On hiatus until next decade.

To be honest, I’ve had more than my fill of this decade. So I’m going on hiatus until the next one. January 4, 2010, to be specific. Until then, you might take an interest in my “5 Shanghai World Expo-related Reasons to Look Forward to 2010,” which ran last week at Shanghaiist (as part of a nice series of top 5/10 lists from local media/NGO/arts/entrepreneurial types).

Before I go into hiding, I’ll leave you with another top 5 list – the much anticipated “5 most Trafficked Shanghai Scrap Posts of the Year.”

  1. The US Expo 2010 Pavilion Totters
  2. Buddhist Protests and Muslim Riots
  3. Why can’t the US find $61 million for an Expo 2010 pavilion? A primer.
  4. “I’m a big supporter of non-censorship.”
  5. Monday Night Football’s Play-by-Play Man in China Airs it Out.

I’m happy to note that the list includes what I consider to be some of my better posts. At the same time, it’s not lost on me that scrap – the namesake subject for this blog – isn’t represented. And that’s just not right! So, without further ado, the two highest-ranking scrap posts – at number 11 and 13 on the scale – were:

11. Why are 40,000 containers of scrap metal idling in Hong Kong and Guangzhou?

13. The Two Cultures: Recycling Edition [ed. note: a favorite of the author]

And that’s it. Thanks to all of the blogs that have linked to Shanghai Scrap over the last 12 months (especially those made by my colleagues in the China blogging community), and special, sincere thanks to all of my readers. Scrappy New Year!

Depends on what the definition of ‘rescued’ is.

Depending upon whom you read, last night the Chinese bulk coal carrier that was hijacked by Somali pirates back in October was either a) ransomed for US$4 million yesterday, or b) “rescued” in an undisclosed operation. Representing option A, we have Shanghai Daily, which reprinted a foreign wire service story that it headlined “Somali pirates: Ransom is ours.”

And representing Option B, we have China Daily, which ran a Xinhua-penned story headlined: “Hijacked Chinese bulk carrier rescued.” Readers who click on this story will find no mention of the US$4 million ransom mentioned at the top of the Shanghai Daily story, but instead will have to settle for a very vague description of a 3 AM rescue.

In weak defense of China Daily, I suppose one could argue that the wire service story run by Shanghai Daily is dependent upon whether or not pirates can be trusted as sources. On the other hand, the China Daily/Xinhua (state-owned/written) story seems dependent upon whether or not Chinese public opinion/face will be inflamed by a ransom when some – many? – were calling for military action.

Somewhat related, @niubi‘s twitter feed points us in the direction of an interesting piece suggesting that China – or the bulk carrier owner, more likely – paid too high of a ransom.

One Hundred and Forty-one Shanghai Christmas Trees

[NOTE: Shanghai Scrap will be offline until December 28. Happy holidays!]

Had an email the other day from my old friend (and former editor), Julie Caniglia of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. In passing, she wondered if I was going to do a post on “Chinese Xmas kitsch.” It hadn’t occurred to me, but I started thinking and on Saturday I wrote to tell her that I would take a photo of every Shanghai Christmas tree that I saw between then and Christmas Eve. It was no small task: Shanghai has gone Christmas crazy in recent years, with trees, wreaths, and neon Merry Christmas greetings popping up all over the place. Little to none of it is religiously-oriented, mind you, but it is festive and seasonable and sometimes I need to remind myself that this is, after all, Shanghai.

Anyway, by this evening – the 23rd – I’d taken more than 100 photos and – despite my promise to keep going until the 24th – I realized that I had exceeded my own modest expectations, and it was time to post.

So, without further ado (except for a few comments along the way), I give you the one hundred and forty-one Shanghai Christmas trees that I encountered between December 18 and December 23. In order.

One hundred and forty more Shanghai Christmas trees, after the jump! Continue reading

Christmas Leftovers, Scrap Edition.

As much as I hate people and organizations who show me how much damage my lifestyle is doing to the environment just when I’m in the midst of enjoying myself … below, two images of American Christmas lights piled up in a Guangdong scrap yard. To the left, the pile, to the right, a close-up. Click to enlarge.

Now, before people start feeling all (white) guilty about sending this stuff to China, let me offer some reassurance. In the US, this kind of thing typically finds its way to a landfill (Americans don’t tend to bring their old lights to the local scrap yard – though they should). In China, if it makes it over here, it’s recycled in wire chopping plants that recover the copper and the rubber at a fairly high rate. After the jump, a couple of images of a chopping plant in Guangdong. Continue reading

The Dark, Totalitarian Hand of Häägen Däzs [UPDATED! With photo! Even more totalitarian!]

