West Lake by Foggy Dawn

Posting will be light this week, due to the fact that I’m on-assignment in Hanghzou. And it’s not a bad place to be on-assignment, either. In fact, I’d like all of my reporting days to be preceded by a foggy walk alongside West Lake at dawn (editors: please take note). Only observation worth blogging about is the surprisingly large number of picture-taking tourists strolling by the lake before 7 AM.

Much respect for the early risers.

dsc03815.JPG

Between a Rock and a Movie Theater at the National Interest

My new op-ed style essay, ‘Between a Rock and a Movie Theater‘ is now online at The National Interest. This one benefited immensely from a recent conversation that I had with a visiting journalist on the monetization of digital music.

[UPDATE 11/1: I am pleased to note that Asia Times Online re-published the National Interest piece on Wednesday under the much better title “China not following Hollywood’s script.” Why didn’t I think of that?]

Satire/Self-immolation at China Daily?

I’ve begun to think that someone at China Daily has a rather wry sense of humor. Case in point: a very brief photo essay that ran in Friday’s online edition. Located at the top of the China section (still on the home page) was a link that connected to this headline, photo, and caption:

sisyphus.jpg

I reduced the size of the photo for formatting purposes, so in case the text is too small, here it is again: “A resident exercises near a waterway as thick smog envelops Beijing October 26, 2007. Beijing is well on its way to fulfilling the environmental pledges made when it bid to host the Games. [Agencies]Continue reading

Suzhou Sunset

I was stuck in a traffic jam, irritated — and then I saw this.

dsc02922.JPG

Vietnam Scrap

[Your Inadvertent All-Vietnam Double-Header Thursday at Shanghai Scrap]

For more than a decade, China has been the world’s leading importer of scrap metal and paper. And for more than a decade, the world’s scrap exporters have been mostly content with this lucrative state of affairs. Mostly, but not entirely. In recent years – and particularly over the last 18 months – many exporters have begun looking for new markets in hopes of diversifying a customer base that could – without any problem at all – be entirely Chinese.

But that’s easier said than done. The factors that make China such an ideal scrap export market – thriving resource-hungry manufacturers, low-cost labor, and low-cost container shipping rates – aren’t replicated easily. Especially the last one. But that hasn’t stopped the exporters from looking. And, as they look, I’ve looked with them. Last year I followed the alternative market search to India. And in June I followed it to Vietnam, the current favored alternative.

dsc02369.JPG

The new issue of Recycling International includes Part I of my long feature, “In Search of Vietnam’s Scrap Industry.” Scrap Magazine will publish the feature next month. An online version of the article will be available in a couple of months (on Scrap’s site). In the meantime, below, an excerpt.

The receptionist just glances at me as I walk past her and step into the slow, creaking elevator that takes me to the ninth floor of the Vietnam Steel Corporation (VSC) building in Hanoi. It’s a long, hot ride – the car isn’t air-conditioned, and the North Vietnamese heat feels like it is taking refuge inside of the elevator shaft. But when the doors open with a hard thunk, I breathe a little easier in the cool comfort of the Vietnam Steel Association (VSA). The lobby is empty, not even completed, but to the left is another receptionist, and she doesn’t appear surprised to see a foreign face. Continue reading

The Pope’s China Letter: Special Vietnam Edition

Recently I’ve received a few emails inquiring into why I haven’t had anything to write about China’s Catholics in recent weeks. My reply is that – in regard to subjects that I’ve covered in the past (the Pope’s letter to China’s Catholics, and the ongoing rapprochement between China’s two churches and between Rome and Beijing), there’s not much happening on the surface – and that’s where I’m in a position to report, mostly. However, the late September visit to China of Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, Cardinal of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has sparked a negative response that I think deserves some consideration.

Right away, though, I want to be clear about something: Cardinal Man’s visit – from September 24 to 28 – was not historic. Cardinal Man is only the latest cardinal among many to have visited China and its open Catholics over the last two decades (Cardinal Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh is currently in China until October 30). In many cases – and this is not news, either – those cardinals have served as intermediaries from the Church outside of China.

It’s clear that Cardinal Man’s visit was – at least, partially – along those lines. And it was spurred – at least partially – by a March 2007 visit by seven Chinese government religious officials to Cardinal Minh in Ho Chi Minh City. No details have emerged about the closed-door meetings that resulted, but a copy of Cardinal Minh’s follow-up letter has leaked. In it, he offers detailed advice on how Beijing’s bishop could be chosen to satisfy both the government and the Vatican (modeled on Vietnam’s method, and advice not taken), and he requests the opportunity to visit China and its Catholic community.

Cardinal Man’s subsequent visit was, at a minimum, symbolic. At best, it may have been portentous: the Vatican has a working agreement with the Vietnamese government on the naming of bishops, whereby the Pope suggests a name, and the government offers its approval. If approval is granted, an ordination takes place. To an extent, this system has been utilized – informally – in China for several years, off an on. Some hope that it will be formalized. We’ll see.

Continue reading

Tokenism with Chinese Characteristics: Women as Separate Ethnic Group

The Hui are one of China’s fifty-six recognized minority groups. “Females” are not. Perhaps that is soon to change? See below, entries for Hui Liangyu and Liu Yandong (photo collage by Xinhua, reprinted in China Daily):

tokenism.jpg