Saturday, December 1, 2007
One of the problems for Chinese singers in developing any recognition and success in the U.S. and elsewhere is of course the language difference. Jane Zhang (Zhang Liangying - 张靓颖), one of the Supergirl Season #1 contestants may have a good chance of doing so due to her Mariah Carey-like voice, attractive looks and ability to sing in English. Ironically, although her choice of English songs and a Spanish-language song in addition to Chinese during the Supergirl competition impressed the judges, it may have alienated some of the Chinese voters who voted (by text messaging) for Li Yuchun.
Zhang's first album, The One, includes 3 songs in English as well as 7 in Chinese. I've listened to it and although its good, it may be a bit overproduced and doesn't seem to show off her vocal talents fully. On her 2nd album, Update, Zhang takes some risks by veering a bit away from tandard Chinese pop and experimenting with R&B and a little jazz.
Zhang is known, among other things, for her vocal range - from D below middle C to G above soprano C, as illustrated by her performance of Minnie Riperton's 1974 hit Lovin' You on the Super Girl show (see video below)
Here's a video of a live medley performance including Don't Cry For Me Argentina.
And, a Chinese song with a little hip-hop flavor:
One thing I can say for sure is that Ms. Zhang has more talent than anyone I've seen on that annoying America's_Got Talent/ show that they play here in Hong Kong. If that's really the best talent America's got to offer, I'd vote for Jane and I'm moving to China.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Anyway, this made me wonder where Chinese culture has gone. With 5000 years of musical history, is there not one Chinese rap song that could have been included in this performance. So I did what any inquisitive individual would do in this modern day and age - I googled. There is of course Jin, a Chinese-American rapper who's had at least some degree of commercial success who's had some degree of commercial success. But I didn't find much so I went to a deeper research source - Youtube. Not too much there either, but I did MC HotDog 姚中仁, a Taiwanese rapper who (based on my comprehensive Internet research) seems to be the closest thing China has to a rap star. So as they say in rapspeak- Yo! - check it:
Although I felt a little bit old watching all these young, energetic college students bustin' their moves (can you say that anymore?) to all the modern hippity hoppiest tunes, I felt better when the event ended with a dance to Earth Wind & Fire's hit Boogie Wonderland which goes back to my early youth.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Anyway, a few days ago a student at China University of Politics and Law, Dong Yanbin (董彦斌), sued the SARFT claiming that the censored version of the film (which cut 7 minutes of sexual oriented scenes) infringed his consumer rights to information and fair trade (see this article about the lawsuit). Apparently he's doing this to make a point rather than for money since his suit only requests 500 yuan (about U.S. $67)for emotional damages, as well as an apology and making the uncensored version of the film available to adult viewers.
Unlike the United States, China does not have a movie rating system. The SARFT decides what films are allowed to be shown in theaters and has the authority to censor films, as it did by ordering director Ang Lee to edit scenes found objectionable. Although Lee agreed to edit the film for Chinese theater exhibition, he claims that the sex scenes are a crucial part of the story rather than merely gratuitous. Lee says the relationship between the male character (played by Tony Leung) and the female character (played by Chinese newcomer Wei, Tang) "is like occupying and being occupied, prey and predator, under the backdrop of China being occupied by Japan" and "the irony is that you don't know who the occupier is, the man or the woman." In the U.S., you can see the unedited version, but its rated NC-17.
