If O.J. Simpson Confessed in Chinese … sort of.

If contemporary China had a national martyr, it would’ve been Peng Yu. In 2006 he was stepping off a Nanjing bus when he saw an old woman had fallen to the ground. While others passed her by, Peng not only helped her up, he took her to the hospital and even paid her bill. In thanks, the old woman sued him for injuries sustained when he allegedly knocked her to the ground. The story became a media sensation, and in the years following, Peng Yu’s name was always the first to be uttered when strangers failed to come to the aid of an injured stranger in China. Hundreds if not thousands of articles have been written about the case and the phenomenon.

And now, they’re all going to have to be revised. Because, on Monday, Peng Yu confessed to knocking over that old woman, after all.

It’s hard to overestimate the shock value packed into that revelation. But I do my best to distill it in this week’s column over at Bloomberg View, “China’s Infamous Good Samaritan Case Gets a New Ending.” I hope you’ll take a look.

And, if I don’t get around to saying it next week, best wishes to all of my readers in the Year of the Dragon. My sense is that it’s going to be a good one.

At Shanghai Scrap, we speak, we read.

I’m very excited to announce that I am participating in the Innovation Policy Summit at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is a first for me (both visiting and participating), and I have to think that – among the 100,000+ attendees – I must know somebody. So, if you’re there, look me up. I’m participating in the “Product Refurbishment and Reuse in the Developing World: What is its Current and Future Role in the CE Industry?” panel on Thursday, at 15:00, in LVCC, North Hall N264. Among other topics, I’m going to offer a more nuanced view of Guiyu, China’s notorious electronics recycling town, and its role in the global re-use and refurbishment industry, than what’s typically presented in the media. The other panelists, including my pal Robin Ingenthron of Good Point Recycling in Vermont, are definitely worth hearing. Below, used, recovered microprocessors for sale at Guiyu’s electronics market (of the sort that I’ll be discussing).

In other news … allow me to offer the strongest possible Shanghai Scrap recommendation for James Palmer’s outstanding, just-published “Heaven Cracks, Earth Shakes: The Tangshan Earthquake and the Death of Mao’s China.” It’s a beautifully written account of a) what it was like to live in a small Chinese city at the end of Mao’s reign; b) Mao’s court politics; c) how the Tangshan earthquake served as a catalyst (among others) to end Maoist excesses; e) an extraordinary and moving account of the quake and its aftermath. This is history, and it’s instructive. My highest recommendation.


Pregnancy, China, Privacy, er, boom.

Though little noted outside of China, pregnancy and contraception have been among the most commented upon topics on Chinese microblogs and newspaper editorial pages over the last month. The thread was kicked-off by a CCTV report on the anti-radiation clothes that many Chinese women wear during pregnancy, and hit a feverish pitch shortly after Fuzhou announced that it would require real name registration for women seeking to buy emergency contraception. Both stories are important in themselves, but also for what they tell us about the evolving social contract between the Chinese and their government, and – in the latter case – the expanding understanding of a privacy right in China. My commentaries, both for Bloomberg View, are here:

If you prefer your Bloomberg View with a bit less China in it, allow me to recommend Virginia Postrel’s tremendous “How Art History Majors Power the US Economy.” As a gainfully self-employed philosophy major, I appreciate the sentiment.