Two years ago, a California aluminum executive commissioned a pilot to fly over the Mexican town of San José Iturbide, at the foot of the Sierra Gorda mountains, and snap aerial photos of a remote desert factory. He made a startling discovery. Nearly one million metric tons of aluminum sat neatly stacked behind a fortress of barbed-wire fences. The stockpile, worth some $2 billion and representing roughly 6% of the world’s total inventory—enough to churn out 2.2 million Ford F-150s or 77 billion beer cans—quickly became an obsession for the U.S. aluminum industry. Now it is a new source of tension in U.S.-Chinese trade relations. U.S. executives contend that the mysterious cache was part of a brazen scheme by one of China’s richest men to game the global trade system. The Wall Street Journal reports [more inside]
How did Southeast Asian identities originate? The legacy of the 19th century continues to shape us more than we think 'We also wanted to show how many of the things that we may accept and take as ‘normal’ and ever-present in our part of the world were, in fact, fairly recent innovations introduced to Southeast Asia during the colonial era'. Political scientist and historian Dr Farish Noor hosts a three-part series examining the legacy Western colonialism has left upon a region now known as Southeast Asia. The first episode, 'Conquerors & Merchants', is now available for viewing online. [more inside]
15 Funky Things Chinese People Burnt for their Ancestors A quirky look into a mainstay ritual of the Hungry Ghost Festival. What's that? From the Straits Times: All You Need to Know and Heed about the 7th Month Celebrations. From The Beijinger: Everything You Need to Know About this Year's Ghost Festival. And maybe you're familiar with the festival and all its taboos. Or are you?
China has created a Transit Elevated Bus or "straddle bus" and just unveiled a working prototype in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province. Be sure to scroll down for the video of it in action.
In China: Chinese dialects fight for survival. Outside China: Meet the Hong Kong academics fighting to safeguard the Cantonese language (Hong Kong); Taiwanese: a doomed language? (Taiwan); Do you speak Singlish? || The Death of Dialects in Singapore (Singapore); Penang Hokkien will be ‘dead’ in 40 years if people stop using it (Malaysia) [more inside]
"Biologists have found that human language, like bird song, may evolve to accommodate its environment through acoustic adaptation. In the internet, a similar phenomenon happens to our visual languages: our memes hold something of the digital landscapes they proliferate in. In China, the digitally-active keep folders of 表情 (biǎo qíng) [gifs], which literally means “facial expression.”
An introductory field guide to the Chinese biaoqing.
An introductory field guide to the Chinese biaoqing.
At the top of the world a climate disaster is unfolding that will impact the lives of more than 1 billion people.
Gao’s Map by Christopher St. Cavish [The California Sunday Magazine] On the trail of one of the most expensive, controversial teas in the world. [more inside]
Ning Ken's 4000-word essay translated by Thomas Moran. In the 1980s, when China was starting to open up to the world, Latin American literature, with Gabriel García Márquez as the representative, poured into China. When we read “magic realism,” it seemed familiar, it seemed close to us, and that is because in their suffering and their difficult, incredible histories, Chinese people and Latin Americans have a lot in common. Indeed, in the 1980s we often spoke of China as a place of “magic realism.” But since the 1990s, and especially in the past dozen years or so, China is no longer that place; it is now a place of the “ultra-unreal.” [more inside]
Twitch has just added a social eating category. It's not as unprecedented as it sounds: watching other people eat has been popular in Korea and China for years. "Some viewers tune in for feats of extraordinary eating, others for vicarious gratification during diets. Most commonly, viewers and observers of the phenomenon say that streaming mukbang during mealtime alleviates the melancholy and discomfort of eating alone in a society where shared meals are the fundamental unit of social life."
China has very strict controls on moving money out of the country. China's new president, Xi Jinping, has been cracking down on corruption at the highest levels, consolidating his control over the government. What to do if you're a corrupt official worried you may find yourself on the wrong side of the new regime? Buy a Japanese son. Japanese surrogacy ring producing Japanese-citizen babies for Chinese nationals: Part 1, Part 2
SUNK - "How a Chinese billionaire’s dream of making an underwater fantasy blockbuster turned into a legendary movie fiasco." [more inside]
FAA warns of widespread GPS outage. The FAA advisory (pdf). The FAA is warning pilots that there will be several widespread outages of the GPS syste centered on China Lake, California, home of the Navy’s China Lake Naval Weapons Center. A military GPS jamming system? Let the conspiracy theories commence.