Reportedly, the court will not hear the case unless Dong provides an uncut version as evidence. If you like irony, you'll appreciate that the uncut version is illegal in China. Here's a promotional trailer for the movie.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Last night I got to experience Hong Kong style barbeque. While Americans love to barbeque as much as anyone, Hong Kong people have a slightly different sytle. They have large open areas, often in parks, where you pay a fee which gives you access to a barbeque grill and all the food you can cook and eat. Each person gets a two-pronged fork and you load up each prong with food of your choice then grill away.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
The German/Chinese co-produced film, The Diaries of John Rabe is being shot in Shanghai as well as Nanjing and features an international cast including German actors, Steve_Buscemi (playing American doctor Robert Wilson), Chinese star Zhang Jingchu and Japanese actors Teruyuki Kagawa and Akira Emoto. It is scheduled for late 2008 release in Germany and China (American release not yet known). There are several other films dealing with the Nanjing massacre also being produced so it looks like this chapter of Chinese history may finally get some more international publicity.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Thursday, November 8, 2007
The article also mentions that "film piracy in China is believed to have cost American studios US$244 million and Chinese studios US$2.4 billion in lost potential box office revenues in China in 2005." While these figures are merely estimates, if they're anywhere remotely close to accurate, it does show that the biggest loser the Chinese film industry rather than Hollywood which I think is believable since most Chinese people prefer Chinese movies due, among other things, to the language difference.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Monday, November 5, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007
"First, an insight about America: The Chinese are willing to do big things; we need to rediscover that audacity here at home. I've felt for a long time that we confine ourselves far too much to frittering around the edges of opportunities — in infrastructure, in transportation, in health care. This trip has crystallized this feeling. Hong Kong has 7 million people, a little larger than Tennessee; I flew out of a new Hong Kong airport this morning that cost $8 billion to construct. Can you even imagine an $8 billion public infrastructure project in Tennessee? With even bigger ones on the drawing boards?"
I've had the same type of observations during my experiences in China. The Chinese have probably become the greatest entrepreneurs in the world. They're willing to take chances and make major investments in projects they believe are worthwhile even though substantial risks are often involved. Americans, on the other hand, seem to have become complacent and sometimes even lazy, willing to blindly rely on the mantra that the United States is (and always will be) the most economically powerful nation in the world. While the United States certainly is still the world's biggest economy, China is gaining rapidly and its annual growth is about 3 times that of the U.S. China takes education seriously and is making an concerted effort to provide better educational opportunities while the quality of the American education system is stagnating if not declining. While I don't think its productive to view China/U.S. relations as an economic race or a competitition to see who can be best, I do think that the U.S. needs to get back to what made it such a successful country - motivation, serious work ethic, serious commitment to education, pride, innovation, etc.
"Second, China is enormous; 1.3 billion people is a quarter of the world. The refrain repeated over and over by our Tennesseans: "You just have to see it to believe it." There are cities in China you've never heard of that are bigger than any city in the U.S. And with that size, there is an astonishing amount of money in China. Shanghai defies description. A lot of what is going on right now has to be a dot-com-like bubble — but it's the underlying wealth to buy these assets that is the real story, and that wealth is definitely there and growing exponentially. China is having its coming-out party."
The enormity of China is one of the first things that hits you when you visit China, especially if you have the opportunity to travel around a bit. China and the United States are about the same size in terms of land mass. However, China has 1.3 billion population compared to The United States' 300 million (world population statistics) and there are many more big, highly populated cities in China than in the U.S. (world's most populated cities) The pace of growth in China is staggering with huge construction projects are going on all over in major cities.
"Third, the political system in China is unique and defies labels. It's not the gray communism that I knew in the 1970s in Eastern Europe; it's not Western-style capitalism either. My best one sentence description would be, "A one-party capitalist country with no Bill of Rights."
I agree with Bredesen that China's political system is unique and defies labels, but I don't totally go along with his description of China as a "one party system with no Bill of Rights." China is technically a one-party system. The Communist Party (CPC) is the sole party in China and, as a totalitarian form of government, clearly exercises a great deal of control over the country's affairs. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the CCP) always acts as one cohesive political party. From what I've been told by some Chinese colleagues, the CCP is somewhat divided into liberal and conservative factions. Also, while China does not have a Bill of Rights like the United States, it has become increasingly (albeit slowly) more inclined to recognize and protect human rights. China has joined various international human rights conventions although China has its own views on exactly what rights should be protected and to what degree. Although he may not have intended it to do so, Bredesen's description seems to imply that the human rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution should be universal which would be a very arrogant assumption. From talking to many Chinese people, especially college students (who tend to generally have more liberal views than older people), I've found that the Chinese have slightly different ideas about what rights are most important and the extent to which government should protect or restrict those rights.
