Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Truth About Shenzhen

This article from China Daily really doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. I'm more surprised that they actually reported on it.

According to the article, the number one emotional/mental health issue in Shenzhen is extramarital affairs. It seems that when people become successful in the city they go out and find a lover on the side. This is nothing new to anyone who lives in a major city in China. I even mentioned something about this at the beginning of 2008.

One point in the article that I wasn't aware of is that Shenzhen does have private detectives, whose businesses are booming with the rise of affairs. However, Jia informs me that private investigators are not quite legal in China--all evidence collected by them is inadmissible in court.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

China is Listening

The Chinese government wants to make the use of eavesdropping in corruption investigations legal, according to today's China Daily. Now, take a second to think about that sentence again.

You're probably thinking, but China already spies on its citizens, why would they need to make it legal? Law professor Zhu Wenqi says, "The current law does not specify whether it is legal and I think they are illegal measures as they are offences to people's privacy." I'm fairly certain that if the law doesn't specify it, it's legal as far as the Chinese government is concerned. And when was the last time the CCP cared about other people's privacy?

Apparently, the government wants to be able to use a variety of methods to catch corrupt politicians and businesspeople. "In addition to wiretaps and eavesdropping, modern methods such as lie-detector tests, hypnosis, mail checking and satellite locating are also included." Wait a second...since when is hypnosis a modern method of gathering evidence?

The lesson here is, if you're living in China you should watch out for Big Brother Hu listening in on your conversations. I'm sure the CCP enjoyed my mundane weekly conversations with my parents.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I finally recovered from my birthday food coma.

Friday, my wonderful wife cooked dinner for my friend, brother, and me before we went out to celebrate in Jersey City. We were all shocked when we saw the table completely full of food. She made 麻辣牛肉 (mala niurou), cumin lamb, Xinjiang beef stew, fish flavored eggplant, corn with pine nuts and peppers, and spring rolls (okay, those were frozen from the Asian market, but she still had to fry them). And she also made the traditional Chinese birthday noodle soup with a hard-boiled egg. We didn't come close to finishing the dinner--we got through about half the meal. And we never managed to get to dessert.

If my birthday dinner at home wasn't enough, my parents took me out Saturday. We went to Komegashi for sushi. It's a great Japanese restaurant on the waterfront with a nice view of New York City. We filled up on a few small appetizers of wasabi duck, gyoza (fried dumplings), and a few others. Then I went for the sashimi dinner, which has some pretty thick slices of fish. I don't think I've ever felt so full from sashimi in my life.

Now I get to prepare myself for Thanksgiving. I will enjoy my first Thanksgiving turkey in four years. I'm sure it'll be much better than roast duck from Carrefour in Shenzhen.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Birthday Memory

Tomorrow is my birthday--the first birthday I will celebrate in the US in four years (and first in New Jersey in six).

My first birthday in China was full of small surprises. I had been in China three weeks and the school hadn't fixed my phone, so my parents couldn't call me. All the school had to do was pay the China Telecom bill because the phone line had not been in use for almost a year. They didn't figure this out until I told my boss what I'd do with the phone if another repairman entered my apartment without actually fixing anything. My phone finally worked the week after my birthday.
Jia (before we were dating) surprised me with a decorative pu'er tea disc that had the character 羊 with a ram's head for the top of the character. It was a very thoughtful gift as it was specific for my Chinese zodiac. I later had to ask her mother's permission to allow her to come out on a Friday night to help celebrate my birthday, which was extremely difficult because her mother didn't speak any English and I had only learned about ten words of Chinese.

It turned out to be a very quiet but enjoyable birthday at our favorite local restaurant with some beer. The next day, a few of the teachers took me to Shekou (my first trip outside of Bao'an district) for dinner at the Indian restaurant that was destroyed in the flood of Sea World a few years ago. They then dragged me down Chicken Street to the one legitimate bar.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Revaluing the Yuan

Since Obama planned his trip to China there has been speculation as to whether or not he'd press China to revalue the Yuan. Rumors of revaluation pop up at least once a year, and occassionally the rumors are true (when I first moved to China at the end of 2005, the exchange rate was a little more than 8 to the dollar; when I left it was about 6.8 to the dollar--I should've saved more money). The value the US would like to see is probably along the lines of the standard of living, which would be around 2-3RMB to the dollar, but that is unlikely to happen for a long time.

Revaluing the Yuan is a touchy subject in China--many view it as pressure from Western powers to slow the Chinese economy or just a plot to destroy the economy (I had more than a few students write essays about this subject with little to no supporting details). Many Americans believe that a stronger Yuan will help the American economy, while many Chinese believe that a stronger Yuan will hurt the Chinese economy.

In the short term, a revalued Yuan won't do much of anything. It will improve the Chinese buying power of non-Chinese products, which are extremely expensive when considering the standard of living in China. But, it will also make Chinese products more expensive abroad, which could lead to people spending less on Chinese-made products. It is not likely to make Chinese products more expensive in China, which is the real fear of the working class there.

The fear that the Chinese government has is that a revalued Yuan will force foreign companies to move to cheaper countries. Some companies have already done so, but it was more about the rise of minimum wage in areas like Shenzhen (minimum wage is 1000RMB per month). Most companies can't move to countries with cheaper labor because those countries don't have the infrastructure or number of laborers that China has. Also, it costs money to build a factory and train new workers. The exodus of manufacturing jobs from China will not happen quickly--it's more likely that it may happen gradually over the next 10 or 20 years. This gives Chinese companies ample time to adapt to the changes.

The greatest fear should come from American businesses. With a stronger Yuan, Chinese businesses will have more money to spend abroad, which they would happily spend on acquiring foreign businesses and product lines (such as Hummer). Acquiring such companies and product lines will improve the image and quality of Chinese products abroad. And, Chinese businesses are not likely to keep manufacturing units in the US, thus costing more jobs in the American economy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Work of (Iron) Art

This week's Friday photo is from Bangkok. I was reminded of this cool ironwork after meeting an ironwork artisan down the street--he makes a lot of functional art from scrap metal and wood (it's quite plentiful when they tear down some of the older buildings in Jersey City). I'll have to go back and show him this work of art from Thailand. I'll also have to go play mahjong with him since he claims to know how to play.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day

As I mentioned in my previous post, Jia and I visited the USS New York on Monday. Today, the ship heads south. It is an impressive vessel that's hull was constructed with 17.5 tons of steel recovered from the World Trade Center.
Jia has seen plenty of memorials around New Jersey and New York for September 11 (she takes the PATH to the World Trade Center on her way to work), but she still doesn't quite understand the significance of those buildings or the USS New York. I must admit she has done a great job of finding information in an effort to understand it better.

As it is Veterans' Day, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our past and present men and women in uniform for serving our country. I'd especially like to thank my friends in the military--they are some of the best friends I could have. I am grateful for their service. I am also very happy to know that they are all safe at home on this Veterans' Day.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Strange Questions

Today, Jia and I took a short trip into Manhattan to visit the USS New York (more on that in another post). She's never seen a naval vessel up close and wanted to share some of the experience with her friends on her blog. She showed me one of the photos she took, which had the officers on board the ship, and asked me how to say it in Chinese.

I see a few things wrong with her question. The first being that she knows my abilities in Chinese. The second being that she is the native speaker who should know what she took a picture of and how to explain what it is in her own language.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Jumble

I've been a little busy lately--though not as busy as I'd like to be. I feel like I'm going in quite a few directions--sort of like this tree I came across in Penang (does anyone know what it's called?).
Not sure why I didn't mention this on here earlier, but I finished putting together Terracotta Typewriter #3. This issue is pretty heavy on prose and light on poetry--I hope to even that out for the future. So, now I have to begin working on issue #4 and get back to updating the blog on the site more regularly.

I also published an article on healthcare (a rather sore subject here in the US) at Freelance Writing Jobs. And it looks like I'll be doing a little travel writing in the near future. I hope all this writing gets me into a better groove to work more efficiently on my novels and stories.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Absurdity of the Job Hunt

I've seen my share of absurd requirements for jobs--five years experience for an entry-level position? But apparently the public security bureau (aka police department) in Fujian province takes the lead in absurdity. According to China Daily, the bureau had to apologize for their attempted hiring practices.

For some reason the bureau had to hire a food washer (I would guess that they have a cafeteria at the station) and posted a job ad. The requirements for this job were that the person must be female, good-looking, at least 1.58 meters tall, and hold a bachelor's degree in Chinese or journalism.

It's difficult to decide what the worst part of those requirements is. It's sexist for them to want a good-looking, tall woman for the position. But the candidates also need a bachelor's degree!? For a job that pays 800RMB per month!?

Then again, it does show how much respect the police have for journalists in China.

Rebellious Voting Activity

I have quite a few reasons why I will not vote for a major party candidate in tomorrow's gubernatorial election in New Jersey. I'm tired of hearing about people voting against one candidate or the other--this seems to be a long-running trend around here. We should be willing to vote for a candidate rather than against one.

To start with, I never liked Democrat Jon Corzine--I didn't vote for him for the Senate and didn't vote for him in his first run for governor (I wrote in a candidate for that one). The problem has been that the Republicans have never had a half-decent candidate to run against Corzine. The Republican candidate this year is Chris Christie--thus reaffirming my suspicions that the Republicans have no idea what they're doing. With these two despicable men do not deserve my vote, and I don't believe they deserve anyone else's vote.

I'm tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, especially when the lesser evil is only incrementally less evil. I may not like Corzine, but I know Christie will not do any better for the state of New Jersey. Choosing between these two is like choosing between the electric chair and a lethal injection. Therefore, I will throw my vote to Chris Daggett.

I don't really think Daggett will do any better than Corzine or Christie, but I want to send a message to the Republicans and Democrats that I am fed up. I could choose one of the other third-party candidates, but they stand even less of a chance of winning.

If you're fed up with the politics of New Jersey, I encourage you to vote for a third-party candidate. We need to fix this state instead of allowing the wealthy to serve their own needs in office.