It’s not just every night that I walk into Glamour Bar and hear someone talking about figs mixing with the juices from their crotch. Well, all right, pretty much any time that I went I could hear that, but it’s too expensive for my nightly apertif. Still, an old friend was in town and wanted to meet there, and after all, it was only five minutes from my office, so I found myself at 3 on the Bund listening to all of the erotic fictions that Shanghai -- and even one from Beijing -- has to offer.
"Festival Fever," declares the cover of relentlessly upbeat Time Out Beijing. Coming at the end of what might just be China’s worst week in recent history – starting with a massacre in Kunming and ending with 230 people, including 140 Chinese, seemingly disappearing into the Twilight Zone – it’s hard to share their enthusiasm.
There's little chance Max Baucus, the incoming US ambassador to China, will make an entrance quite like Gary Locke's in 2011. Locke, the departing US ambassador, nearly broke Weibo when he journeyed from Seattle to Beijing in coach, carried his own luggage, then bought his own coffee. Writing in China Daily, Chen Weihua contrasted Locke’s trip with the travel styles of Chinese government officials: “In China, even a township chief, which is not really that high up in the hierarchy, will have a chauffeur and a secretary to carry his bag.”
In the wake of the horrific violence in Kunming, Uyghurs around the country have taken to Chinese-language social media to create distance between themselves and the killing of the innocent. The celebrity of Uyghur-Han ethnic friendship, the Guizhou kebab-seller-turned-philanthropist Alimjan (A-li-mu-jiang), put it best. Echoing the massively popular Indian-American film My Name is Khan, Alimjan said, “My name is Jiang and I am not a terrorist.” Many people also expressed empathy with those who experienced personal loss and pain on March 1 by writing on their WeChat accounts, “We are all Kunming people today.”
At least 10 men wielding long knives began indiscriminately attacking pedestrians in the waiting hall of Kunming Railway Station yesterday around 9:20 pm. The initial death and injury count vary, but the latest from Xinhua places the number at 29 dead and more than 130 injured. (Others put the number as high as 33.) Official reports say Xinjiang separatist forces are responsible for this "3-1 terrorist attack."
Some breaking news here (in that it happened three days ago and we’ve only just learned about it): a foreign man has been hospitalized and another injured following a stabbing around Sanlitun Bar Street in the early morning of Tuesday, February 25. Information is scant.
The news was first posted at 4:32 am by a man claiming to be an employee of the Village edition of Starbucks, and he sounded pretty shaken up about it.
J.P Morgan Chase, one of the largest banks in the world, can’t stay out of the news. In the past year it suffered a multibillion-dollar trading error thanks to the “London Whale,” reached a $13 billion settlement with the government over its role in selling mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crises, and a $2.6 billion settlement for ignoring telltale signs of fraud from Bernie Madoff. If that were not enough, the firm is now under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the “Sons and Daughters Program” -- the bank hires the relatives of Chinese government officials
...Sure, Hunan-based Better Life probably hung the portrait simply out of respect for their native son. But I would also believe it if someone told me that Better Life’s CEO is a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist who always believed Mao’s communist fantasies were folly and, now swollen with riches from selling jewelry and clothes to China’s ovine masses, has decided to take a victory lap by hanging a portrait where Mao’s weary, unblinking stare will forever be greeted by the former proletariat scrambling for earthly pleasures on the ruins of his communes.
The definition of irony has always been difficult to pin down, even for the most seasoned of wordsmiths, but here’s an attempt through example: an artist who achieved fame by defacing or destroying other artists’ work sees one of his defaced works defaced by another artist.
The famous artist is Ai Weiwei, whose 1995 photographic triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn is undoubtedly one of the pieces that propelled him to international art world fame and fortune.
We're rapidly approaching the March 1 submission deadline for those interested in reading at Poetry Night in Beijing, a curated community event on March 16 that's part of the Bookworm Literary Festival. If you're wondering whether you should submit, please heed the advice of Eleanor Goodman, one of our curators: "Submit! There’s nothing lonelier than a poem sitting unread on a laptop or in a notebook."
For those worried about peace and stability in East Asia, there is plenty to keep you up at night: an international pariah armed with nuclear weapons under the apparently tenuous control of a young adult of questionable maturity; messy historical relations between regional powers; and territorial disputes that tie up political capital, inflame public opinion, and increase the chance of hostilities. If it's Tuesday, there must be a flare-up in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.
I’ve asked many people why Abdulla “Aka” (Older Brother) Abdurehim is the undisputed King of Uyghur music. It’s not that he has the gravitas of a young Elvis Presley, the steely resolve of Johnny Cash, the working-class poetics of Bruce Springsteen, or the song and dance routine of the trickster Bob Dylan. People talk about the catchiness of his melodies, the way the best song writers flock to him like pigeons to a master, and women flutter around him like moths to a flame. Yet these explanations always leave me unsatisfied. Abdulla is, after all, an average-looking middle-aged man from Kashgar. He’s average height. He has a moustache.
The event is live! Tickets for Poetry Night in Beijing on March 16 at the Bookworm Literary Festival are officially being sold at the Bookworm. Please let this be a reminder that we are still seeking submissions for those interested in participating in the event, i.e. reading in front of an audience. Along with Pathlight, our lovely event partners, we are accepting poems until March 1. Please see here for guidelines.
Police mounted a surprise raid on Dada Bar on Wednesday at 8:30 pm, where the group “Beijing Creatives" was hosting a speaking event where, among others, a photographer, a book designer, and Beijing Cream’s Anthony Tao were giving short talks.
This morning, my wife and I set out to make a trip to the hospital. Because we were in a rush, we decided to rent a sanlunche (motorized tricycle) to take us to the nearest subway station. We hailed one on the main road outside the north gate of our community at about 8:45 am.
Our driver proceeded westbound on Chaoyang Road until reaching the McDonald’s across the north gate of Beijing International Studies University. At the intersection, she turned right onto Dingfuzhang Street and proceeded north toward Dalianpo station on Subway Line 6.
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?