"And fourth, we need to work hard to open more doors to China. I want more trade missions, and I especially want more Chinese students here and more American students to go to China. For the past century, America has been the higher education destination of choice in the world. After 9/11 and the massive visa restrictions that were put in place, Chinese students looked elsewhere. Places like Australia and parts of Europe are now where many of them go. We lost an invaluable franchise, and we need to regain it."
I absolutely agree with Phil on this one. Educational exchange programs should be expanded since this is one of the best way for young people from both countries to learn more about the other. The Chinese want to learn about America. When you visit China, you'll find Chinese people who want to talk to you to practice their English. Students I've met while teaching here at Lingnan University tend to be very inquisitive about the United States and I've heard some very perceptive non-critical comments from them about differences in culture which American students are not likely to be aware of since most know next to nothing about China and its culture. We need to do more to encourage interaction, exchange, learning and cooperation. The United States and China are likely to be the two most dominant nations of the 21st century and the more they can learn from each other and act cooperatively, the better off both (as well as the rest of the world) will be.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I can't say that I'm too surprised since I've definitely noticed a decline in the quality of the American higher eduucation system over my 12 years teaching. Universities have become more business-oriented, focusing primarily on recruiting and keeping students (which translates into profitability through tuition) as well as fund raising. Obviously, universities have to be concerned with being financially solvent and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but if its at the expense of educational standards, there's likely to be some negative long-term consequences.
I've personally witnessed a strong trend toward stressing entertainment in the university setting. What used to be considered "extracurricular activities" have risen to a level at least equal to (if not above) classes. Even in the classroom, there is a great deal of pressure on professors to provide entertainment in their courses. I'm by no means opposed to extracurricular activities (which can be a very important part of the college experience) or to making classes entertaining as much as possible. However, I think this can be taken to extremes which tends to result in less focus on academic rigor, dummying down of course content, and less educated graduates. As American universities are focusing more on entertainment and profitability, maybe non-U.S. universities have an opportunity to take over in terms of providing the best education. I've noticed during my limited experience so far in Hong Kong, that academic standards seem to be a bit higher than what I'm used to in the U.S.
It may be that trying so hard to satisfy students short-term interest in being entertained while in college may not be in their best long-term interest. Of course, if recruiting students and keeping them for 4 years is the overriding concern, then it may not matter so much what happens to them after the 4 years is over. I guess it just depends on what your priorities. are.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
China is clearly the country with the greatest potential for growth. There are already 162 million people in China with Internet access (not even including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), second only to the United States' 211 million. China is almost guaranteed to overtake the U.S. within a decade or so since the percentage of the population with Internet access is still only about 13%, leaving huge room for growth. The United States is over 60% as are other highly-developed countries Japan and South Korea. China's economic growth has averaged around 10% annually for the past 10 years (the highest of any country in the world) and this is resulting in a rising percentage of the population being raised out of poverty with discretionary income to spend on things like Internet access. China curently has about 1.31 million websites which is about a 60% increase from 2006 and continues to increase rapidly.
If all this isn't impressive enough, China currently has over 600 million mobile phones which means that about one out of five mobile phone users in the world is Chinese.
Internet statistics are available on the Internet at the Internet World Statistics website.
Friday, October 5, 2007
The importance of this occurence can't be underestimated for many reasons. For one, this is the first time the Special Olympics has been held in Asia where people with disabilities haven't generally received the same degree of support that they get in the U.S. and other Western nations. China, with its 1.3 billion population, obviously has a large number of disabled citizens - its estimated that there are over 60 million people with disabilities in China. Historically, the disabled were mostly hidden away at home in China and received little government support. Since the 1990's, that's started to change gradually with the enactment of laws protecting people with disabilities, government support programs and aid from private organizations.