If you follow my tweets, you already know about this. But if not, well, here’s the deal. Yesterday, for reasons that I’ll explain in coming days, I stopped into a local Häägen Däzs. While there, I decided to take a photo of the store’s large Christmas tree. As I did so, I was gang-rushed by a rabid employee who succeeded in blocking my shot. Below, the photographic evidence.

I was asked to leave, and when I argued the point, I was pushed out.

Now, I don’t want to make more of this than really should be made of it. But, I can’t help myself and note that during the several years I’ve covered religion in contemporary China, I’ve never once been gang-rushed out of a church, mosque, or temple for taking a photo. And that raises a question: just what kind of jack-booted thugs have been hired to train/traumatize the beleaguered ice cream workers of Häägen Däzs? Thankfully, I don’t have to worry about it: there’s a Dairy Queen just up the street, and they didn’t argue when I took a picture of their Christmas tree. Let the boycott begin.

[UPDATED 12/24 – Since posting this item, I’ve heard from three people who have been prevented from taking photos in Häägen Däzs by company employees. In all three cases (and the one mentioned in comment #4 below), the individuals were taking photos of friends and family – not Christmas trees. So, on this basis, it appears that Häägen Däzs has a “no photo” policy, and I suspect – in agreement with a couple of the comments below – that they are inordinately concerned about their intellectual property, so much so that they make themselves less appealing to customers.]

[SECOND 12/24 UPDATED: A friend just reminded me of a July 2005 Häägen Däzs in China story that I did. You can read it here, but the relevant fact – for the purpose of this post – is that a Häägen Däzs employee tried to prevent me from taking a photo of a Shanghai store’s exterior. Don’t believe me? Then click the June 23, 2005 image, below, to see the masked ice cream man come chasing out of the store, hands waving. Just what kind of paranoid dictatorship is at work inside that high-end ice cream empire?

Obama in Beijing, through a Copenhagen Lens

Last month, in the wake of President Obama’s first visit to China, the White House and its supporters in the commentariat lashed out at reporters – like me! – who had judged the visit a failure on the basis of a lack of tangible accomplishments.  It was suggested that reporters – like me! – who focused on immediate gains simply didn’t understand “how China works,” that negotiations and relationships take time, and that – really – we should all focus on speculating about precisely what happened in closed door meetings that we weren’t invited to attend. This opinion was fleshed out most completely by an un-named White House official whom my friend Jim Fallows interviewed at his Atlantic blog. In it, she tells him:

Discussions with the Chinese just don’t offer dramatic breakthrough moments. It’s water on a stone. They don’t reveal their Eurekas to you. While you’re there you get fairly predictable responses. Next time you go back and get a little different treatment.

Judgments will be borne out over time. Will they cooperate or not on Iran? Will they be spoilers or not on climate change? On North Korea? Rebalancing their economy? None of those is a one-day story. The only fair way of evaluating results will be over time.

I guess it depends on how you define “over time,” but – all things considered – I think we’ve now had enough time – and a UN sponsored summit – to judge whether or not the climate side of the equation benefited from the approach that Obama took in Beijing. Continue reading

A Cavalcade of (under-construction) Expo 2010 Pavilions

Over the last two weeks, I’ve made several trips down to the sprawling 5.28 sq km Expo 2010 grounds on the Huangpu riverbanks. For my American readers, this revelation likely doesn’t generate much excitement – even if I tell you that – in scale and historical importance – Expo 2010 is designed to evoke and echo the Great London Exhibition of 1851, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, and the 1939 and 1964/5 New York World’s Fairs. It’s one thing to hear such grandiosity (including the reported, and truly grand, US$46 billion being spent on Expo 2010), and another to see it in person. So, without much further ado, I’m going to share a set of photos that I’ve taken at the Expo grounds over the last couple of weeks – starting with an image taken on the elevated Expo Boulevard that runs most of the long length of the 3.93 sq km Pudong side of the site.


The dozens of national pavilions and group pavilions are located on both sides of this structure, and after the jump, I’ll share some links – when I can find them – to images of what the completed structures are intended to look like. I make no apologies for the quality of the photography – my trips to the grounds aren’t for photos, and when I take them, it’s usually in very brief passing. But I hope that they give readers a sense of why this event is so exciting – at least, to those of us lucky enough to visit it in the construction phase … Continue reading