Thursday, 25 September 2008

Whitewashed: Milk problems spread worldwide

According to reports by the Guardian today, supermarket chain Tesco has been recalling Chinese imported dairy products, mainly milk sweets, as the Sanlu melamine scare keeps on spreading.

The Associated Press are also reporting that twelve countries have banned Chinese dairy imports in the aftermath of the scandal.

The story's been bumped slightly from the headlines in China today after dominating them for over a week, with China's imminent launch of 神舟七号 (Shenzhou VII), the Chinese spacecraft manned by three "talkonauts" that will attempt China's first spacewalk.

The People's Daily are running a series of stories on it, as well as Wen Jiabao's speech on China's post-Olympic economic development. He describes that 2008 was no ordinary year for China, with both the Sichuan earthquake and the Olympics and that both these events saw Chinese people display bravery and strength, as well as increasing people's understanding of China. He goes on to say that China must now "resolutely open up to reforms and develop harmony".

The Sanlu scandal isn't completely bumped, the Shanghai Daily are reporting the city's attempts to gain control of all possibly tainted dairy products, dispatching teams to towns and villages in Anhui and other surrounding regions to recall batches of Shanghai Baoanli and Shanghai Panda products.
Keep on reading...

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Escalator madness

The 新闻晨报(Shanghai Morning Post) – part of the Liberation Daily's media group – had a little snippet in today's "Great Britain" section that made me laugh.

It was merely a tiny paragraph in a news round up, although how it constituted news I'm not really sure, but the journalist that wrote it seemed to find the fact that Brits only stand on one side an escalator, leaving the left hand side free for people in a rush to walk up, indicative of British sensibilities.

For someone who takes great pleasure in watching the Chinese, who often seem to be in great rushes, speed walking up until the point they get on an escalator and then stand and wait while they trundle towards the bottom, I thought this was possibly the greatest little news snippet ever.

Of course, the "British" way of riding escalators is also used in Taiwan (although they may stand on the left and leave the right free). So maybe it's not necessarily a British thing and more of a nationalist/colonial thing.
Keep on reading...

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Olympic petite mort

I haven't visited Beijing since my return to China, but there's been something that's been bugging me since getting settled at Fudan which seems to be at odds with an expectation of Olympic Spirit.

Now I timed my return to China pretty much in sync with the end of the Olympics, so everything I gleaned about China's sporting spectacle was through the British press and blogs. Nevertheless, as someone who likes to keep fit and has used Chinese university sporting facilities in the past I was pretty optimistic about what Fudan has to offer in the way of gyms and pools.

And I wasn't disappointed when I did a scout around campus: basketball courts, badminton courts, tennis courts, a huge state of the art sports stadium, and a 50 metre swimming pool. However, when attempting to use these facilities I was kicked in the face in a way that can only happen in China.

To begin with, the swimming pool is an outdoor pool, and on trying to get into the building I'm met with a sign that says it closes from the 28th of August. Not entirely believing this I ventured into the sports shop underneath it and asked one of the girls working there. I'm promptly told that it shuts during term time, and opens again during the holidays. The reason for this being that the weather is getting cold and so, being an outdoor pool, not really the best for winter swimming. This had alarm bells going though, it's still pretty damn warm in Shanghai and, despite the recent rain coming off Typhoon Sinlaku, most days are pretty good outdoor swimming days.

Failing that, I tried to play some tennis on some great looking courts next to the pool. The door was shut, but there was a woman sitting in her booth, so I went up to ask if we could play. 不开 (not open) she replied, in a very shrill voice. Ok, what time does it open. 不开! she screamed again. Through her really strong Shanghai accent I thought I understood that class was going on and, remembering that sports facilities usually don't open until class is out, left to find another, non university-run tennis court.