Last Summer, while co-teaching a study abroad course from Belmont University, we visited a school for the disabled in Nanjing (see accompanying photos). Out of the many exciting things we saw in China, this was one of the experiences that seemed to stand out the most for the students. While the school was nothing special by American standards in terms of its facilities, it was clear from the dedication of the staff and the attitudes of the students that they were getting education, training and attention that could help them lead better lives. One of the teachers told us that some of these students were barely functional before coming to the school, whereas with the training and support they received, they could communicate and express themselves reasonably well, despite their disabilities. Hopefully, the publicity from the Special Olympics in China will lead to increased attention being focused on helping the disabled in China and elsewhere.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Anyone, the meeting I went to was at the Lingnan Toastmasters group. Several students and one guest from another Hong Kong Toastmasters club gave speeches on the topic of “heroes.” The standard superheros like Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman weren’t the wiiners though. Instead, it seemed that to the members, the biggest heros of the evening were anyone willing to take the chance to get up in front of the group to speak. As I was listening to the student speakers, I kept thinking how difficult it must be to make a speech in front of a fairly large audience in a language that isn’t your native language. All of the speakers were Chinese, but the speeches were all in English. Although many of the speakers were nervous, they all managed to get through it and do a good job, making some good points and even using some humor.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Freedom of speech under the First Amendment gives people the right to protest as long as they do so peacefully. There were some student protests against the Iraq war last week so maybe that's an indication that the Constitution still has some practical value. I particularly appreciate a quote at the end of this article which desribes a student protesting the protest with a sign saying "Get your ass back to class," but acknowledging that although he's opposed "to the ideologies of the protest, he still appreciates the fact that Americans are able to protest." Maybe our legal system still has some hope.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Lake Tianchi is a 1,243 feet deep, volcanic crater lake located at the foot of the Changbai Mountain. Rumors that the 373 m lake is the home of some kind of monster have existed for over a century although scientists claim the lake is too cold for large creatures to survive and that the lake's volcanic activity would not be too hospitable. Nevertheless, whether Tessie exists or not, like Nessie, the legendary monster is sure to attract tourists curious enough to want to get a look for themselves.
Friday, September 7, 2007
Ironically, while American consumers are griping about the iPhone price, some eager consumers in China have been paying about 3 times the U.S. price for iPhones that don't even work fully (Chinese are paying up to U.S. $1170 for phones that can make, but not receive calls). More ironically, Apple is not selling the iPhone in China yet and does not plan to introduce iPhones to Asia until 2008. The phones being sold are either counterfeits or legitimate copies being illegally sold in China (See Unauthorized iPhones on Sale in China). Here's a video showing one of the fake Chinese iPhones:
Apple's decision to release the iPhone only in the U.S. initially seems to me like a big mistake, reflecting a company that is ignorant of the Asian market and the reality of globalization. By ignoring Asia, Apple is passing up the chance to sell iPhones to the vast majority of potential customers for the device. Mobile phone use is extremely prevalent all over Asia, from highly developed countries such as Japan and South Korea to lesser developed countries including the India and the Philippines (see Cellphone Users by Country). China has the world's largest number of mobile phone users (around 500 million) and the number of Chinese mobile phone users is likely to keep growing substantially due the increasing middle class with disposable income.
Now I realize that Steve Jobs has a lot more money than I do, but being the profit-hungry, capitalist he is, I'd think he'd be working frantically to secure deals with Chinese (and other Asian nations) wireless service providers to offer the iPhone (which may admittedly not be easy). Consumers in Asia that want iPhones and can afford to pay for them are going to get them, whether they're legally available or not. Not having them available legally gives more time for fakes to take over and dominate the market. With the high prevalency of counterfeiting in China and other countries, businesses must figure out how to make their products legally available in all markets for their products in order to have a chance. Ignoring the majority of your customer base which results in buying imperfect, illegitimate copies just doesn't seem like good business sense to me. C'mon Steve, get on the ball or at least on the iPhone.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
One example of the great potential involves a Chinese young lady and a pig. 21 year old Xiang Xiang became a famous pop star in China after writing a song about a pig which she recorded at her home with a computer and digital editing software, then uploaded to a Chinese free music site. Although likely an overestimate, one of the websites that hosted the song for free download stated that it had been downloaded about 1 billion times in China, Singapore and Malaysia.