Chinese students gaming entry into and passage through Western universities The advertisements were tailored for Chinese college students far from home, struggling with the English language and an unfamiliar culture. Coaching services peppered the students with emails and chat messages in Chinese, offering to help foreign students at U.S. colleges do much of the work necessary for a university degree. The companies would author essays for clients. Handle their homework. Even take their exams. All for about a $1,000 a course.
To attend class, backpack-carrying pupils from Atuler village in Sichuan province must take on an 800-metre [2,600-foot] rock face, scrambling down rickety ladders and clawing their way over bare rocks as they go. (SLGuardian with internal link to original reporting in Chinese)
What is it like to be queer in China? UNDP has just launched Being LGBTI in China – A National Survey on Social Attitudes towards Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression. With 30,000 respondents, the survey is the largest to date on the topic in China. [more inside]
A brave woman valiantly attempts to prevent panda bears from climbing into a basket of leaves while she rakes.
A fast-paced new Chinese recruiting video for the People’s Liberation Army “lures recruits with rap music.” The Marine Corps Times calls it “insane,” saying, “U.S. military recruiters take note: It's time to up your game.” [more inside]
A New Look At China's Cultural Revolution - "Historian Frank Dikötter says newly opened archives offer fresh details about the chaos China experienced in the 1960s, when Chairman Mao urged students to take to the streets." [more inside]
Embroider a Guanyin with the hair of the descendant of Rinpoches. Embroider with hooks and gold in India. Embroider with the techniques of European (late) renaissance and modern embroidery. Embroider (...eventually) a kimono. Embroider with horsetail. Embroider with designer Yohji Yamamoto. Embroider like a Ukrainian.
After leading with a cover story criticizing Xi Jinping (otoh) The Economist has been censored in China; Time too and now Medium. [more inside]
A legitimate royal rumble between heavy machinery: construction workers were from two competing companies allegedly get mad... and get even.
The shrewd peasant organizer had a mean, even “spiteful” streak. “For example, for a long time I could not accustom myself to the strongly spiced food, such as hot fried peppers, which is traditional to southern China, especially in Hunan, Mao’s birthplace.” The Soviet agent’s tender taste buds invited Mao’s mockery. “The food of the true revolutionary is the red pepper,” declared Mao. “And he who cannot endure red peppers is also unable to fight.’ ” How the chili pepper got to China by Andrew Leonard
Inside Erik Prince’s Treacherous Drive to Build a Private Air Force
Jeremy Scahill continues keeping tabs on Mr
Blackwater; Xe; Reflex Responses Erik Prince now Chairman of the Chinese Fsgroup set to loot Africa.
Jeremy Scahill continues keeping tabs on Mr
‘For over two millennia,’ Ian Johnson writes, ‘all our knowledge of China’s great philosophical schools was limited to texts revised after the Qin unification.’ Now a trove of recently discovered ancient documents, written on strips of bamboo, ‘is helping to reshape our understanding of China’s contentious past.’ [more inside]
A mixtape featuring 20 young independent bands from China, curated by Wooozy, one of the country's leading indie music blogs. "From sunny Guangzhou and cyberpunk Chongqing to the frigid northeast grasslands beyond Beijing. From shoegaze to riot-weird." It can also be downloaded in full here.
With the highly-anticipated release of two King Hu masterpieces on home video by the Masters of Cinema organization, as well as the critical success of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin last year, it seems like the wuxia film is making some inroads into the Western critical consciousness. So I thought I’d put together a guide to some of the essential films of the genre. - 30 Essential Wuxia Films
Stealing White: How a corporate spy swiped plans for DuPont’s billion-dollar color formula By Del Quentin Wilber [Bloomberg Business]
“At first, you’re like: Why are they stealing the color white? I had to Google it to figure out what titanium dioxide even was,” says Dean Chappell, acting section chief of counterespionage for the FBI. “Then you realize there is a strategy to it.” You can’t even call it spying, adds John Carlin, the assistant attorney general in charge of the U.S. Department of Justice’s national security division. “This is theft. And this—stealing the color white—is a very good example of the problem. It’s not a national security secret. It’s about stealing something you can make a buck off of. It’s part of a strategy to profit off what American ingenuity creates.”
The China National Space Administration released all of the images from their Chang'e 3 moon landing mission (previously), including hundreds of amazing true color, HD photographs. Some 35 GB of datasets, including photographs of and by the Yutu rover have been difficult to retrieve outside of China and have been mirrored by Emily Lakdawalla at planetary.org.
They misunderstood my ability to be a dick, when correctly inspired. Juggler and comedian Mat Ricardo describes a nightmare gig in Beijing, starting with a (supposed) world record attempt and ending with a mad dash for the airport.
