Who’s Minding the Crackdown?

With the opening ceremony of the Olympics now only 244 days away, the crackdowns are coming fast and furious.  So much so, that it’s almost impossible to keep up.  A new one was announced today, this one aimed at the police!  Well, specifically the behavior of the police.  Apparently there is a problem with the behavior of those who are supposed to be carrying out all the other crackdowns that have been announced over the past few months.  And what are some of the…ahem…"issues" with the police—the troubling behaviors that they are trying to root out?  According to the Ministry of Public Security announcement, the crackdown will focus on the following:  wearing police uniforms or police badges in a wrong way; smoking, eating food, and chatting in working hours; not having a positive attitude; negligence of duty; and obeying traffic rules.  In addition the inspections will check up on how things are going with "The Five Bans" that were issued a few years ago, which include gambling, drinking on duty and abusing guns.  Does that say abusing guns???

Go here to read all about it in the China Daily.

Twinkling Quiet and Equilibrium

The scourge of Chinglish continues unabated here in Beijing.  I was at a very nice restaurant earlier this evening, and picked up a brochure.  The opening paragraph read as follows:  "Walk by the scenic Si De Park, the flicklenness becomes in a twinkling quiet and equilibrium."  Huh?

This reminded me of   one of my favorite posts that I wrote a couple of years ago, called Twinkling with Inheriting and Development Achievement. Follow the link to read the whole thing.

What’s with all the twinkling?

A Cross-Cross-cultural Experience

I and a friend had the strange experience this morning of finding ourselves as sort of double outsiders in a very unique neighborhood of Beijing.  After enjoying an all-American breakfast at Grandma’s Kitchen, we decided to stroll through Ritan embassy district.  We ended up on the northern edge of this district in an area called Yabaolu.  It’s also known locally as the Russian market.  For some reason, as this city has developed, the markets and shops in this district cater specifically to Russian traders and tourists.  Besides the fact that all of the shop signs are in Russian, another sign that you’ve stumbled into Yabaolu is that the main items sold in the shops are gaudy furs, woolen scarves and gloves.  This used to be a giant outdoor market that spilled out onto the streets.  Back then we had the added hint of being in the Russian market by the size of the the….ahem….shall we say women’s "small articles of clothing," only in this case they weren’t so small. 

What made it an odd cultural experience this morning was that all of the normal street vendors that are omnipresent near every market kept trying to talk to us in Russian.  We just looked at them and said, in Chinese, ting bu dong, which literally means "hear no understand." This was always greeted by a puzzled look.   As we were walking along the street chatting in English, one chap jumped in front of us for a few seconds, then ran back to his buddies and announced loudly to them, meiguoren (Americans). I stopped dead in my tracks, turned to him and said, "how do you know?"  "I could tell by listening to you."  I was impressed.

A couple of blocks later we wandered out of the market area, and once again were on streets with only Chinese and just a smattering of English.  We felt back at home.

The Wall Comes a’Tumbling Down

For some mysterious reason, the block on typepad sites has suddenly been lifted here in China, which means that this site is once again accessible to readers in China.  The Great Firewalls goes up.  It goes down.  Without warning or explanation.  As we say often here, Zhongguo shi zheyang.  China is just this way.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

It’s a gorgeous summer evening here in Beijing, and I just got home from a baseball game!  That’s right, a baseball game!  There are a number of international tournaments being held around town in some of the newly completed Olympics venues.  These are sort of trial runs for the big games, which are now less than a year away.  The Wukesong Baseball stadiums are not far from where I live, so getting to the games was fairly easy.  I didn’t know about them until this evening, when one of my colleagues called from the stadium, and said "hey, come and join us, the stands are only half full!"   I jumped in a cab and headed over there.  I got there and went to the entrance to ask where tickets were being sold.  I was told they were sold out.  "But I just got a phone call from my friends inside and they say that there are lots of empty seats!"  "Oh," he said.  At that point, a man came up to me and said, "here, you can have this ticket for 30 yuan!" So, right there in front of the ticket taker, I bought the ticket, then turned around and gave it to the taker.  He smiled and said "welcome!"   Through security, then on a walk around the park behind the outfield, and into the stands, where I found my friend sitting just above third base.  We sat there and watched China slaughter the Czech Republic.  Tomorrow night Japan and China will play the championship game of this tournament. Now that should be interesting.  Of course we were told that the tickets are sold out, but we’re hoping that means as much as it did tonight!

Baseball in Beijing!  "Whodathunkit?"

Make It Permanent!

Starting last Friday, Beijing has instituted a trial run of traffic management and pollution control measures that may be implemented for the Olympics next year.  For all government and private cars, an odd/even regulation has been put into effect.  Cars with license numbers that end with odd digits could drive on the 17th and 19th, and cars with license numbers that end with even digits could drive on the 18th and 20th.  Taxis and buses were obviously not affected.

Traffic has been great.  The streets are calm, and the congestion has been way down.  Getting places by taxi has act actually been pleasant.  It has made me realize that Beijing really isn’t all that big.  In normal times it may take an hour to get someplace, but that someplace is rarely more than 10 or 15 miles away!  Take half the cars off the road, though, and zippity-zip….you’re there.

I can’t see that it’s made any impact on the pollution, however.  Last week, the forces of nature (which are much stronger than the forces of officials) gave us a week of brilliant blue skies, even with all the cars on the road.  This week, the cars have been parked, but the smog and humid haze have lingered.  Give it up, guys.  You can’t control the weather!

Traffic, on the other hand, can be controlled, and three days into this experiment,  and I say MAKE IT PERMANENT! 

Blue Skies of Beijing

Last Wednesday was a big day here in Beijing.  It marked the "T Minus One Year (or 365 days) and Counting" date until the start of the 2008 Olympic Games.  The number 8 is a very auspicious number in traditional Chinese thinking, it is not by chance that the Games will open on 8-8-08.  At 8 pm, of course.  To celebrate the rounding of the home stretch, the city conducted more ceremonies than you can shake a chopstick at.  The biggest, of course was in Tiananmen Square, the closest thing that this atheist nation has to a sacred space.

Along with the ceremony and hoopla was much official blabber about all things Olympian.  Most of it was sweetness and light ("everything is right on schedule for a successful games), but one of the topics that everyone wanted to avoid but couldn’t was the pollution.  Right up until that T-minus day the city was enveloped in one of its periodic toxic fogs.  The smog was so thick you could hardly see across the street.  Occasionally a thunderstorm would burst on the scene, sending torrents of acid fog down on us Beijingers, flooding the streets and laying a blanket of mud over everything.  The weather and pollution the first week of August were straight out of the organizing committees worst nightmare. 

This prompted the government to issue daily pronouncements on measures that they were taking to clear the smog, and on measures that they were taking to ensure good weather for the Olympic Games next year.

Then the oddest thing happened.  The toxic fog lifted, and the sun came out, and we are now in our 6th straight day here in Beijing of sunshine and blue skies.  It’s really quite beautiful—and a bit freaky.  What really scared me the other day was realizing the effects of living in a system where the leadership claims that they can control the weather—when the weather suddenly does get very very nice, how easy it is to think, "well, by jiggers, they did it!"  Which is, of course absolutely wrong!  They do not control the weather.

I’m willing to give credit to the leadership here for many many accomplishments, but controlling the weather is not one of them.