Caption: "Recently, a detachment of officers and men from the People's Armed Police in Liangshan, Sichuan held roses to depict 'thousand-armed Guanyin,' celebrate Valentine's Day's arrival, and use this opportunity to express sincerest wishes to their sweethearts a world away."
A lot of cash changes hands around Chinese New Year. Despite the convenience of electronic payments, China is still very much a cash-based society, and pink 100-yuan notes featuring the plump visage of Mao Zedong proliferate wallets, pockets, and purses.
Most stories analyzing the Chinese demand for cash focus on the stress it puts on the banking system, but let's take a look at it from a historical angle: what can we discern about recent Chinese developments by looking at who -- and what -- appears on the renminbi?
Reporters Without Borders released its latest version of the World Press Freedom Index, and apparently China has cancer. It ranks sixth from the bottom, at 175, below Vietnam, Iran, Cuba, etc. To give you an understanding of how bad Reporters Sans Frontières believes the situation is:
Xia Yeliang, formerly a dissident professor at Peking University, announced on Monday that he will become a visiting fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian thinktank partially funded by the conservative Koch brothers.
For the last 38 years of Hong Kong's existence as a British colony, a very British-looking flag flew over the city, featuring a cartoonish lion/dragon insignia and some rather ugly red text (HONG KONG) on yellow background. That flag was retired on July 1, 1997, after the handover ceremony, in favor of a red flag featuring a white five-petal bauhinia flower.
Someone in Sochi didn't get the memo.
China is officially (politically, that is) an enthusiastic supporter of the Sochi Games, which is why Chinese athletes walked out at the opening ceremony waving both Chinese and Russian flags. To no one's surprise, then, the pro-government media here is peeved by all the negative coverage in "Western media." Speaking for them all, Global Times has just published an editorial headlined, "Booing Sochi only shows West's bigotry."
On January 28, 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, tragically killing its heroic crew. On Tuesday, February 4th at the Ditan Park Temple Festival, a Challenger flew again.
The end of one year and the start of another lends itself to reflections and predictions. This year, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I, brings a special sense of foreboding. It’s been popular for more than a few years now to compare the 14 years preceding World War I -- a time of prosperity, globalization, and, at least in Europe, the seeming triumph of civilization over wickedness -- to the first 14 years of the 21st century. At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe drew a direct comparison between 1914 and 2014. The explicit question in this analogy is a terrifying one: is the world careening toward another bloody and futile war?
The ubiquitous red envelope may seem innocent enough, but accommodating a billion or so hongbao exchanges puts great pressure on the Chinese banking system. After experiencing several cash crunches in 2013, the People’s Bank of China very publicly injected 255 billion RMB (42 billion USD) into the system leading up to the holiday. You care, because the inflation this caused means your holiday (cash) bonus was just a touch undervalued.
It started with an early-morning flight out of Shanghai. I was headed back to Beijing after a few days of work, and while the departure time of 7:30 am was excruciatingly early, I was comforted by the fact that I had scored an economy-priced first-class seat.
Everything went smoothly at the start – more than smoothly, in fact, since I luxuriated in a huge seat while wearing slippers, sipped freshly brewed Americano from fine china, and snacked from a bowl of warm nuts, all before take-off. I settled in, ready to fully enjoy the two-hour journey.
After we had reached altitude and the flight attendants brought me my breakfast, complete with a white tray-table cloth and freshly squeezed OJ, the captain got on the mic to make an announcement.
Louis CK was in Beijing in June 2012 to film the (wonderful) finale of (the wonderful) third season of his show Louie, and apparently he got enough material to tell stories for years. He was recently on David Letterman, where -- for whatever reason -- he was prompted to relive his experience.
A jet-black Audi A6 with government plates rolls down the streets of Beijing and stops at a school, mall or restaurant. Out steps a teenage girl, backpack in tow, who surely can't be a government official -- but just might be the daughter of one. Secretly, every pedestrian scoffs and/or hisses.
If last November’s Communist Party announcement about the procurement and use of government cars actually pans out -- eliminating all but a select number (取消一般公车) -- familiar scenes like these may no longer dominate urban landscapes.