One Country, Two Systems? Although none of the booksellers have disclosed their locations, a few have been in sporadic contact with family members to communicate, in opaque terms, that they are “assisting in an investigation.” On the phone with his wife, Sophie Choi, earlier last week, Lee conveyed that he was calling from Shenzhen, specifying that he, too, was voluntarily helping with a case but, strangely, spoke in Mandarin, the standard mainland dialect, rather than his native Cantonese. [more inside]
North Korea says it just tested a hydrogen bomb. Here's what we know. [Vox]
According to top experts, it's very plausible this was a test. "I think it is *probably* a test," Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, tweeted. "DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the formal name of North Korea] event epicenter close to test site and on 1/2 hour." Generally, earthquakes don't just happen on exactly the half hour.[more inside]
"It was Asian enough for my immigrant parents and American enough for my sister and me." In the PBS feature documentary, Off The Menu, filmmaker Grace Lee traverses the US into the kitchens, factories, temples and farm of Asian Pacific America that explores how our relationship to food reflects our evolving communities. Food Republic spoke with Jonathan Wu and Wilson Tang, whose NYC restaurant, Fung Tu, is featured in the film.
French journalist accuses China of intimidating foreign press. by Tom Phillips [The Guardian]
China is facing accusations of attempting to muzzle and intimidate foreign press after it said it would expel a French journalist who refused to apologise for an article criticising government policy. Lu Kang, a spokesperson for China’s ministry of foreign affairs, claimed Ursula Gauthier, the Beijing correspondent for French magazine L’Obs, had offended the Chinese people with a recent column about terrorism and the violence-hit region of Xinjiang. “Gauthier failed to apologise to the Chinese people for her wrong words and it is no longer suitable for her to work in China,” Lu said in a statement, according to Xinhua, Beijing’s official news agency.[more inside]
The crew at Extra Credits take a break from their usual videogame-focused content to provide a video overview of Alibaba's gamified Sesame Credit system. The system is one of eight government-overseen pilot programs to establish a "social credit score" for Chinese citizens. [more inside]
Living a Frontier Dream on the Outskirts of China’s Capital by Andrew Jacobs [New York Times]
Welcome to “Hometown America,” as Jackson Hole is called in Chinese, a mammoth real-estate venture that is an exacting pastiche of an American frontier town, albeit one with a wine-tasting pavilion, a spa and security guards dressed as park rangers, who salute every passing car. Modest entry-level homes sell for $625,000. Larger abodes — described by Jackson Hole’s developers as castles — have an attached vineyard and fetch nearly $8 million. The developer, Ju Yi International, says that more than 90 percent of the 1,500 homes have already been sold. Occupying more than a square mile of arid land in northeast Hebei Province, Jackson Hole has plenty of room to expand.
Jason Pym is a British illustrator who has been living in Dali, China for 11 years. His love for his adopted city in an idyllic part of Yunnan province is plain to see. He also makes illustrations for Penguin Books China, and labels for his wife's homemade jam, featuring cos-playing dragons. (Here's a link in Chinese with more dragon-goodness.)
The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was established in 1961 and has grown into one of the US government’s largest intelligence organizations. It employs 17,000 people, including thousands stationed overseas, and its 2013 fiscal year budget request was for $3.15 billion. Yet, the DIA is also one of the more secretive agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, regularly denying access to basic information about its structure, functions and activities. On November 20, the National Security Archive posted a new sourcebook of over 50 declassified documents that help to illuminate the DIA’s five-decades-long history. [more inside]
WikiTravel calls The Shanghai Sightseeing Tunnel "A slow-moving tram, through a comically low-tech tunnel of antiquated 80's era rope lights, lasers and car dealership ilk inflatables." YMMV. [SLYT, lots of blinking lights]
From National Geographic YouTube channel: The Shaolin (Wushu) Temple Kung Fu Academy is the largest school of its kind in China. Footage was adapted from filmmaker Inigo Westmeier's 2012 documentary 'Dragon Girls' with music from Gener8tio featuring M.I.A. The Academy has a website.
Taiwan's president Ma Ying-jeou and China's president Xi Jinping will meet in Singapore on Saturday---the first meeting between leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait since 1949, when Mao forced the Nationalist regime off mainland China and into retreat into Taiwan. The Singapore meeting set for Saturday has been planned behind the scene for a year. Already, opposition parties in Taiwan are crying foul, calling for the impeachment of Ma and accusing him of going against mainstream public opinion to meet with Xi.