Changing of the Red Guard

President XI Jinping will have to contend with a increasingly technologically savvy China

Over the last two weeks, Chinese government officials have gathered in Beijing for the National People’s Congress (NPC), and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). In Chinese, this gathering is known as the “Two Meetings”— an annual assembly that puts forth national-level political decisions.

This year’s meetings marked the once-in-ten-year transition of state figureheads. Under President HU Jintao and Premier WEN Jiabao, the past decade has been most notably characterized by large-scale growth. There’s been the darling infrastructure projects,  like the Three-Gorges Dam and the high-speed railway network; the push for increased global prominence, such as China’s entry to the World Trade Organization and the 2008 Olympics; and of course, the  high national GDP growth, which averaged 11%. Canada’s average for this period, by the way, was roughly 2%.

Last week, President HU (pronounced “WHO”) handed over the reins of power to XI Jinping (last name pronounced “SHE;” hopefully his name will not engender too many headline jokes a la Michael Scott). XI brings to the table a charisma that the previous two generations of Chinese leaders severely lacked. Plus, a modern political PR machine that has aided in molding a much more affable and “of the people” narrative. AND, a super star wife, who, in addition to her singing fame, has been working on HIV and TB issues since 2005, most recently as the World Health Organization’s Global Ambassador.


Got a Ticket to Ride?

To Infinity and Beyond! Source.

Long, slow-moving lines in China are never a good sign, especially when preceding a lengthy journey in a cramped space. Such was my luck last Saturday night, as I prepared to go back to my research site after a short work-ation during Spring Festival (a.k.a., Chinese New Year). It had been a restful and productive week in a small Bai minority village, surrounded by the Cang Mountain panorama and Erhai Lake, and only a three kilometer walk through emerald fields to the old town tourist area. If there was a better place to start my dissertation writing, I would be hard pressed to name it. I felt the tension return to my shoulders as I waited for the serpentine crowd to move. And then the whispers caught my ear: “Those people have standing tickets.”


A Kunming Carole: Reflections on the Holidays in Five Scenes

Street Performer, Jinma Fang, Kunming, 25 Dec 2012

Scene One: Christmas Light Bulb

I knew I wanted to write a blog post about spending the holidays in China, but couldn’t  find a thread to tie my thoughts and experiences together. China, being an atheist state (opiate of the masses and all), does not officially celebrate Christmas. This has not, however, stopped the incursion of a certain jolly resident of the North Pole, or market capitalism from incentivizing a growing red-and-green presence starting in early December. Some of it is right on, like the decked-out Christmas trees that occupy the front of major department stores. Some of it is slightly off, like the Chinese translation of Christmas as Shengdan Jie (圣诞节), which literally translates to “Holy Birth Holiday,” but might also be confused for “Santa Holiday.” And then there is the downright funny appropriations, like the balloon-and-stilts payaso Santa I came across in one of Kunming’s main public squares. Cobbling these images together in a coherent manner seems at once forced and yet inefficient in capturing this unique collage.

I’ve gotten into the habit of going to a nearby Cantonese restaurant on not-just-Saturdays to indulge in dim sum, and catch up on some reading on my Kindle. The food is delicious, the location is convenient, and the clientele is exclusively Chinese. I found myself heading there, thinking about how best to describe the holiday experience. Busy as always, I walked into the restaurant, and couldn’t help but smile: my familiar servers were buzzing around, carefully balancing little delicatessens on bamboo steamers, all the while wearing Santa hats and moving to Jingle Bells. In Chinese, of course.


Of Elephants, Donkeys, Dragons and Men: Thinking about how China Perceives the U.S. Perception of China

Street-side advertisement for the November issue of Vista Magazine, Kunming, China 2012

It’s been over a month since U.S. citizens went to polling stations and exercised their right to elect representatives to office.  Having cast my absentee ballot in September, I watched the lead up to the election half-heartedly, frustrated by bad Chinese internet connections, and without the possibility to change my vote. Thirteen hours ahead of EST, I woke up on Wednesday, November 7th to hear political pundits on NPR (the only reliable stream available) go on about the feasibility of a Romney victory. And then, quickly it was over.

For U.S-observers here, it wasn’t entirely surprising that China played a significantly more prominent role in comparison to previous presidential elections (see graph below). For example, in the third presidential debate on foreign policy, “the China question” even closed down the show (what no Europe?). Obama and Romney’s responses differed only by degree, both highlighting the precariousness of Sino-U.S. bilateral relations and recapitulating a tried image: China, while a potential global partner, is mostly a threat, to the economy and trade, national and regional security, intellectual property, and the list goes on. Strangely, (perhaps even tellingly?), in his introduction to this line of questioning, Bob Scheiffer, the debate moderator, seamlessly sequewayed from an initial China reference to ask the candidates: “What do you believe is the greatest future threat to national security?”

Excuse me? (more…)

Cricket fighting.

Hello world!

I’ve been wondering what to write about in my first post, and I decided on the awesome topic of cricket fighting. O great and noble sport! Sadly diluted by modernity 🙂 Let me see what small repairs I can do.

Courtesy of


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