inside thoughts on China and beyond

Posts tagged “worry

Hong Kong – Pearl of China (HK.3)


Pearl of ChinaRecent protests in Hong Kong caused me to reflect once more on my short stay in this Pearl of the Orient. If Honk Kong was dreading its return to mainland China in 1997 for political reasons, with the battle of Tiananmen Square less than a decade earlier still looming over its people as the threatening dark clouds of Mordor, the anticipation of wealth that would be flooding its streets and shops and households surely made up for it. The bitter-sweet, decades-old Chinese medicine of ‘two systems, one country’ would do the trick, it was assured. But what good can come from an affair with an abusive husband? (more…)

Migrant Workers and The China Dream (part 2)

Chunjie is a moving business in quite the literal sense of the word: everyone is moving, and most are moving home. And like all previous Chinese New Year holidays, records are broken. Now, an estimated 200 million trips will be made -all in about 2 weekends. Should be enough to topple the earth, if you ask me. And this time, Da Erzi joined the crowd.  (more…)

The Stroller

My traffic light is red. I stop. (Do take note of this; stopping for traffic lights isn’t anyone’s second nature after more than 10 years in China – remarkable, really!) I wait and watch thick raindrops splash on my windscreen. Soon I will need to switch the wipers from interval mode to constant. A young woman is crossing the road. With one hand she pushes her stroller loaded with Aldi shopping bags hanging heavily on the handlebar while holding an umbrella with the other. (more…)


LamentationsBuckets of tears we shed, and believe me, it was a real family happening. Everyone joined in. Eyes watered and messed up mascara -not that we have mascara, but it visualizes the flow of tears so nicely- and soon enough large murky floods poured out from us that would dwarf the 3 Gorges Dam. Noses dripped like leaking taps. My son handed me a tissue -again. It was the same one I passed on to my wife just a minute ago. Tissues were shared. For the last time. The last time! “Whaaah!!!” And off we went again. (more…)

Earthquake Expert

There are those days you will never forget. They stay with you forever. Not that we always want to, but they do. Just take a second. While reading this, I’m sure something is popping up in your head ‘while we speak’ so to speak. And for your sake, I surely hope so. No life can possibly be so boring that it has not one moment of deep hardship or glorious fortune, not one moment of lonely obscurity or unbridled fame; not one moment that you will always remember. All that to say: today was just one of those days. (more…)

Superstition and other Luck

Fireworks were shot into the sky -twice, mind you: first on Chinese New Year’s eve and again fifteen days later – and devils and other evil fled from China, to the far ends of the world. Scared. Although I wouldn’t be surprised that they were, more than anything, scared of the polluted air. And I would flee too, if I could, (more…)

Red Alarm


(Monday 174 red)  The sun is shining -though somewhat watery. The sky is blueish and the temperature is just right. The peach trees in front of our kitchen window are blossoming -spring is in the air! These are those rare days that I just can’t stop myself from running. Running my lazy winter sweat out. Loosening my stiff muscles. Pumping blood through my vessels and spring air into my lungs. Reason to rejoice, was it not that there is more in the air. More than meets the eye. It’s called pollution. (more…)

Portfolio – Emperors of the Middle Kingdom

Portfolio – Emperors of the Middle Kingdom

February 2013

The One Child policy has lead to a dramatic surplus of males and a problematic shortage of future workforce, most of whom, to make it worse, are considered the overly spoiled xiao shihuangdi (=little emperors).  But is China’s youth really a spoiled generation? Have a look for yourself… (read more)

Exit Xichang

clothIn America, striving for happiness is as fundamental as the Declaration of Independence itself. In China, it is the government’s worry number one, as it has been for centuries. To maintain a ‘harmonious society’, they are working hard to keep the people happy. But happiness doesn’t always come easy.  (more…)

Twisted Care

Yesterday, I twisted my ankle, if not worse.

All I know is that while cutting trees and branches in my back garden, I jumped off a wall, onto a chair. Well, that was it. Not that I haven’t done that before –from higher walls even. Of course, I blame the chair. Never jump on Chinese chairs. They are just not made for it. Anyway, I jumped onto the chair, the chair made movements I’ve never seen it do before (more…)

Portfolio – World of Wondering

Portfolio – World of Wondering

Sept 2012

People dream. People wonder. People stare. At times, we are lost in our thoughts. Moments when we find ourselves physically present but mentally in another world. Unconsciously staring out, but looking in. An impression of these moments… (read more).


The Ideal State

Did you know –and you could have known, if you follow the news- that Singapore is Utopia? But let me specify. With ‘if you follow the news’, I meant Murdoch’s news. As we now know, he has his own ways of getting information, so when he says that Singapore is The Ideal State, I’m sure he knows where he is talking about. It is quite ironical, if you think about it: the boss of thousands of journalists and many broadcasting companies and other news clubs, basically the boss of everything that represents freedom of speech, the symbol of Western democratic liberty; this boss admires a state that imprisons journalists who write beyond their cup of teh tarik. Murdoch reasoning, by the way, is that Singapore’s leaders get paid so much that it lifts them above corruption. It seems then that not all news reaches him or his papers.