Xiang Xiang didn't make any money directly from the many downloads of her song and she even stated that "It's unprofitable to publish a song on the internet . . . There's no money." However, the attention she attracted was noticed by a Beijing record label which signed her to a recording contract and quickly produced and released an CD. Xiang Xiang's CD sold over 800,000 legal copies in China which is a huge amount in China (or anywhere else for that matter). So Xiang Xiang managed to make some money after all (royalties from CD sales). Of course, despite the large number of legal sales, there were undoubtedly many more illegal copies sold as well as downloaded (which Xiang Xiang receives no income from although others certainly do), but at least this proves that there is the potential for a serious legal music market in China. If a pig song can do this well, I'm getting to work on writing Song of Dragon.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Clavell’s writing style was highly descriptive, enabling readers to visualize exotic places they’ve never been to and know next to nothing about. Although fictional, his novels are partially based on historic events and contain a lot of information about Asian history, culture and Western stereotypes. Although his book are very long (over 1000 pages), they're very east to read and hard to put down once you've started them.
Clavell also lived in Hong Kong in the 1960's where he wrote Tai-Pan, the plot of which involves European and American traders who develop the highly lucrative opium trade with the Chinese in 1841 after the first Opium War. Like all of his novels, Tai-Pan is loosely based on fact; in this instance Clavell fictionalized the story of Jardine Matheson's beginnings as an opium trader in Hong Kong (Jardine Matheson is still one the the biggest companies in Hong Kong). The book’s main character is Dirk Struan, an extremely ambitious, opium trader who helps found the British colony of Hong Kong and becomes Hong Kong’s "tai-pan" (supreme leader).
Friday, August 31, 2007
I remember watching the Abbott & Costello show reruns when I was a kid and even now, over 50 years after they originally aired, these shows are still hysterical. For those of you too young to remember, Abbott & Costello were a comedy duo who appeared first in live theater performances, then radio, film and television. Their famous Who's on 1st? routine involves Bud Abbott (the straight man) telling Lou Costello who the players in a baseball team are. The only problem is that each players name is easily misinterpreted (e.g., first baseman "Who").
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Although Miss Teen South Carolina has received a lot of negative attention as a result of her response, not everyone thinks she's that ignorant. In fact, she received a call from President Bush, who told her that he understood her response perfectly and offered her a job such as like Attorney General of the U.S. Americans.
For those of you that still don't understand Miss Teen SC's answer, here's a map that sums it up succintly.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Romantic blockbuster The Knot (Yun Shui Yao) was the big winner with awards for Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Playwright, and Best Film Technology. It is also the first joint blockbuster film production between Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. There were co-winners for best actor and best actress - Chen Kun (The Knot) and Fu Dalong (The Forest Ranger) for Best Actor & Li Bingbing (The Knot) (shown in photo) and Ding Jiali (The Lane Premier) for Best Actress.
Monday, August 27, 2007
In China, the era when overseas executives could rely on translators is ending. Authorities now require top executives at securities firms to pass written and oral exams in Mandarin, the national tongue, and Chinese managers expect meetings to be conducted in their own language."An executive can probably get by without speaking Mandarin, but the one who does will have a much better chance of succeeding," says Helen Cheung, a director at Executive Mandarin, the language school where Image studies. "It makes you seem more intelligent, more involved than the foreigner who just sits
there and smiles."
Congratulations on getting rich
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I'm sitting here listening to the news in Chinese. I don't understand much of it, but I can pick out a few words and phrases at least due to my taking 2 semesters of Chinese back at Belmont University. You might think that living in Hong Kong would help me learn Chinese, but its not as simple as that. Most of the Chinese people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese (common in southern China) rather than Mandarin which is the official language and common in northern China. Although the written language is the same, they sound very different. Plus the written Chinese language consists of characters and you have to memorize about 5000 of them to be fairly literate from what I've been told. At this point, it seems like I'll need a lot of luck (the characters above) to become anywhere close to literate.
