A Brief Hiatus, Returning May 14.

Due to some unexpected obligations, Shanghai Scrap will be on hiatus until May 14. I may login before then, but it’s unlikely. However, the site won’t remain static: at some point before the 14th, Shanghai Scrap will debut its promised redesign, complete with easier-to-read fonts. Three cheers for that.

In the meantime, fulfill your China blog cravings by visiting the fine sites listed in my blogroll to the lower right.

Thanks to all of my readers! I’ll see you in a few weeks.


About that Requiem …

Reuters, the Los Angeles Times, and other news organizations are reporting that the China Philharmonic Orchestra, along with the Shanghai Opera House Chorus, will perform Motzart’s Requiem on May 7, in the Vatican, for Pope Benedict XVI.

This explains quite a bit, actually.

On April 8, on relatively short notice, the China Philharmonic Orchestra performed Motzart’s Requiem with the Shanghai Opera Chorus … in Shanghai’s St. Ignatius Cathedral. So far as anybody knows, this was the first instance that a philharmonic had ever performed at the cathedral. But as significant as that event was, it didn’t seem to justify the presence of Shanghai’s Mayor Han Zheng, Ye Xiaowen (director of China’s powerful Religious Affairs Bureau), and the film director Feng Xiaogang (along with several other government and film luminaries).

As it happens, I received a last-minute invite to this event – and blogged about it here. Access and security were tightly controlled (foreign AND Chinese media were prohibited) and so I was unable to take pictures of the performance itself. But afterwards, I shimmied to the front of the church and snapped this image of the post-show breakdown.

I have no idea as to whether there is any diplomatic significance to this performance. The fact that it was attended by a high-ranking religious affairs official suggests that there might be. But again, that’s speculation, and I would really caution my colleagues in the media to refrain from reading too much into this. We’ll just have to see.


By the way – ten bucks says “Jasmine Flowers” is the encore on May 7.

Raffarin Absolves French, Blames Minorities.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the former French Prime Minister now in Beijing to offer apologies and reassurances over the unpleasant reception afforded the Olympic torch during its relay through Paris, has pioneered an interesting new rapprochement. According to an approving report in the China Daily, Raffarin had this to say:

“No one! Even those from the minorities have the right to dally with the Sino-French friendship,” Raffarin told a briefing when asked what message he would send back to the Elysee Palace.

Overlooking for now the fact that most of the people dallying with the Parisian torch relay were French, not minorities, just what on Earth is Raffarin saying here? China Daily, in the story lede, interprets the statement as:

Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said on Saturday he would tell his president that no minority should be allowed to impair the relationship between China and France.

If that is, in fact, what Raffarin means, it is a radical back-peddle from French President Sarkozy’s very public statements of concern about the Tibetan situation, and his willingness to boycott the Olympic opening ceremonies over this minority – er, Tibetan situation. Continue reading

Flying the Subsidized Skies.

[Get out your calculators]

How is it possible that all five of the major US airlines were unprofitable last quarter – while Air China managed to see its profits climb 147%, to RMB 1.04 billion (US$149 million)?

There were undoubtedly a range of factors at play, but the one that I’d like to touch on – because it highlights other issues – is the price impact of China’s subsidized jet fuel. Continue reading

Spring Sprung

I’m in the middle of some difficult revisions, so posting has been a little light over the last few days. That, and it’s Spring. To prove the point, a photo of the morning poker game going on – right now! – around the corner.

Real blogging content back Monday.

[Soundtrack: Sweet Seasons]

BOCOG Hearts Sochi

In other Olympic news, the IOC’s coordination panel for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, made their first site visit on Tuesday. There doesn’t seem to be much English-language coverage of this event, but what little does exist does not paint a positive picture. For example, Reuters reports that police were seen beating homeowners protesting the imminent destruction of their residences (complete with an SOS banner!) to make way for Olympic facilities. And then there was this gem, from the Moscow Times:

“It is very difficult to make Sochi an Olympic city,” an unidentified official said, RIA-Novosti reported. “There are many infrastructure limitations — no electricity, no roads, no way to get cargoes there needed for building.”

The new chief of Olimpstroi, former Sochi mayor Viktor Kolodyazhny, said Tuesday that he wasn’t going to reshuffle his staff.

“Why would I do that?” Kolodyazhny said. “It’s professionals that work there. They suit me.” Continue reading

Don’t Mass in Sheshan

On Monday, under the innocuous headline, “Restricting Traffic,” the venerable Shanghai Daily quietly informed the city’s residents that:

From 5am-5pm on April 30 and May 1, 4, and 24, cars are banned from the area inside Jiasong Highway, Shenzhuan Highway, Qianxin Highway and Sichen Highway. The roads themselves are not affected by the ban. Only cars with special permits will be allowed into the area during the road restrictions.

No explanation is given, so allow me.

In 1874, Pope Pius IX declared a full amnesty to any Catholic who made the pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine at Sheshan during the month of May. Ever since, Sheshan has been the site of a month-long May pilgrimage that typically attracts tens of thousands of Catholics from throughout China. Generally, over the last two decades, the authorities have allowed the pilgrimage to proceed with few restrictions (in 2003 it was canceled due to SARS) Below, a photo of the May 1, 2004 mass (by my old pal Yuko Sato).

In June of last year, Pope Benedict released his long-awaited letter to China’s Catholics, in which he declared May 24 a day of prayer for the Church in China, dedicated to “Our Lady of Sheshan.” Since then, there has been much anticipation of this event – both within and without China – as it signals (in my opinion) the most explicit statement of unity with Chinese Catholics to come from Rome in decades.

Back to the Shanghai Daily article.

The restrictions outlined for April 30, May 1, May 4, and May 24 will effectively shut down motorized vehicle traffic into the Sheshan area for several square kilometers.

[Addendum 4/25: A good map of the geography can be found here. Sheshan is in the lower left corner. Thanks to Sean for the link.] Continue reading