It just makes you wonder how free our reporters and news researchers have truly been all this time, when we entrusted this so important aspect of our society to the likes as Murdoch with his power to make and break politicians in benches or in bed, not to mention journalists. God entrusting the devil to safeguard his creation. China chuckles about this -quietly. “Is this not the free press so holy and dear to the free world?” “Is this not the media that criticizes China for curbing journalists, unjust reporting and hacking computers?”

Not that Murdock has ever worried much about this. Since this Aussie married a Chinese factory girl with a Harvard degree, the gates into the Middle Kingdom opened wide for him and his dollars. He found his way and got his way and he knows all too well that business is compromising as good as you can and thus, between the many gan-bei’s of long business lunches, his Sky channel quietly yet quickly removed BBC News from the channel list. But really, who needs the British? China’s CCTV International is now broadcasting across the globe and it is hard to find a hotel that doesn’t have CCTV’s International news. Why worry?

Let’s take an example. The troubles in Xinjiang –the killings in Kashgar and Hotan by Uyghur separatists- has been widely covered in the Chinese media this last week. Terrorists; evil forces trained and financed abroad; Muslim extremists, not unlike the 9/11 boys… according to Chinese press. And who can blame China now for having it’s own Guantanamo prison? In Western media one will pick up different sounds: suppressed people seeking liberty; a folk with deep wounds of mistreatment and deceit. Horrible! But what is the difference – to you? The commercials are  the same and isn’t that all we remember before we turn of the light and worry about tomorrow morning’s meeting while we have no hard time falling asleep?

What then? Is openness the measure of trustworthiness? It is so much common knowledge that the Chinese media is largely the government’s mouth piece, that it can be considered as transparent: we know who it represents. Call it journalism with Chinese characteristics. Western media is different. It is independent and gifted with the highest moral standards and practices, and Murdock is their boss. Where does that leave us?

The first smiles here in the local tea house just around the corner came after the economic collapse of many democratic European state and the hijacking of Obama’s government by a Tea Party, juggling with a budget of about the size similar to Steve Job’s Apple Inc’s reserves – or less then that. Freely chosen leaders, all unable to act firm and fast. “So this is your beloved democracy; your holy grail that the rest of the world should follow and adopt??” That’s when the smiles appear. You will not hear loud laughs that would reflect true feelings and thoughts or judgments. Just a smile. “We’ll see; we’ll wait.” (I have to admit that this local tea house is somewhat more of a figurative representation of what I read in between the lines here, not a physical truth. Those who have time for tea tend to be more busy discussing their choice of tomorrow’s cars from today’s newspaper ads rather than yesterday’s politics. Life is hard if you have to choose between Mercedes or Lamborghini. And those who don’t have time for tea, ah well, they just don’t have time.)

But back to my point. (And don’t worry, I’m not exactly sure what my point is either, but it does look good saying that here.) You see, here, leaders have all the time in the world. No need to hurry. China plans its political direction in periods of 15 years. Give it time. “Don’t do today what can be done tomorrow!” seems a widespread Chinese characteristic. (And that’s why my office is still not clean!) Leaders in the West are constantly in a rush and fighting. They -especially US presidents, and feel free to ask them if you don’t believe me!- are fighting for time, since  about half of their 4-year duty is taken up by endless shouting of empty promises and shameless threats in the hope to be granted another 4 years of ruling in what has already been characterized as corprocracy rather than democracy. And they are fighting of attacks of their opponents whose primary mission it is to undermine and corrupt in order to weaken the leader and take over by the next election. Then it is their turn… and the game is on again, but in reverse. And while the West is digging itself deeper and deeper in its own debt-and-never-really-finish-the-job-hole, China’s leaders Hu and Wen can lean back and relax. No need to hurry. No need to show real feelings or intentions. Take your time. Let’s have some more tea and a good nap, another aircraft carrier, some more tea and good naps and then the South Chinese Sea. Way to go!

As Wang Qishan, high ranking Politburo member and vice-premier of some sorts, radiated during a conference in Beijing in 2008 facing a fine selection of the world’s biggest bankers: “You have your way. We have our way. And our way is right!” He didn’t say the last part. But I’m sure he smiled.