It just seems strange to me that one the top three universities in the country, which does have decent facilities, doesn't want to open them up more and let people play some sports. After all, the Olympics only finished a couple of weeks ago, and the Paralympics are still going on – if there was ever a time for the Chinese to be going sports crazy, this is it. I've experienced enough of China to know not to expect certain things, but I did expect to be swimming in a crammed pool, or waiting a long time to get onto jam packed tennis or badminton courts, not to be the only person peering listlessly into a deserted lobby, wondering what was going on.
Keep on reading...

Friday, 12 September 2008

Tudou hits homerun

The goliath video site Tudou wang (Potato Network) has just been granted a SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film and Television) licence. This now allows them to operate legally within China.

SARFT is the regulator for all broadcasting in China, including a lot of foreign satellite stuff.

Danwei reported this today, after the co-founder of Tudou Marc van der Chijs reported it on his own blog.

Earlier in the year, Danwei posted this story about video websites being denied licences.
Keep on reading...

Fun time at Fudan

So it's been a pretty hectic couple of weeks, but I've decided to spend some time before I start my daily routine of wondering what exactly is going on to write a little bit about the insanity that is Fudan University. but before I get started, I'd like to apologise for the lack of pictures on this blog, my camera has been busted for a long time and I still haven't got round to fixing it. Check out Dara's blog for some pictures (Proxy needed in China).

Having lived in China before, and having gone to university here, I thought I was pretty prepared for the bureaucracy and general confusion that goes hand in hand with it all. I was wrong.

There are numerous factors that lead to Fudan being probably the worst university for foreign students to register, get a room, and work out what's going on, but the number one reason is most definitely that noone has the faintest inkling of an idea about what is going on.

There are (I have found so far, there might be more) three different foreign student offices, each of them staffed by people who seem to think that all your answers will be resolved in one of the other ones.

Then there are the police, who are trying to claim that it is now compulsory to get a physical in China before you can apply for residency and that this has never, NEVER, been any different. Of course, he just grunted when he was told that I had used the exact same form I had with me for residency two years ago...

And it's all topped off with the fact that I didn't seem to be on any Fudan electronic equipment. I just didn't exist. Luckily I had made a copy of my application acceptance letter, and that has helped me survive so far.

But once all that stuff was out of the way (even though it's not, I still don't have a resident's permit) Fudan is a decent place, with a really good School of Journalism – where I'll be spending most of my time over the next 6 months.
Keep on reading...

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Is censorship such a bad thing?

A post will follow later, in more detail, about my recent adventures around Fudan University, but for now, a quick word on a book that someone mentioned to me.

Judy Polumbaum's China Ink is a collection of first hand interviews with people associated with the Chinese press and (apparently, I'm still waiting for a copy to reach me in China) it focuses on issues such as commercialism running the show with regards to censorship of the press. This is a pretty big issue now, although it tends to get downplayed in the Western press, most articles focus on the all-seeing, all-controlling power of the CCP when it comes to regulating the media, but not so much on the commercial implications – which, dare I say, resemble the West in more ways than we give credit for.

The whole issue of state control is one that people in the West love to cite as a reason to distrust China. But, as is usually the case, this argument often comes from the mouth of someone who has only read a few stories (Western press stories) about the issue and doesn't fully understand it. In reality, it is far, far more complex than a single entity that sees and regulates all, it's vague, incomprehensive, and, in many cases, just ineffective.

The whole introduction of advertising and commercial enterprises running news outlets now has a lot more play on what content can and cannot be printed. (A vulgar allusion to Rupert Murdoch could be quite easily used in this spot).

Anyway, the book draws conclusions, stating that it is the Chinese themselves: the journalists, the consumers, and the member sof government, who will be the changing force in media liberalisation – not international pressure groups such as Amnesty, or Reporters Without Borders.

And, just to wrap it up with a nice self-promoting tinge, this was pretty much what my dissertation at the University of Edinburgh was about. It was really good. Really. (As soon as I learn how to use this blogging thing I'll see if I can upload files to it, not sure if it supports that though.)
Keep on reading...