I need to find a tutor (maybe a Mandarin-fluent Lingnan student) to work with while I'm here in Hong Kong or I think I'll forget most of the little I've already learned.
Zaijian (Goodbye) for now!
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Of course, none of this means you can't find most of the banned movies, CDs, etc. in China - its just that you can't find legal versions. These regulations have the indirect effect of giving pirates a huge advantage over companies that want to sell their products legally in China. For example, a website illegally offering music downloads isn't going to bother with getting approval just as the vendoes of pirated CDs and DVDs all over China aren't concerned with which titles have been censored by the Chinese government (some of them are probably their best sellers). The article states that censors cut scenes from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," claiming the portrayal of Chow Yun-fat as a "bald, scarred pirate" insulted Chinese people. However, I'm sure many Chinese people purchased pirate DVD copies of the film which were probably available even before the film's offical release.
China certainly has the right to implement its own laws & regulations, even if they differ from Western legal norms. However, these censorship and market-access restrictions operate as a huge barrier to companies wanting to do business in China legitimately while giving pirating operations a big advantage and making pirate copies the only purchase option for Chinese consumers. Maybe if enough well-known Chinese actors such as Jet Li as well as popular musicians, etc. voice their concern, some type of compromise can be figured out.
I hope to do some sightseeing soon, but the weather is a bit of disincentive. Its been raining a lot since I got here (remnants of the typhoon that's been hitting southeast Asia) and its extremely hot & humid. Hopefully, it'll start to cool off a bit before too long and be a bit more comfortable for exploring. There's a bunch of places I want to visit, but one that wasn't on my to-do list until someone here suggested it to me today was MongKok - known, among other things, for having the highest population density in the world. I'm not a big fan of crowds, but I guess its worth cehcking out just for the spectacle.
After putting away groceries, I headed over to the business college building. Being an Asia veteran, I’ve learned to take an umbrella whenever I go out in the summer and my training proved valuable as rain began almost immediately after I left the apartment. The business college here is in the Ho Sin Hang Building. I’m guessing Mr. Ho put up some money (the Jack Massey or Mike Curb of Lingnan?). Since classes don't start til 9/3, Mr. Ho’s building & the rest of campus is fairly deserted right now. Wandered around campus a bit in the rain (thank God for that umbrella) then went back to apartment.
So now I sit here writing this while sipping my tea. I wonder if putting honey in premium Oolong tea makes me a foreign devil in Chinese eyes, but regardless it does help my throat a bit. Besides, in some Hong Kong restaurants, when you order hot tea, you get tea with milk in it & a Lipton bag. I wonder if this is one of the imports resulting from British colonialization? Opium and Lipton tea with milk -what a proud legacy. OK, I'm sure I'll find some more positive British influences as well.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I took a taxi from the airport to Lingnan University rather than try to navigate the buses since I had 2 large pieces of luggage. I had no problem finding a taxi, but the driver only spoke Cantonese (fortunately I had written out the Chinese characters for Lingnan University & Tuen Mun where Lingnan is located). No problem getting to Lingnan although since I couldn’t communicate with the taxi driver, the best I could do was have him drop me off at the university entrance. I said xiexie (thanks) and he responded with a look of surprise & a litany of what I assume were Cantonese words. I said "Wo bu dong, wo hui shua yidiar Putonghua (I don’t understand, I speak a little Mandarin). He seemed pleased with this and grinned so I uttered another xiexie & ventured off to the Security office & got the access code for the building & apartment I'm staying in.
The apartment ("flat" as its referred to here) is pretty nice - living room, small dining area, small kitchen, 2 bathrooms, one main bedroom with a small adjoining room with desk & huge closet room & 2 small bedrooms (probably for visitors with kids). The apartment has wireless Internet, but I’m not able to connect since I don’t have a password from Lingnan yet (will check on this tomorrow). TV gets 4 channels, but 3 are in Chinese (too bad I don’t know enough to understand much of it yet). Went to bed early (around 10) since tired and still a bit sick (sore throat a cough) from typhoon weather in Philippines.