Six years ago this week I was in Shanghai. I don’t remember why, but I do remember wandering some of streets of the old city where I spotted these little chairs lined up outside a business. Just sunning themselves on a warm Spring day.
Two things have always puzzled me: who put them there and why?
On March 5, Premier Li Keqiang delivered the 2016 government work report at the opening session of the annual National People’s Congress in Beijing. As government work reports go, it follows a very strict script: listing of all the glorious accomplishments of the past year and then setting forth all the glorious things that the government will accomplish this year. And of course it has all happened under the glorious leadership of the Communist Party with Chairman Xi Jinping as the core.
I waded through the English translation of the entire 18,000-character report (so you don’t have to), and pulled out some of the key numbers Premier Li listed for the past year:
4.02% registered urban unemployment
5.6% decline in sulfur emissions
6.7% economic growth
1900 km new high speed rail lines
6700 km new expressways
290,000km rural roads
5.5 million km fiber optic cables
15,000 new businesses added daily
6 million dilapidated urban homes renovated
12.4 million reduction in people living in rural poverty areas
13.4 million new urban jobs
21.3 million growth in the number of students from poor rural areas enrolled in universities
120 million overseas trips
340 million new 4G mobile subscribers
The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time has posted links to the original report as well as their translation. You can find them all here. There are also links to other reports as well.
Here is a round-up of other articles covering and analyzing this year’s National People’s Congress:
China begins annual political sessions with synchronized tea pouring and the shadow of a leadership shuffle (March 5, 2017, The Los Angeles Times)
The National People’s Congress, a largely ceremonial body, sticks to a script and proceeds like an overly choreographed play — down to servers’ synchronized pouring of tea. But officials are working even harder this year to praise their boss and make sure nothing goes wrong. The reason: A leadership shakeup this fall could lay the foundation for President Xi Jinping to extend his years in power.
The Pomp and Politics of China’s Annual Congress (March 7, 2017, Bloomberg)
The National People’s Congress is many things. It’s China’s top legislative body and a rubber stamp for policies hammered out behind closed doors by the ruling Communist Party. It’s the only time each year that many top officials in the world’s second-biggest economy face the press. Above all, it’s a master class in orchestration.
China’s political propaganda gets a digital makeover (March 14, 2017, BBC)
China has been trying and failing for years to get its people, especially its young people, to care about its political system. Could it now be close to working out how to do just this?
I love language and infographics, so when I ran across this fantastic infographic depicting the major non-Asian world languages, I couldn’t resist. Here’s how it is described on the Matador Network:
The manner in which languages evolve over time is immensely complex, and can be kind of difficult to understand. So linguists like to visually represent languages as a tree. Like most academic diagrams, the tree is usually a fairly dull thing to look at, but Finnish-Swedish webcomic artist Minna Sundberg has put together this spectacularly beautiful depiction of where the world’s Nordic languages originally came from.
It’s more than an infographic; it’s a piece of art.
Would love to see a similar one for Asian languages!
Last week I received an email from a friend that had attached to it several pictures of a bell. They were taken by a friend of his who had recently been traveling in Pakistan and had come upon a bell in a church compound in Larkana, a city in the province of Sindh.
Yes, you are reading that correctly — the inscription is “Crocodile!” A friend who saw the photo thought it looked liked a bell from a ship. Sure enough, there was an HMS Crocodile. Here’s what the Wikipedia entry has to say about it:
She was built for the transport of troops between the United Kingdom and the Indian sub-continent, and was operated by the Royal Navy. She carried up to 1,200 troops and family on a passage of approximately 70 days. She was commissioned in April 1870 under Captain G H Parkin.
Crocodile was re-engined rather later in life than her sisters, with her single-expansion steam engine replaced with a more efficient compound-expansion type.[Note 1]
Crocodile‘s last voyage began at Bombay in October 1893. On 3 November, as she was approaching Aden, the high-pressure steam cylinder exploded and the ship came to a halt. The next day she was towed to an anchorage near Aden.  Most of the soldiers and their families were brought home on other ships. Crocodileeventually arrived back at Portsmouth on 30 December 1893, having travelled using only the low-pressure steam cylinder, and was not further employed for trooping.
In 1894 it was sold for scrap.
There is a place along the coast in Pakistan, in Gaddani, where ships are scrapped. Maybe they were already breaking up ships there in the late 1800’s. Maybe that’s where Crocodile was scrapped and from where the bell began its journey up country to Larkana.
So, it seems like I may need to plan a bell-hunting trip to Pakistan. Who wants to join me?
Note: this post was originally titled “A Bell in Sukkur” because I mistakenly thought the bell was in the city of Sukkur. The title has been edited, and a section about Sukkur has been removed. I apologize for the confusion.
We have a joke here in Minnesota: “What’s the best thing to come out of Iowa?” “Interstate 35.” Apologies to my Iowan friends, but I’m sure that you just turn the joke around anyway.
An interesting feature of life in the United States is the rivalries that exist between various regions and states. Some rivalries are sports-based, some are rooted in cultural or perceived cultural differences.
I recently ran across this fun cartoon that depicts how various states in the midwest view each other.
Regional rivalries or stereotypes exist in China as well. Beijingers generally look down on everyone, as do people from Shanghai. People from Shanghai think that Beijingers are only interested in politics and Beijingers think Shanghai people are money-grubbing. The northeast is considered by the rest of the country to be full of drunks, and everyone thinks that people in Guangdong only think about making money.
China celebrates International Women’s Day every year on March 8. Usually what that means is women in the workplace are hosted to a lunch or perhaps given the afternoon off. When I taught at a university in China, my classes were in the morning, so I always felt a bit cheated when the school officials proudly announced that we didn’t have to work in the afternoon.
When I lived in Beijing I occasionally got to attend a Women’s Day luncheon, hosted for foreign women in the city at the Great Hall of the People, China’s main government building. The event was held in the banquet hall, which can host a sit-down banquet for 10,000 people!
As you can see, this photo was taken awhile ago. The waitresses are all soldiers isn the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
I always enjoyed the chance to visit this historic place where President Nixon dined with Premier Zhou En-lai in 1972.
We all have certain smells that we don’t like. My list is varied — stinky doufu (tofu), port-a-potties, certain perfumes, and yes, even coffee!!
On Monday I added a new one to my list: the smell of blood vessels being burned.
Make that the smell of MY blood vessels being burned.
For the second time in 2 1/2 years, I had surgery to remove a basal cell cancerous doodad (I think the scientific term is tumor or lesion) on my face.
I noticed something suspicious on my cheek 3 weeks ago and made an appointment to see a dermatologist. She performed a biopsy last Tuesday, and on Friday the lab called to tell me the results were positive. The surgeon had an opening on Monday morning, so I was able to get it taken care of right away.
The procedure he used is called Mohs Surgery, an outpatient procedure in which layers of skin and tissue are removed until all trace of the cancer is gone. In my case that meant cutting a hole in my cheek the size of a quarter and a 1/4 inch deep. Don’t worry; I won’t show you a picture.
As part of the procedure, the surgeon had to cauterize a few blood vessels. And in case you’re wondering what that means, here’s a definition:
We may be snowless this winter here in the Twin Cities, but there was snow in the mountains outside of Beijing earlier this month. Dutch photographer Tom van Dillen captured the beauty of the Great Wall under a blanket of snow with his drone: