‘V for Vendetta’ airs in China

If you despise totalitarian government, you’re probably a fan of “V for Vendetta” if you’ve had the opportunity to see the film. If you love freedom, this film, and particularly the film above, will inspire you.

It’s for that reason that the news of out China today is so shocking. Somehow, the censors allowed this film to be broadcast in China. It was already an underground favorite, but now millions in China may be suddenly questioning their own government. We can only hope.

China’s Olympics hysteria

The machinery in China established to produce gold medals in The Olympics is ruthless, and the Chinese people are grappling with the positive and negative effects of this system.

But the crankiness back home could increase in coming days as the Olympic Games heads into events such as track and field, where China hasn’t traditionally been strong. Despite tremendous pride in China’s slim lead over the U.S., the success has sparked debate over the pressure China’s results-driven sports system puts on winning.

That system picks athletes at young ages, grooming them for Olympic gold at national training centers, often far away from their families. Qin, the diver, said he started training at age six. “Sometimes, I get to see (my family) every other year. If the competition schedule is not that tight, maybe sometimes I can spend a whole week with my parents in a year,” he said.

“Every athlete has some pressure,” Qin said. “If you want to be really good, then you have to be able to hold that pressure to perform.”

Last week, 23-year-old weightlifter Wu Jingbiao publicly apologized, bowing in front of the television cameras, for bringing home a silver, not gold, medal. “I feel terribly sorry for my country, China’s weightlifting team and everyone that supports me,” Wu said, fighting back tears. That came after some Chinese newspapers referred to 17-year-old Chinese female weightlifter Zhou Jun as one of the country’s greatest failures.

“It is not the barbell that overwhelmed Wu, but a world of difference in terms of treatment toward gold medal winner and that of silver medal,” said the Southern Metropolis Daily, a newspaper in China’s southern Guangdong province.

An editorial written this week in the state-run China Youth Daily newspaper called for change, saying leaders have hammered hard for medals in pursuit of global recognition that could have been earned in other, more socially beneficial ways. “Even from the standpoint of sports fans, we are more concerned with public affairs that affect our happiness,” the China Youth Daily editorial said.

State-run newspapers have taken the opposite approach, arguing that any criticism of the state’s sports system is criticism of the state itself.

In many ways this debate is a good thing for Chinese culture. It will be interesting to see how this debate evolves.

Gambling revenues continue to grow in Macau

China’s march towards a modern economy continues unabated, even with reports of a recent slowdown. While the country is still held back by the restrictive policies of the government, censorship and corruption, many changes are afoot that will transform the culture over time. While Internet access is somewhat restricted, Chinese citizens can find information and entertainment if they are determined to do so. They can communicate through social networking, play online games or track poker on Party Poker Television. There’s only so much the government can do to hold back the desires of the Chinese people. They want the brands we have and want to play the games we play. Consumerism is a very powerful force, as people around the world want access to what Western citizens have. With the Internet, they can see what others have, and that influences behavior. Just look at the Middle East and see what social media and online access can do to a restrictive culture.

With gambling, the government has actually accelerated the cultural shift with the support of the massive growth in Macau. Gambling revenues continue to grow rapidly even with a slowdown looming in the overall Chinese economy. Given the size of Macau’s gambling presence this is still impressive growth. The casinos in Las Vegas aren’t happy about it, as the Asian high rollers no longer have Vegas as their primary destination. Macau is closer and bigger.

This isn’t lost on the Chinese people, who now have their own glittering destination for gambling. Naturally, this helps fuel the growth of games like poker in China. The poker popularity explosion is around 15 years old in the United States, but can you imagine the growth of this game as over a billion Chinese people become exposed to the game with the hype surrounding Macau and access to online gaming sites?

Things like this might seem trivial, but small things like poker and gambling can have a huge impact on culture. People demand the right to enjoy entertainment options once they are exposed to them. You can’t put that genie back in the box.

The strength of the economy in China

Some of the numbers coming out of China lately have spooked economists and investors, and there’s a real debate as to the strength of the Chinese economy. This article in The Economist takes a more positive outlook.

CHINA’S weight in the global economy means that it commands the world’s attention. When its industrial production, house building and electricity output slow sharply, as they did in the year to April, the news weighs on global stockmarkets and commodity prices. When its central bank eases monetary policy, as it did this month, it creates almost as big a stir as a decision by America’s Federal Reserve. And when China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, stresses the need to maintain growth, as he did last weekend, his words carry more weight with the markets than similar homages to growth from Europe’s leaders. No previous industrial revolution has been so widely watched.

But rapid development can look messy close up, as our special report this week explains; and there is much that is going wrong with China’s economy. It is surprisingly inefficient, and it is not as fair as it should be. But outsiders’ principal concern—that its growth will collapse if it suffers a serious blow, such as the collapse of the euro—is not justified. For the moment, it is likely to prove more resilient than its detractors fear. Its difficulties, and they are considerable, will emerge later on.

Check out the entire argument presented in the article. This issue will be front and center as the world grapples with the problems in Europe. A real slowdown in China could be catastrophic.

Classic and Fast Can Mix in Your Pocket


Image Courtesy of Flickr

There is nothing like when a culture experiences a strong and sudden change. With China going through a revolution over the past generation that is larger than anything since Germany’s military ramping up prior to World War II, the world has to take notice. While there is nothing violent about this change, wise people notice when a hard working people begins to develop a whole new vision that changes their entire lifestyle.

Speed and classical design have begun to mix in China in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Japanese began modernizing in the 19th century. These types of changes do not come around very often, and the world can only ignore this powerhouse at its own risk.

The Speed

Few things have hit China or the world with quite the speed of the smart phone revolution. While the Blackberry Bold may not seem like a massive change from the old standard, its departure from the classical mold is downright striking when you take it in context. Few inventions or improvements of the past few generations can even come close to comparing to this technology, considering how it has changed life for so many people.

Consider that a generation or two ago, most Chinese people barely had what many westerners consider to be basic utilities in place. Nowadays, they not only have the utilities and infrastructure but the information access capacity that used to be the domain of extremely affluent and well established countries. It’s a whirlwind of change happening all at once.

The Classical Elements

It has been said that the perfect design is one that a person can easily and instinctively figure out how to use. If that is the case, modern smart phone technology has a nearly perfect hold on the minds of its users. When a person can figure out in mere moments how to access just about any information that exists, this is a victory that has few precursors. While the technology itself is very new, the purposes behind it are as old as humanity itself.

The classical appeal of something that contains massive amounts of information and allows you to communicate with others is the modern epitome of what it means to be human in the first place. In China and everywhere else, being able to connect with anyone and everyone is an incredible achievement for everyone. The fact that it’s accessible to anyone is a feat that could not have been performed in generations past.

Keeping Them Merged Seamlessly

It’s an interesting juxtaposition to merge the fast and the classic. When the quest for knowledge and the speed of its access come together, everyone wins in ways that most people could not have previously imagined. This ability to share communication and knowledge is a victory of human intention that was first tested in Europe, perfected in the United States and brought to China for its ultimate realization. As the Chinese learn and communicate more effectively than ever before, their wealth and freedom cannot help but grow exponentially.

Bizarre Chinese soft drinks

This article is pretty funny. The Chinese are now rivaling the Japanese in the strange soft drink market.

More Apple audits in China

Apple is ramping up audits of factories in China.

Apple has told a prominent Chinese environmental activist that it will soon launch independent environmental audits of at least two suppliers’ factories in China, the activist said.

The audits come as Apple faces mounting criticism about toxic pollution and factory injuries at overseas suppliers’ factories. The environmental reviews would be separate from an independent probe of working conditions at the China factories of Apple suppliers, including Foxconn Technology, that began last week.

Ma Jun, founder of The Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs, told USA TODAY Monday in a phone interview that Apple agreed to the independent audits in late January in response to two reports that IPE and other environmental groups released last year documenting hazardous waste leaks and the use of toxic chemicals at suspected Apple suppliers.

Apple’s image has taken a beating with the problems at Foxconn, so let’s see if this is a new trend.

U.S. won’t cite China as currency manipulator

China undervalues its currency in order to gain competitive advantage around the world. Everyone understands that and it needs to change, but the question in the United State is how to effectively change it. The Obama administration is taking the gradual approach:

The Obama administration on Tuesday declined to label China a currency manipulator after seeing recent increases in the value of the yuan compared to the dollar.

The decision angered some manufacturing groups, which have accused Beijing of artificially holding down the value of its currency to gain trade advantages. A cheaper yuan makes Chinese goods less expensive when they are shipped to the United States. It also makes U.S. goods more expensive in China. Both could increase the U.S. trade deficit with China, which is on pace to hit a record high this year.

The Treasury Department said the yuan has appreciated 12 percent against the dollar in the past 18 months, after adjusting for inflation. In addition, the department said in a semi-annual report that China promised at two high-level meetings last month to make the yuan’s exchange rate more flexible.

Still, yuan is “substantially undervalued” and its appreciation “is insufficient and more progress is needed,” the report noted. The department will “press for policy changes that yield greater exchange rate flexibility” and “level the playing field.”

This will likely end up being a campaign issue as Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates are hammering Obama over China. But progress is being made.

Gambling boom in Asia

Las Vegas casinos used to feast on Asian gamblers. Often, these were the “whales” – otherwise known as high rollers – that the casinos would rely upon to rack up huge profits from their casino operations.

The popularity of casino games is huge. People love playing online and they also love the atmosphere of a casino. This has always been a hallmark of the Asian culture, and Chinese tourists were becoming a huge growth opportunity for the Vegas casinos.

But all of that is changing due to two very powerful forces. One was the financial crisis which decimated the Vegas casinos. Everyone was affected, including Chinese tourists. Now the crowds are coming back to Vegas, but there is still a problem as there are fewer Asian high rollers.

And that’s due to the second factor – the emergence of Macau in China as a gambling destination. The casinos there are bigger than those in Vegas and the gambling volume has surpassed Las Vegas. Chinese whales now can stay on their own continent and get the same kind of thrill from progressive jackpot slots or hours of blackjack. They don’t have to look to Vegas as the best option.

This trend is having a huge impact on Chinese tourism, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

China extending censorship to movies

Is China fighting a losing battle with its ridiculous censorship crusade?

Authoritarian governments need to control information to control their population, so none of this nonsense is a surprise. Now the Chinese are extending this strategy to movies:

China has proposed a new law to ban film content which it deems to disturb social stability or promote religious fanaticism.

The Movie Industry Promotion Bill would also forbid foreign firms or individuals from filming without a government-sanctioned partner.

Correspondents say this is part of an overall tightening of China’s grip over its cultural industries.

China has long banned the screening of films deemed politically sensitive.

And some film-makers have steered clear of controversial issues likely to upset the authorities, observers say.

But this draft bill adds even more categories open to censorship. It states that films must not harm national honour and interest, incite ethnic hatred, spread “evil cults” or superstition, or propagate obscenity, gambling, drug abuse, violence or terror.

The Chinese are trying their best with this despicable strategy, but can this work in a modern world where we have social media and mobile phones? Have they seen what’s going in with the Arab Spring and now even in Russia?

For example, if people want mobile gambling apps, they are going to get them. But the same phones that permit this technology can also be used for social networking, sharing photos, videos and protest ideas.

This tight grip can’t last too long.