only during the weekend can they leave campus.
  • After the interview, the program showed an extended graphic of the mission which included the preparations, liftoff, separation, orbital patterns crew working, crew compartments, preparations of the space walk and the actual walk - all in 3D graphics.
  • During the interview with one of the taikonauts, although he wanted to be the person who did the first space walk, he quickly reiterated the importance of this mission and the collective pride of all the astronauts who were chosen for this mission and their dedication to it.
  • There was no doubt in the astronauts' mind that the mission would be successful.
  • There are more than 200 reporters and correspondents on site at the launch pad.
  • The launch pad complex has more than 20,000 people living there, complete with schools, restaurants, offices and entertainment.
I'm going to try to watch the lift off with my extended family here in Shenzhen. It's going to be quite a show.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Shezhen Investing $200 Million in Vietnam

For the past year a lot of factors have been hurting Shenzhen factories manufacturers.

1. Huge increases in the cost of commodities, from plastics to iron and everything in between
2. Inflation in China
3. Appreciation of the RMB - making products less competitive when exporting to the US
4. New worker standards in China = higher wages for the same jobs
5. The inability to pass the rising costs to the clients overseas
6. Tax breaks and customs tax rebates to Chinese companies exporting internationally have been repealed

All of these factors have severely hurt once profitable businesses into lagging money-losing enterprises. The owner of my new apartment i'm renting in Nanshan is a part owner of a factory who does business with western clients like Walmart. He said that every month he loses 400,000 RMB on workers salaries and factory overhead costs. However, if he actually worked on any orders, his loses would INCREASE to 600,000 RMB. He loses money if his factory makes product. This means that the factory stays idle while he and his partners look for new sources of income.

In the west, companies are already exploring other sources of low cost labor. Vietnam is supposed to be the Next Guangdong province. A lot of foreign companies have already left China for greener pastures in Vietnam. Realizing this trend, Shenzhen is taking action. In a recent Thanhnien News article, Shenzhen is reportedly investing $200 million in a economic trade zone.

The park, 125 kilometers from the Vietnamese capital, aims to attract 170 Chinese manufacturing companies in the clothing and electronics industries to take advantage of the country’s cheap labor and the government’s preferential policies and tax incentives...

So it seems, not only are western companies leaving Shenzhen for more inland provinces and other southeast asian countries, so are Shenzhen factories themselves. Maybe in a few years, the same factories will be doing business with the same clients only in Vietnam instead of Shenzhen.

Friday, September 12, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics: Comparing US's NBC and China's CCTV Coverage of the Opening Ceremonies

I finally came back to Shenzhen after staying in Beijing for the Olympics and post-Olympic festivities for about a month. After a few days of movie watching, video games playing and takeout in my new apartment, I finally decided to venture out into the local neighborhood in the Nanshan district.

At the local bootleg 5RMB bootleg DVD stand, I was able to get the new Mummy 3 as well as a great version of the Iron Man and Batman movies. (Note: Although the government has definitely cracked down on the sale of bootleg DVDs for the past few years, they are still found in different neighborhoods sold by a few people.) To my surprise I also found the DVD with the full version of the NBC broadcast of the 2008 Beijing Olympic opening ceremony. Wow.

After watching the live ceremony in Ditan park in north Beijing with 5000 people and rebroadcasts on Chinese TV multiple times, I wanted to see the NBC version. (My friend actually interned for NBC during the Olympics and helped edit and translate footage for different events.) I wanted to see how the US viewed the opening ceremony and the games. Remember back in 1996, Chinese people in America protested Bob Costas for his comments about Chinese athletes.

Overall, the coverage was very positive. Here are some of the things I saw:

  • NBC did an excellent job with the political issues surrounding China hosting the Olympics. They showed China in a pretty positive light with only a few comments referencing political issues. You could even see the commentators tread lightly on the political issues.
  • NBC camera work during the artistic portion at the beginning was better than the Chinese CCTV coverage. CCTV spent a lot of time focused on specific performers during each stage while NBC used many more wide-camera angles to get the big picture.
  • Bob Costas and Matt Lauer “warned” the American viewers about the sheer size and scale of the ceremony before it started. They also commented during the initial drum performance that viewers might consider it “awe inspiring and perhaps somewhat intimidating.”
  • In his post Opening Ceremony press conference, Jiang Yimou explained that the entire cost of the ceremony was less than the previous opening ceremony of the Doha Asian Games held in 2007, held in a oil rich Arab country. He wanted tog et the maximum effect for the least cost.
  • A huge amount of emphasis was put on the importance of the Olympics in China and the “overwhelming sense of pride the Chinese people in the days leading up to it. The same amount of importance was also on the idea of “harmony” in the Chinese psyche and the theme of the Olympics.
  • Commercial interruption on NBC really sucks for an event like this. No commercials in China. FYI, the transitions were pretty flawless just like the rest of the ceremony.
  • Quotes by Bob Costas: “Woah” (when Li Ning was lifted up to light the flame) and “When it comes to opening ceremonies, retire the trophy.”
  • NBC invited their China expert to co-host and give more perspective on the games. He did an excellent job with the symbolism invoked in the performance as well as more interesting tidbits into Chinese history. A lot of the political issues were also put in a historical context, something a lot of Americans lack while looking at China.
  • A great explanation of the combination of people doing "karate" around a group a school children was just an example - a harmony of man with nature is the only hope the children of the future have to solve all of the problems in the world.
  • There were a lot of shots of the members of the “Redeem Team”, the USA Men’s Basketball team. With a lot of star power and constant presence, Lebron James, Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant were repeated shown to be taking pictures with other athletes from different countries.
  • While CCTV commentators were part of the event, reading scripted material that aided the audience in every piece, the transitions and symbolism in very Chinese artistic language, the NBC trio was very spontaneous, joking and dumbstruck by the show. This was probably because they weren’t “in the know”