What price comparisons between two different cities tell us about the Chinese economy.
Last week’s episode of Holland’s Got Talent featured a 30-year-old Chinese-born contestant named Xiao Wang, a PhD candidate who moonlights as an opera singer. Xiao was on hand to sing “La donna e mobile,” an aria from Verdi’s Rigoletto, and performed beautifully.
However, one of the talent judges on the show, a Dutch singer named Cornelis Willem Heuckeroth, used the segment as an opportunity to mock Xiao’s Chinese-ness.
Here were a few of Heuckeroth’s comments:
"Which number are you singing? Number 39 with rice?"
"This is the best Chinese I’ve had in weeks, and it’s not takeaway!"
"He looks like a waiter from a Chinese restaurant."
"This is the best Chinese person I’ve ever seen, and he’s not even a delivery boy."
Hueckeroth, who for some reason goes by the name “Gordon,” also called Xiao’s performance a “surplise.”
The other two panelists on the show both looked embarrassed by Gordon’s remarks; one, an American named Dan Karaty, even told him that he’s “really not supposed to say things like that.”
Read more. [Image: Matt Schiavenza]
China is in a frenzy for Airplane War, a cellphone game in which players wage aircraft battles and compete against their friends for high scores. Within two hours of its release in early August, the game was reportedly downloaded 180 million times. Stories of its addictive qualities have cropped up almost as quickly. According to one such tale, two drivers pulled over on a highway, one next to the other, just so they could finish their games. Another account describes serious thumb injuries; the South China Morning Post reported that two Hangzhou women were even hospitalized.
Airplane War’s success is the latest feather in the cap of WeChat, a Chinese messaging platform that has accumulated nearly 250 million users in less than three years. By combining games like Airplane War with free text-messaging, video chatting, and photo sharing—think WhatsApp meets Skype meets Instagram—WeChat has come to rival Sina Weibo, China’s most prominent social network.
Read more. [Image: Walter Newton]
SHANGHAI—When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Shanghai in May 2013 and hailed the city’s role as a “haven” for Jewish people fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1930s and 40s, his comments highlighted a part of the city’s history that many contemporary residents don’t know. Today, few would guess that this quintessentially Chinese city once played host to a bustling community of over 20,000 Jews.
While a Jewish community has existed in Shanghai since the late 19th century, the first large wave of immigrants came in the 1920s and 30s, as thousands of Russian Jews fled the Bolshevik Revolution for the more business-friendly foreign concessions in Shanghai. A decade later, the mainly Russian and Sephardic Jewish community was supplemented by tens of thousands of Ashkenazi Jews from Europe, who fled during the early stages of Nazi rule in Germany.
Before Nazi policy turned actively genocidal in the late 1930s, exile was seen as a perfectly acceptable solution to the “Jewish problem” and German and Austrian Jews, stripped of their citizenship rights, property, and employment, were encouraged to emigrate to any country that would have them. Unfortunately, there were few options for these would-be emigrants: At the Évian Conference in 1938, the great powers collectively decided to shut their borders to all but a small selection of Jewish refugees.
Aside from the Dominican Republic, Shanghai was the only place that remained open to these refugees, and 20,000 or so European Jews found their way to the city in the late 1930s.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
The company’s alleged refusal to offend the Chinese Communist Party reveals the limitations of “journalistic access.”
Read more. [Image: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]
For lovers of clear, concise language, Chinese politics are a nightmare. First, there is the name of the country’s highest governing body: the Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee. Then, there are the names of political meetings, the most recent of which was the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Party Congress. And finally there are the empty slogans; in the communique released just after the Third Plenum’s conclusion last week, China’s leaders promised to “comprehensively deepen reforms.”
If this language seems vague and boring, well, that’s the point: Chinese politics are designed to attract as little attention as possible. But in the week since the Third Plenum’s conclusion, the event has already earned a reputation as China’s most important political gathering in many years. From a policy perspective, the changes announced in the 60-page “decision” last Friday mark the strongest commitment to social, legal, and economic reform than we’ve seen in years, largely delivering on Yu Zhengsheng’s (China’s 4th ranking official) promise that the changes would be “unprecedented.”
Read more. [Image: Jason Lee/Reuters]
As Beijing announces plans to relax the one-child policy, photographs from the Chinese countryside reveal how the government uses billboards, murals, and signs to promote population control.
Read more. [Image: Adam Century]
China is finally dropping its one-child policy for around one-third of the population: couples that are urban and Han Chinese in which one parent is an only child. (Couples that are rural, non-Han, or where both parents were only children were already allowed to have two kids.) The policy will remain in force only for urban Han parents who were both the product of two-child homes—a fairly small proportion.
Bank of America estimates that the change will lead to about 9.5 million new births a year, but just as importantly the change largely marks the end of a 30-year-old social engineering experiment that changed the face of China’s society and played an important, if contentious, role in its re-emergence as an economic powerhouse. Quartz has reported extensively on what such a change might mean, for better and for worse. Here’s a roundup.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Each of China’s 1.3 billion people are members of one—and only one—of 56 ethnic groups; those of mixed blood are not legally permitted to claim two. Over 91 percent of the population are Han Chinese, while the rest—numbering 105 million people—are referred to as “ethnic minorities.” While some ethnic minority groups have well-publicized clashes with the majority Han (most famously the Tibetans and Uighurs), the vast majority of the others are little known—even within China.
Nearly half of China’s ethnic minority groups are native to Yunnan Province, an area roughly the size of California that borders Laos, Vietnam, and Burma, and a popular destination for both domestic and international travelers. The Philadelphia-based artist Collete Fu has spent years photographing minority groups throughout the province, from the high mountain ranges near Tibet to the tropical Red River valley. But, instead of presenting her work in a conventional style, Fu has upped the ante: she’s made pop-up books. These aren’t the simple, pop-up books that you owned as a kid, either: they’re three-dimensional mosaics of people, artifacts, and landscapes unique to this corner of China.
Read more. [Image: Collette Fu]
Michael Froman is bullish about the American economy. Of course, that’s part of his public job description—as the U.S. Trade Representative, he’s responsible for negotiating trade standards with other countries and making sure that American companies can compete in the global economy. But at the Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday, he argued that the United States is in a strong position to set trading standards with China.
“The U.S is among the most open economies for trade and investment in the world,” he said. “Our tariff rates are very low, at 3.5 percent, when a lot of the emerging economies have much higher rates than that.”
Read more. [Image: The Atlantic]