Located near Beijing, the mock-Alpine village of “Spring Legend” has houses, restaurants, shops—and few people.
Read more. [Image: Phoebe Strom]
China is preparing to surpass the United States as the world’s largest economy, in purchasing power parity terms. Already its economy is 80 percent the size of ours, and if current growth rate differentials persist, it will take China only about four more years to surpass us. At market exchange rates, China’s GDP is smaller, and is expected to remain less than ours until 2028. This is hardly surprising. After all, China has four times as many people as the U.S.; if every Chinese worker were to earn the U.S. minimum wage, its GDP would be larger than ours. That is not a very high bar. With that economic size comes military power and global cultural clout.China’s awe-inspiring rise is often framed as the return to a historical norm. A common belief is that for most of the last 5,000 years, China was the world’s center of wealth, culture, technology, and power. The 19th and 20th centuries, we are told, were a brief aberration, and China is now simply retaking its rightful place as the world’s preeminent nation. This trope gives China a certain air of inevitability.
The problem is, it’s not really accurate.Read more. [Image: Reuters]
As if a nasty bribery scandal in Mexico was not enough to deal with, Walmart is now embroiled in a fox-meat scandal in China. Over the holidays, I watched Fantastic Mr. Fox, and now just can’t help but imagine Walmart CEO Mike Duke exclaiming, “Those feisty foxes!”
According to a Chinese saying, “In heaven there is dragon meat, and on earth there is donkey meat.” But it has to be pure donkey meat, straight up.
Read more. [Image: SKsogang/Flickr]
Last Friday, Chinese president Xi Jinping walked into Qingfeng restaurant in western Beijing and, after waiting in line, ordered six pork buns, one dish of fried pig liver, and one vegetable dish. After paying 21 yuan (about $3.50) in cash, Xi ate his meal at a communal table and chatted with customers before departing.
Initially, Chinese Internet users suspected the photos of the event were fake—earlier this year, a story that Xi had personally hailed a Beijing cab proved to be a hoax—but once China’s official news agencies confirmed their veracity, the images went viral. The next day, customers flocked to the Qingfeng restaurant, and, after braving a line that snaked out the door, ordered the exact meal their president had eaten.
In China, where important officials seldom mingle with the general public, Xi’s casual lunch showed fresh evidence of his populist streak.
Read more. [Image: Sina Weibo]
Today was the 120th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birth, and as the event is celebrated in grand style in Beijing and around China, images of the Chairman are even more ubiquitous than usual this week: A rumored $2.5 billion was invested in celebrations in honor of the figure whose portrait watches over Tiananmen Square and is fastened to the gate of the Forbidden City.
In spite of the birthday celebrations, Mao’s status is marked by a growing ambivalence. Officially, a Communist Party Resolution dictated by Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s successor, declared that Mao was 70 percent right, and 30 percent wrong (with the most grievous errors being the disasters of the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward). And this mixed legacy makes it hard to pin down exactly what about Mao Party leaders want to celebrate, and what about him they don’t. Who could have anticipated this?
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
On the dictator’s 120th birthday, Sidney Rittenberg—whose life story entwines with the turbulent history of the People’s Republic—describes his interactions with the man who still dominates China 37 years after his death.
Read more. [Image: Sidney Rittenberg]
At first I didn’t believe the news this evening that Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe had visited Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. I didn’t believe it, because such a move would be guaranteed to make a delicate situation in East Asia far, far worse. So Abe wouldn’t actually do it, right?
It turns out that he has. For a Japanese leader to visit Yasukuni, in the midst of tensions with China, is not quite equivalent to a German chancellor visiting Auschwitz or Buchenwald in the midst of some disagreement with Israel. Or a white American politician visiting some lynching site knowing that the NAACP is watching. But it’s close.
Is it useful? Maybe not. But it’s definitely cool.
On June 22, 2013, murder occurred on the “roof of the world.” Ten mountaineers were killed at the foot of Nanga Parbat—the world’s ninth-tallest peak, located in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region on the border with China where some of the world’s tallest mountain ranges converge. The victims included American, Chinese, Lithuanian, Nepali, Pakistani, Slovakian, and Ukrainian nationals, and the audacious attack shattered a rare sense of calm in Pakistan’s northernmost corner, bewildering locals. Members of the Pakistani Taliban doggedly scaled the heights to the mountaineers’ camp at an altitude of 15,000 feet and stormed the tents in the dead of night dressed as paramilitary police. One media outlet’s coverage flashed a haunting image of vulnerability: an orange tent on the mountain slopes bathed in moonlight.
Five days later, I boarded a plane to Gilgit-Baltistan.
I had set out to complete a journey I began 10 years ago: to traverse the mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH) connecting China and Pakistan. A decade earlier, I had traveled along the 800 mile-long KKH from Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region to the border with Pakistan. My travels became my college thesis—an analysis of the relationship between China, Pakistan, and Xinjiang’s restive Uighur Muslims in light of the traffic of militancy, drugs, and arms from Pakistan to Xinjiang. I argued that the KKH, a symbol of Chinese-Pakistani friendship, had proven to be both a blessing and a curse.
Now I set out to complete the journey from the Pakistani side in a week-long trip by plane, car, and boat. Once again, I discovered how lofty international relations and local communities intersect on the KKH—from tales of a “new Great Game” between China and America and infrastructure woes along the Pak-China Economic Corridor, to remarkable strides for women’s empowerment and development in communities keen to plug into China’s prosperity. I wound my way up through a land of glaciers, ibex, and snow leopards to the Khunjerab Pass at 14,000 feet—one of the world’s highest international border crossings. All the while, I was shadowed by the murder on the roof of the world.
Read more. [Image: Ziad Haider]
Five celebrity fathers and their children traipse around China, riding camels through the western deserts, fishing off the east coast, and selling vegetables for their bus fare home in remote southwestern Yunnan province. One dad doesn’t know how to do his daughter’s hair, but give him a couple of episodes—he’ll figure it out. Another one must survive with his son for three days in the desert, where, because neither can cook, the two only eat instant noodles.
These story lines are part of Where Are We Going Dad? which, since its debut in October, has become one of China’s most popular television shows, averaging more than 600 million viewers each week (and more than 640 million downloads online). Sponsorship rights for the show’s second season sold for 312 million yuan (about $50 million), more than ten times higher than the rights to the first season. And searches for Where Are We Going Dad? turn up over 40 million hits on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter.
Read more. [Image: Hunan Television]