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Tianjin · It’s a chunk of China west and south of Beijing, extending to the sea, with a mere fifteen or so million or so people. It was where our walking-the-Wall sequence ended up, specifically at 黄崖关 (Huangyaguan). The wall there was OK, but there was an attached museum I really liked, and also the Eastern Qing Tombs, which are highly photogenic and full of stories. Here’s a view out over Huangyaguan from up on the Wall ...
Walking the Great Wall · That was the name of the tour and that’s what we did, on each of five successive days. It was exhausting and thrilling and educational and yielded more good pictures than good stories. So herewith an illustrated narrative of what you might expect to do and see if you take this sort of tour ...
On Liking Beijing · It’s complicated. No big city offers just one flavor. Beijing (only China’s third biggest) has plenty. I feel no need to go back (see Disliking Beijing) but I liked some ...
On Disliking Beijing · Walking the Great Wall was fun, but Beijing is more intense, leaving me with strong and mixed feelings. There’s a lot to dislike, and on balance I can’t imagine wanting to live there. (But see also On Liking Beijing.) ...
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Fujifilm X-T30 · I bought the latest Fuji in Hong Kong. Herewith the how and why, and twenty-four Chinese-flavored photos as supporting evidence. Um, if you’re visiting on a less-than-fast Internet link, you might have to wait a bit for ’em. Sorry ’bout that ...
2000km · That’s the distance from Hong Kong to Beijing, and if you’re on a train that cruises at 306km/h, you can leave at 8:05AM and arrive one minute past five in the afternoon. The train has a number and a Wikipedia entry: G80 (check it out for some cool pix of the train). I suspect that not that many readers have taken this, so herewith words and pictures ...
Visiting Buddha · Its official name is Tian Tan Buddha but everyone in Hong Kong just says “Big Buddha” and indeed it’s maybe the biggest tourist attraction. That’s OK, it’s worth visiting and you probably should if you’re there. I offer no insights about Asian religions but some possibly-useful tourist advice and a couple of pictures that make me smile ...
The Surface of China · What happened was, the girls are finishing Grade Seven so we walked the Great Wall of China. This actually makes perfect sense. By “the girls” I mean my daughter and a schoolfriend; they’ve been in Mandarin Bilingual elementary and have learned quite a bit of Chinese. They may be at their maximum proficiency for a while, since their high schools’ Mandarin offerings aren’t that great. So we (I mean the girls’ parents) thought we should expose them to some Real Chinese. Except for none of the adults speak any, so we went shopping for tours and picked Walk the Great Wall of China ...
Chinese Workers’ Problems · This New York Times story, telling ugly stories of human suffering at Chinese outsourcers, isn’t about Apple. It’s pure politics and economics ...
Tibet and Twitter · On the plane home from San Francisco, I was sitting among a bunch of Tibetans who’d been down from Vancouver for the big protests around the Olympic Torch relay. I was honoured to be with them. The day before, I’d been following the action mostly on Twitter: check out @teamtibet, where they were helping organize the protests. Twitter, it’s an activist’s dream. But I couldn’t find online video or photos of Majora Carter carrying the torch and the Tibetan flag. Oh, and China, here’s a reality we honkies internalized way back when: Imperialism, it can do wonders for your commercial position and in distracting the citizens from the regime’s domestic failings. But on the other hand, the bad PR is just never gonna go away. So, you want the upside, you just gotta suck it up and deal with the image damage. Public whining ill-suits a wannabe imperial power.
Missing in Shanghai · Wikipedia. BBC News. YouTube. Everyone on wordpress.com and on blogspot.com. Plus, all feeds hosted at FeedBurner (and that’s a lot of feeds, including some pretty big-name bloggers). Mind you, all this changes, sometimes from week to week, they tell me. Still, you have to feel sorry for Chinese knowledge workers, fighting with one hand tied behind their back.
Ups and Downs · Everybody I know travels to China repeatedly it seems, but I haven’t for a decade or more, and that was Hong Kong, so herewith the Shanghai-newbie experience ...
Tab Sweep — The World · Today we have music, China, head counts, terrorism, and telemarketers ...
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Those Commies · One of this week’s deliverables was a visa for the Shanghai trip. This involved a total of about five hours in line at the Vancouver PRC consulate, an unpleasant place; but the visa looks great ...
Tab Sweep — The World · You know, each and every one of these is worth a carefully-considered little essay; but I just don’t have the cycles, and publishing them is better than not ...
Great Wall Protest · It was Canadians, two of them from Vancouver, who went and hoisted the “Free Tibet” poster on the Great Wall. What’s the point of having young people in the world if they don’t pull off looney stunts like this? I’m so proud of ’em. Here’s the CBC story, the Flickr photos, and first-person coverage in Beijing Wide Open by Lhadon Tethong.
Hao Wu and Graham McMynn · Graham McMynn is a teenager who was kidnapped in Vancouver on April 4th and freed, in a large, noisy, and newsworthy police operation, on April 12th. Hao Wu is a Chinese film-maker and blogger who was kidnapped in Beijing on February 22nd in a small, quiet police operation not intended to be newsworthy, and who has not been freed. Read about it here, here, and here. Making noise about it might influence the government of China to moderate its actions against Mr. Wu, and can’t do any harm. Mr. McMynn’s kidnappers were a gaggle of small-time hoodlums, one of whom was out on bail while awaiting trial for another kidnapping (!). Mr. Wu’s were police. In a civilized country, the function of the police force is to deter such people and arrest them. A nation where they are the same people? Nobody could call it “civilized”. [Update, months later: Hao Wu is free.]
Seventeen Years Later · June 4th is the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Go search YouTube for Tienanmen, lots of good stuff including several versions of the famous guy-and-the-tank footage. The best book I’ve ever read about the spring of 1989 in China is Jan Wong’s Red China Blues. It still seems to me that China’s current political structure is flimsy, teetering, and ready to implode.
Chinese Standing Up · When the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949, Mao Zedong famously said “China has stood up.” While it took another forty years to get started, the recent economic explosion has been a world-changer. But that story isn’t over; there’s a remarkable piece in the NY Times this morning outlining how the Chinese are doing a bit of standing up on their own, economically. They’re walking away from those “cheap labour” manufacturing jobs that have served as one of the main economic drivers of the last couple of decades. At the end of the day, cheap labour doesn’t stay cheap. And while there are probably some more “cheap labour” places for businesses to move—India, Africa—the consequences for China have to be profound. And I can see the day coming, maybe not in my lifetime but not that much further out, when the whole notion of moving businesses around the world so you can pay people less has become, finally, self-defeating. What happens then?
The Guy in the Tank · Lauren asks a real good question: I often wonder what happened to the person driving the tank at Tiananmen Square, the one who didn’t roll over the single protestor standing in the way?
On Freeing China · In the pages of the current Business Week, to my surprise, a credible write-up on how the people of China might get out from under their government’s thumb. It takes a bit of a long view, which is appropriate when addressing a big problem ...
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