Micro Worries

“Next year I will not be in elementary school anymore!” my son exclaimed with a mix of pride and scare, one evening last week.  I don’t think he did it on purpose, but it surely hit me hard and evaporated my youthful feelings in one breath. And as if to add salt on the wound, my daughter announced she had a party, a high school party. One of those with tuxedos and gala dresses and 4 hours at the beautician shop for 2 hours dancing. But despite being suddenly reduced to an emotionally troubled and quickly aging, worried daddy that knows the horror stories all too well, I was glad to learn that no alcohol would be poured and that there would be more chaperons than students, so that’s OK. But when we saw her the next morning, or more precisely, the next day, because by the time she managed to stumble out of bed the rest of the family just finished a late lunch, the surprise came. “Who are you?” I wanted to say but of course I didn’t. Her little brother simply exclaimed, “Wow” and I wasn’t sure it was in admiration or terror. “What happened to your eyes?” “They burned it”. “Aach! They burned it?” If there was any admiration earlier, this now definitely changed to horror.  “No, they heat up your eyelashes so they curl up.” “And what about your hair …?”

As a father who sometimes worries about the inevitable –and yes I know: no use, waste of time, but what can I say?- , it can be worse. What would you think of your daughter on auction? China Daily presented it proudly. It was a public display. Ladies were lined up. All with numbers in their hands. They were on auction. No, they were not visitors to the auction; they were the items auctioned. This was not the old Roman empire of 2000 years ago or the Song Dynasty of 1000 years ago, where slaves and concubines could be bought on public markets. This is Beijing 2011 – today. Nannies for sale. Their teeth are checked, their strength tested, their smiles measured and perhaps their cup sizes too, in silence. Six of the 10 changed laoban (boss), the remaining 4, well, we will never know, the paper didn’t say.

But let me assure you: I’m not the only parent in China worrying about his kids. Chinese are worriers. You wouldn’t say it, but it is a fact. Great warriors in the past, great worriers now. And modern Chinese parents beat them all. With all those grandpas and grandmas stumbling after their one and only abusively spoiled grandchild filling in for the forever absent parents; with all the private boarding schools popping up and piling out, you may think the opposite. Not so. It’s just that Chinese parents worry from a distance while multitasking. And it’s a booming market.

Last month, an experiment started in Beijing with irremovable GPS armbands for kindergarteners. So mum and Big Brother can track them 24-7. Everyone is excited! Kids think it’s cool. Mums think it’s safe. Big Brother thinks it is a good practice to get used to. So no future Nobel Price winner will object to it when his time comes.

But the latest invention catering to these worriers is a system for video monitoring of classes so that parents can see their kid all through the day on their iPhone while lining up for the hard-to-get iPad 4G second edition. How fun! Watching your child color his paper; watching him write the Chinese character for yi (one) wrong -by now mum is making a mental note (or an iPhone note) to get her son a tutor as soon as possible; no, better still: get her son his own phone so she can SMS him if he needs help. Oh, see, he’s pinching his neighbor and throwing erasers at the teacher…How cute! Now, while playing cards or flipping through flashy fashion magazines in one of the many new Starbucks that  are popping up everywhere, mum can constantly check whether the teacher is treating her little darling appropriately, which practically means that the kid needs to be treated better than all others. One wrong move and the teacher has her phone ringing. And with a student population from anywhere between 20 to 40 in her class, that phone will be ringing nonstop. Surprise, surprise, the teachers are not happy. Already they need at least one assistant with that many spoiled brats in class, now they need one more, just to deal with all those mummies on the phone. But, it’s a real hit and more cities will soon start implementing it. That the teacher doesn’t like the idea only adds fuel to suspecting them of ill intent. What do you have to hide, teacher? For kids it is their first real tool to blackmail their teacher. Soon, we’ll be able to follow the fights on micro blog….

You see, in this progressive society where people are born with phones on their ear, constant and instant information is the key. Because for decade the traditional news providers are mouthpieces of the Party and thus per definition not really trusted, citizens and netizens turn to other means to get informed. Their new medium: micro blog.

See it as a Chinese version of Facebook. (But what do I know about Facebook, since here it is unreachable on the other side of China’s Great Cyber Wall.) With it’s millions of ‘friends’ it has caused more than one rumor to grow out to a nation-wide panic. One of those was shortly after the nuclear disaster in Japan. People started buying all the salt they could get, just in case the Japanese radiation cloud would invade China. Salt absorbs radiation, but only if taken in quantities that turn your blood vessels into pillars, but then, when has panic ever lead to good reasoning? The rumor was spread and the people full of fear. Worry. Within days, a small message that started somewhere on a Shanghai micro blog effectively spread to 600 million fellow Chinese, the other 600 must have heard it in the supermarket. We haven’t heard from this blogger again, but each week, we are updated by micro bloggers of their latest discovery of deadly habits or products and they freely provide the remedy that goes with it. And each time, it causes shortages in the stores triggering more panic and worries. The self-fulfilling prophecies of micro blog worriers. But micro blog is not only spreading news, it is also making it. And that, well, that is Beijing’s greatest worry.